Races charging competitive runners to be competitive

Welcome! Forums Running Forum Races charging competitive runners to be competitive

This topic contains 17 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by  Ryan 8 years, 4 months ago.

  • Author
    Posts
  • #12106

    Ryan
    Keymaster

    I've been noticing a disturbing trend recently. I've already spoken out about one aspect of it but I've been seeing another aspect recently, including a link to this event on another forum.

    As the subject suggests, this disturbing trend is charging competitive runners to be competitive. It started with charging runners to be timed. The excuse I usually see for this is that timing systems are expensive and those who don't care about their times shouldn't have to pay for it.

    Now, what I've been seeing more recently is what the race linked to above is doing. If you want to be eligible for prizes, you have to pay extra. In this case, you have to pay significantly extra. For early registration, the standard fee is $15 and you have to pay a 67% premium for a total of $25 if you want to be prize eligible. For late registration, which begins 6 weeks in advance of race day, it's even more ridiculous. The standard fee is $25 and you have to pay a 100% premium, and additional $25 for a total entry fee of $50, to be prize eligible.

    I've said this before, when races started charging extra for runners to be timed, which by default also meant charging to be eligible for awards though not as blatantly as this since you can't get an award if you don't appear in the results. If races are going to start charging a la carte for services only competitive runners care about, they should charge a la carte for all services. Want the course open for 6 hours so you can complete your marathon? You have to pay twice as much for the “course fee” and for the “emergency services fee” than the 3 hour marathoner. Want the finish line buffet? That's an extra $10. For $1, you can get one bottle of water at the finish line. For $3, all the water you can drink. Going to hang around for the “party” after the race? That will be an additional $10. Need aid stations in a 5K? That will be $5.

    Of course, I'm saying that tongue in cheek. It's ridiculous to charge a la carte at a race. It's not an a la carte service being provided. The more sensible solution is to just accept that competitive runners will pay for some things they don't use and non-competitive participants will pay for some things they don't use. In all honesty, I've seen some compelling evidence that, even without charging competitive runners a la carte, competitive runners are already subsidizing non-competitive participants. I'm willing to overlook that, though, if everyone is just charged the same amount and we assume it will all average out in the end.

  • #30404

    jvalentine
    Member

    just accept that competitive runners will pay for some things they don't use and non-competitive participants will pay for some things they don't use

    Totally agree.  Although I often come home with some kind of award, I can't remember the last time I took fluids or fuel in a race shorter than a marathon.  Besides, aren't the awards typically donated by sponsors anyway?

    People want (and get) different things out of races, and can vote with their feet and wallets if they don't like how a particular race is organized/run.

    I actually like your a la carte idea.  Of course nobody wants to be the water bottle police, but I wouldn't mind a no t-shirt/goodie bag option (and lower entry fee) at more races.

  • #30405

    Andrew A.
    Member

    I've been noticing a disturbing trend recently.

    What other races do this sort of thing?  Not saying this is a good thing at all, I just see little cause for concern — as JVal put it, the market will determine whether this type of model will survive and thrive.  Given the purse size, seems likely that anyone who would be in the hunt for prize money for this particular race will likely have his or her entry paid by an agent, so if I were in the Louisville vicinity and wanted to race a 10K on that date then I would just go with the lower entry fee.  It would be amusing, however, if someone paying the lower entry fee showed up and won the race.

  • #30406

    Andrew A.
    Member

    Besides, aren't the awards typically donated by sponsors anyway?

    In a legit race that is typically the case.  However, who knows how these charity fundraiser shufflefests put on by non-runner clowns operate?

  • #30407

    Ryan
    Keymaster

    Although I often come home with some kind of award, I can't remember the last time I took fluids or fuel in a race shorter than a marathon.  Besides, aren't the awards typically donated by sponsors anyway?

    Precisely. Fluids may or may not be donated. Awards of any significant monetary value are usually, if not always, donated in exchange for some advertising (on entry forms, on the back of a t-shirt, etc). In the end, though, everyone uses some services and doesn't use others. To charge one group of runners extra for the services they use while not charging other groups extra for the services they use is hardly equal treatment.

    People want (and get) different things out of races, and can vote with their feet and wallets if they don't like how a particular race is organized/run.

    And I hope they do at this event. An interesting thought, what would they do if the winner of the race did not pay to be prize eligible?

    I actually like your a la carte idea.  Of course nobody wants to be the water bottle police, but I wouldn't mind a no t-shirt/goodie bag option (and lower entry fee) at more races.

