I would take a good performance over money. Although I didn't win money, I have been to a few small races where I did win despite a mediocre performance. I found that so long as I felt threatened at some point during the race, the win soothed any bad feelings I might have harbored about my performance.
If there is no sense of competition or overcoming anything, however, a win feels pretty empty. I once went to a small 5K cross country race thinking that it would be fun to run cross country again after about 17 years. The turnout was very small (8-12 people). There was one younger guy present who wore spikes. He had run at the local college the previous year, so I hoped that it would be a somewhat competitive race despite the small turnout. Unfortunately, he had spent the intervening year drinking lots of beer rather than running. So, I led the race from start to finish without ever feeling like I was in a race. Afterward I felt like both my time and my entry fee had been wasted.
Sorry, going off-topic a little bit
I wonder if background has anything to do with it…..but I don't consider a race good or bad based on if I was pushed, or threatened by another runner. But, I did not run in college where placement was everything. A good race is what the clock says to me and if I didn't have “bad thoughts” on the run (bad thoughts=I can't do this, I quit). Recently, I was challenged by another woman that ran on my heels even as I zig-zagged, and at one point pulled over so she could pass. I cried at the finish that she screwed up my race, my spouse (who ran in college) said she made it a race!!