Author Topic: What do our race fees buy?  (Read 4028 times)

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Offline Ryan

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What do our race fees buy?
« on: November 15, 2012, 01:04:36 PM »
The Price of Competition

I know we've discussed this topic here previously. Pete Magill weighs in now over at Running Times/Runner's World (the lines seem to be getting more blurred all the time). I don't think it's any surprise I agree with him 100%.

Offline Andrew A.

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Re: What do our race fees buy?
« Reply #1 on: November 15, 2012, 06:52:29 PM »
Like Scott Douglas, Pete Magill expresses a running ethos that closely reflects my own.  RT also posted the link on facebook and drew some interesting response there: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151306298467090&set=a.76658742089.100505.23403427089&type=1
Yes, of course we, the consumers, vote with our purchasing habits and we can vote against rip-off races by avoiding them.  But what about when the competitive (and unregulated, in this case) market pushes the low-cost, no-frill races to the margins and then completely out of existence with their marketing tactics?  There may be more races to choose from now than there were twenty, thirty, or forty years ago, but is there really more variety in race experience or is it becoming largely homogenized towards the charity penguinpaloozas?  For instance, if I would want to race a marathon within a few hours' drive of where I live, I have to accept some combination of: paying gobs of money, possibly to an organization I would prefer to not support, entering months in advance, putting up with amateur hour organization, dealing with the traffic and parking hassle that comes with the charity mob, and running a course with mucho hills/turns.  If I want to avoid that, it likely means an overnight trip up into the mountains (and thus a course at even higher altitude with more hills) or out east to one of the plains metropolises.  My current preference is the latter, as much as a 'protest vote' as anything else - if I am going to be paying out hundreds of dollars anyway, might as well go down in altitude and choose a race that still favors competition over all other considerations.

The bit about the national anthem strikes me as odd, too.  I am not against it, per se, just have a hard time seeing why it should be played before any and every freaking fun run.  I have a hard time recalling when, if ever, the SSB was trotted out before the start of a track or cc meet in high school or in college.  For example, I know it was not played prior to the Rocky Mountain Shootout (which, incidentally, is one of the top two competitive races in this entire region) when I ran it earlier this autumn, yet it was played prior to a subsequent road race I competed in.
« Last Edit: November 15, 2012, 08:31:14 PM by Andrew A. »
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Offline Ryan

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Re: What do our race fees buy?
« Reply #2 on: November 16, 2012, 03:28:18 PM »
Agree 100% with the race marketplace comments. Letting the market/consumer demand dictate availability has its limitations. What about niche runners (and let's face it, competitive runners are becoming niche runners in the current running community) who don't want what the masses want? As Magill pointed out, all I'm looking for is an inexpensive race that is accurately measured, accurately timed and with accurate results. I don't even ask for chip timing, even though one would instinctively think this is the best way to get accurate timing and results. I've seen some chip timed events massively screw up timing and results, while I've seen some very large events without the expensive add-on handle timing and results in a very accurate and efficient manner. It's getting amazingly harder to find these simple basics at times among all the street-party-masquerading-as-a-race events that are popping up. There are still great races out there but they are getting crowded out by the sheer volume of less than great events.

As for the national anthem, again, similar thoughts to yours. I'm in no way opposed to it but it's not necessary at every "burning stump invite" (to borrow a former coach's term) and can sometimes create an uncomfortable situation for someone who is caught in middle of something such as a stride or a stretch when it is started, usually with no warning.

Offline Charlene

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Re: What do our race fees buy?
« Reply #3 on: November 16, 2012, 11:28:25 PM »
Give me a cheap race with accurate results, a PR possible course, and some good competition and I am a happy woman. I agree that we should support the simple races in order for them to survive in the changing marketplace.

As the sport of running grows it also changes.  Many people I know do train for their races and run most days but they have no intention of putting in the work needed to get to the next level.  Their age group placement and time is important but equally important is that their race be a junk laden feel good experience.  The market place has caught on to this and is more than happy to provide expensive junk laden feel good experiences.  We all know that some race directors have realized that they can afford to alienate serious runners to satisfy the demands of the masses.  This fall I had an e-mail exchange with a race director of a half marathon I was thinking about racing.  I was concerned that the timing of the new 10k Stroller Derby event would impact all half marathon runners under 1:40.  He replied back that he did not think it would be a problem as there were only 25 to 30 strollers (along with the regular participants of the 10k).  I replied that yep, no problem at all to dodge 30 strollers during the last 2 miles of a half marathon.  He then replied that I should most likely not sign up.  I told him that I was sure most of the fast runners would not sign up next year either.  I felt a little bit bad bothering him with my concerns as I know as a race director just how hard it is to make everyone happy but I felt like I was standing up for my sport.




Offline Ryan

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Re: What do our race fees buy?
« Reply #4 on: November 17, 2012, 08:27:15 PM »
Charlene, I know race directors have it tough balancing all those concerns but you did the right thing not just because of the effect of the faster half marathoners. What about safety? That is a collision waiting to happen and strollers = babies/young children. Bad situation all around. Worse yet, the faster half marathoners are going to be blamed for the collisions even though the race director is at fault for the bad planning.

Offline ksrunner

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Re: What do our race fees buy?
« Reply #5 on: November 27, 2012, 02:02:53 PM »
Though I like the idea of smaller no frills races. It seems that locally, those are not the races that draw better competition. The few times that I have run a truly no frills race, I have ended up running solo from the start. One of those races is no more. Another I will probably give another chance as it appears that in other years there have been some faster runners show up.

Locally, I have noticed that we're actually getting some positive return on the higher race fees. For 5Ks, the price seems to have stabilized around $25. It's probably about $10 higher than I would prefer, but since 2008, it seems that local race management has improved. At that time, a new management company emerged and by paying attention to details they simply out performed other race directors or management companies and quickly expanded their share of the race management market. Other race managers took notice and have improved their performance as well such that Kansas City area runners are now better served than they were before. Generally, these events fall somewhere between the large group workout parties and the bare bones races. Sometimes they might have some elements of the larger events, but mostly the frills are minimal -- excellent overall organization and execution, chip timing, and a DJ.

On the frills side, I did run an UltraMax event recently. They offered a lot of frills, but they still managed to focus on the competition more so than most other events do. I suppose I will post more about that in a race report.

We run, not because we think it is doing us good, but because we enjoy it and cannot help ourselves.
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