    I would like a no t-shirt option but you also have to keep in mind that sponsors like t-shirts for the advertising space. Handing out fewer t-shirts could backfire by drawing fewer or less significant sponsorships. Maybe not, though. If Ed sees this, it might be interesting to hear how things went for his event in this regard, seeing as he had a less expensive no t-shirt option for entry this year.

  • #30408

    ed
    Participant

    I want to take time to really reply well to this so I will have to do it after work (after I cut the grass.)

  • #30409

    Ryan
    Keymaster

    What other races do this sort of thing?

    I don't have any other links but I've heard of a couple others. It seems to be starting much like paying for timing started. A few scattered around, then gradually increasing until almost every area has at least one event (usually the big ones) doing it.

    Not saying this is a good thing at all, I just see little cause for concern — as JVal put it, the market will determine whether this type of model will survive and thrive.

    I hope it will. However, it seems like a lot of runners don't care how much they pay for entry fees. Just look at all the $100+ marathon entry fees at marathons that have to cap their field sizes.

    Given the purse size, seems likely that anyone who would be in the hunt for prize money for this particular race will likely have his or her entry paid by an agent, so if I were in the Louisville vicinity and wanted to race a 10K on that date then I would just go with the lower entry fee.

    Possibly true. It would be interesting to look at the results from this event afterward and see what kind of times were needed to collect the prizes. I also get the impression that you need to pay the higher fee for all prizes, possibly including age group prizes. I know what you think of age group prizes but to charge people $25 just to be eligible for a $1 medal or something along that line is a rip-off if this is being done.

    It would be amusing, however, if someone paying the lower entry fee showed up and won the race.

    Indeed. I'd kind of like to see that.

  • #30410

    Andrew A.
    Member
  • #30411

    Andrew A.
    Member

    What other races do this sort of thing?

    I don't have any other links but I've heard of a couple others. It seems to be starting much like paying for timing started. A few scattered around, then gradually increasing until almost every area has at least one event (usually the big ones) doing it.

    Like I said, it is not great and it is not something that I would wish for, yet I cannot see much cause for concern.  I can use my own watch to time myself, I do not need to pay someone else to time me.  8)

    Not saying this is a good thing at all, I just see little cause for concern — as JVal put it, the market will determine whether this type of model will survive and thrive.

    I hope it will. However, it seems like a lot of runners don't care how much they pay for entry fees. Just look at all the $100+ marathon entry fees at marathons that have to cap their field sizes.

    It is what it is.  Thomas Tusser put it best: a fool and his money are soon parted.  As long as road racing remains an essentially unorganized sport then it will remain a wild west, wide-open with little uniformity.  In the absence of a strong organizing body ensuring uniform regulation and standards, I cannot see the sense in being concerned.

    Given the purse size, seems likely that anyone who would be in the hunt for prize money for this particular race will likely have his or her entry paid by an agent, so if I were in the Louisville vicinity and wanted to race a 10K on that date then I would just go with the lower entry fee.

    Possibly true. It would be interesting to look at the results from this event afterward and see what kind of times were needed to collect the prizes. I also get the impression that you need to pay the higher fee for all prizes, possibly including age group prizes. I know what you think of age group prizes but to charge people $25 just to be eligible for a $1 medal or something along that line is a rip-off if this is being done.

    If people feel that a trinket for a contrived competition is worth that then let them be fleeced. 😉   It is not a rip-off if they are willing participants and understand the costs and potential for return.

  • #30412

    Ryan
    Keymaster

    Like I said, it is not great and it is not something that I would wish for, yet I cannot see much cause for concern.  I can use my own watch to time myself, I do not need to pay someone else to time me.

    I guess I just see it as a trend that is disturbing. More races are treating competitive runners as second class citizens in more ways. In some cases, they know they have the competitive runners as a somewhat captive audience and are taking advantage of that. I view that as a problem.

    It is what it is.  Thomas Tusser put it best: a fool and his money are soon parted.  As long as road racing remains an essentially unorganized sport then it will remain a wild west, wide-open with little uniformity.  In the absence of a strong organizing body ensuring uniform regulation and standards, I cannot see sense in being concerned.

    Whether or not it has proper oversight and regulation, I'm concerned because I'm affected as a consumer. While we can speak with our money, if these races are only interested in maximal participation, then they will continue to do things that go against the competitive runner because the competitive runner in all honesty is a significant minority and has different needs than the mass participant.

