Race entry fees

A 10K in the capital will set you back £50 and an Ironman can cost in excess of £500. So are race prices on the rise, or are we getting more for our money? And are these price hikes preventing events from becoming more accessible to all? We speak to the competitors and the race organisers. Join in the debate.

The participants

'I think some events organisers are cashing in on the sports popularity,' says Linda, a designer from London. 'Some races have sh*t routes, high prices, often with ill-judged organisation. No thought has gone into start pens, toilets or bag drop. It can be chaos. By then they don't care as they have your cash.'

So why have race prices snuck up? 'They're charging more because they can, and because some types of organisers are purely in it for business purposes,' adds Linda. 'Plenty of smaller races put on by clubs prove it is possible to do a great event at a fair price, which makes it more accessible.'

'There should be more reduced rates for groups that need it and free places for young people and disadvantaged groups, not just fitness bloggers,' she continued. 'Running is bloody brilliant, and adding the race experience can be so motivating, rewarding and valuable. Making that increasingly unaffordable is depressing.'

'Most races are now run by professional companies who need to make a profit for it to be worth their while,' says Tim, a runner from Sussex. 'I get they need to charge as they need to cover the costs, but now it's about profit, profit, profit. The reason we run has gone out of the window and been forgotten.'

'Race runners should take note of the fact parkrun is free.' Tim added. 'While it is a global organisation which uses economies of scale well, the principle of the run has not been forgotten.'

'I think race directors know they can charge for a gimmick or a brand,' says Fiona, a runner and student from Glasgow. 'This is quite frustrating. Larger races are attempting to make a profit margin. It's a business; the more they can get away with charging, the more they make. They are aided by the fact that most people cannot estimate how much it costs to put a race on.'

Goody bags and race bling

Entering an event is no longer just about completing a challenge. With goody bags, aid stations, event gimmicks and medals, a good race is judged by its accoutrements as much as its sporting prowess. But do these add-ons justify the price hikes?

'I am now of the opinion that I would prefer to pay less and not have goody bags, medals or free t-shirts. Or I'd like to pay less and have some money go to charity,' says Tim. 'A lot of the goodies are just new companies plying their wares, which are frankly not what I want, so they are more of a straight to bin goody bag, which is a waste. Apart from local races; a lot of club organised races are well priced. They are run by people who love running for people who love running. And have a lot of volunteers, which no doubt keeps a lid on the cost!'

'I really do not care about goody bags when entering,' says Fiona. 'I appreciate a good one post-race if it has nice food, but I would not care if a race didn't have one at all. When it comes to t-shirts, I HATE non-technical t-shirts. I find it an irritating waste as I will never wear it as a fashion item, and cannot use it for training. I then feel guilty for putting it in a charity shop- no one will buy that! A good technical t-shirt may be a draw for me, however I find that races use these to justify charging more.'

Inner city races

One of the areas most affected by the rise in race prices seems to be inner city events. 'Events have certainly become more expensive in London and it often feels unjustified,' says Nathaniel, a runner from London. 'I'm a young man and not in the normal demographic for runners. I don't have a great amount of disposable income to spend on myself, let alone things like races. I can understand race organisers overcharging for the 'first' race they ever put on in a new area. Costs have to be covered etc. but the next year it shouldn't go up.'

'I think specifically large city events have become very expensive,' agrees Fiona.'The more participants it seems the less you get for your money. There are running communities like the ultra community and fell running which still put on very cheap races.'

'I cannot believe some marathons are over £100,' adds Fiona. 'I don't understand the reasoning that longer distances cost so much more. Logistically it seems like from half marathon up to marathon it would be only two more aid stations and a few more roads than a half marathon distance, but marathons can be many, many times the price... I have come out of several races, particularly large road 10Ks, feeling as if they were not worth the money.'

The race organisers

We hear from the race organisers about the reality behind organising sporting events.

'It takes anything from 6 months upwards to plan a race, depending of the type and size of event,' says Alan, Race Director for Events to Live. 'Planning involves seeking permissions from land owners and the local safety advisory group made up of local council and emergency service representatives, location of start/finish and route.'

'The most complicated aspect of organisation depends on the event,' adds Alan. 'Parking for the runners is a major issue at any event, but organising the marshals is an integral part. The success or failure of an event can be solely put onto the reliability and attitude of the marshals. We are very fortunate in that we have amazing marshals who are managed by a very special lady in our team.'

'There's a huge amount of planning that goes into each event.' agrees Kirsty Wilde, Operations Director for Human Race Events. 'The first thing we have to do is identify all the stakeholders involved and sit down and talk to them. This can include, but is not exclusive to, local councils, sponsors, sporting authorities and local residents. Once we understand what they need we can plan more effectively. Timing depends on the scale of the event and the location, but as a minimum it would normally be at least one year. For something on the scale of the recent Cancer Research UK London Winter Run we had been working on the concept, permissions and delivery for a number of years.'

Race day logistics

A huge amount of organisation can go into coordinating an event. 'The stress involved, not only for myself as Race Director but also all involved in the organisation of the event, is enormous,' says Alan. 'There are an abundance of sleepless nights!'

'For our closed roads events, organising the route and closures is immensely complicated' says Kirsty. 'It impacts on locals residents and businesses in many different ways. It's a time consuming task that takes a lot of experience and professionalism to do correctly.'

'Beyond the safety aspects, which must always take precedence, the most integral aspect of event organisation would definitely be the team, she continued. 'Getting your workforce correct is essential to the participants' experience, whether those people are visible on event day or not. We are lucky to have an incredible crew. We wouldn't be able to put on the amazing events we do without them.'

The cost breakdown

What's the priciest aspect of putting on a race? 'This really depends on the event,' says Alan. 'Our biggest event to date is the Surrey Bacchus Full and Half Marathon, in 2014 it cost us around £25,000 for the wine around the route and hog roast BBQ and refreshments for participants. Normally race mementoes, first aid and marshals are the main costs.'

'To work out the entry fees we evaluate the potential costs of the event, the maximum capacity of the course and our break-even point and use that as a base line,' Alan continued. 'We then compare to similar events in the area and what they offer at what price. We strive to offer the best value events in the area and never scrimp on good race bling! Some of our events do hover around the break-even point but the positive feedback we get from participants means that we do keep them going.'

'It depends on the event as they are all so different,' says Kirsty. 'For example, it is usually cheaper to organise a 5K run than a triathlon. There are so many costs you have to consider, but the more expensive ones include insurance, venue costs, staffing and water safety and also marketing the event. The cost mainly depends on the costs we incur to put the event on. We don't compromise on quality and strive to ensure that each participant has an experience that they will be gloating about for months to come. Sometimes this costs a little more but we make sure each person who enters a Human Race event gets value for the entry fee they paid.'

Do you think race prices are justified, or spiralling out of control? Wade in on the debate. Tweet us @findarace, find us on Facebook or Instagram we'd love to hear from you.

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