  • #30413

    Andrew A.
    Member

    What is disturbing about it?  It is not something like texting-while-driving or a massive oil spill that presents a danger to the rest of us.  There are literally hundreds of road races within a 100 mile radius for me to choose from in a given year.  If one or even ten of those charge more for timing or to get an age group award, it is really easy to just take a pass in favor of any others that treat a race as a competition first and give competitors their due.  In fact, this alleged trend might do those of us who prefer races as competitions a favor, by siphoning off the uncompetitive charity joggers and walkers and giving incentive to the real races to focus more on racers.  I have long thought it would be great if some charity network set up uncompetitive (finisher tokens only) 10Ks, half-marathons, and marathons across the country so that the uncompetitive types would go participate/complete those and then actual races could get back to the business of being primarily races.  So one can never know if it truly is a 'problem' until one sees the outcome of all the effects.  Competitive runners may be a significant minority, yet they are not going away anytime soon and there will be financial incentive for enough races to cater to them for a long time to come.

  • #30414

    Ryan
    Keymaster

    Well, I would hope we could all agree that there are more important things than any topic related to running. Sure, it's not as disturbing as an entire ecosystem at risk of destruction but it still might be disturbing (or maybe a better word would be concerning) for a group of people.

    If the scenario played out the way you describe it, great, it could be a benefit for competitive runners. However, what I've been witnessing is that the events that are doing this are ones that have traditionally been the ones to bring together the competitive crowd. They are the ones that competitive runners would target because they knew their fellow competitive runners would be there. Will the competitive community gel around a different set of races that don't partake in this practice? I hope so but the fact that the races that the competitive community has been loyal to are not showing the same loyalty in return, in my opinion, is not a good thing.

  • #30415

    Andrew A.
    Member

    Right, I get that it is a ridiculous circumstance.  I guess what I am trying to get at is that if this truly is a 'disturbing' trend worth worrying about then what is to be done about it?  I am looking at it with the concept of only being concerned with what is within one's control, not what one is powerless to change.

  • #30416

    ed
    Participant

    It was a very hard to draw sponsors this year – we got very, very little.  It was not related to the “no t-shirt option” though.  The low sponsorship problem was related to the troubled economy. 

    Even though I had the option for runners to opt out of the t-shirt most runners opted to get the t-shirt.  I would be able to show the percentages to sponsors and I am sure that this would not matter much at all. 

    I am likely to change the awards a bit to drop the costs.  All of the gift certificates were donated but not the trophies, medals and ribbons.

    The chip timing has become neccessary becuase we are getting very few volunteers and it takes several volunteers to operate the scoring device. 

    I am fightling the thought that this event should purely be a fundraiser – I want the walk and “fun-runners” to be the fundraiser portion of the event and the competative part to be purely about the race.

    Of course this had to come up about my event – there was a complaint that “The Guy” that won both races got most of the awards/prizes.  I wanted to say “Well no $hit” – “you want an award then train and race hard.”  BUT I stated that since my event is a USATF Sanctioned event we have to give the awards as we had publicized.  I will never change or deviate from giving the winner of each event – the winner's prize – even if the same person wins both.  If someone wants an award or prize – then they better EARN it.

    I am looking for a Corporate sponsor that can have their name attached to my event so if anyone knows a Corp. that is looking to get back into giving to a non-profit organization – let me know.

    Here I thought I would give a clear, concise and coherent response – but it is a mess.  Sorry –

  • #30417

    Ryan
    Keymaster

    Well, we can not show up at those races and let them know why we're not showing up. That may not make a big difference if it's one runner but, if a significant portion of the competitive field begins walking away and letting RDs know why, maybe it will get their attention.

    Ed, interesting thoughts. It's good to know that the no t-shirt option didn't seem to affect sponsorships. Obviously, the economy has made it hard on a lot of non-profits. That's very unfortunate but I suppose it's the nature of the beast.

    One suggestion on the awards and I know different people have different thoughts on this but it would help spread the awards a bit if you removed the overall winner from age group awards. I have it on pretty good word that “The Guy” didn't need 4 gift certificates, though he appreciates them and will put them to good use. Also, while I love that you have some unique trophies, I'm sure that comes with a price. Two ways you can go on that. Either advertise the uniqueness and make it a draw or save some money with something that is more “no frills” (and maybe bring back some unique awards after you establish a bigger crowd).

    As for sponsorships, I suppose it wouldn't hurt to hit up the obvious Milwaukee companies but also don't forget that you have some solid companies right in your community. Play up the community benefit aspect of it and maybe you could get one or two of them in.

  • #30418

    ed
    Participant

    Those trophies are not very expensive and I am considering dropping the gender designation and giving one to the winner of each the 10K and 5K.  I am also considering changing the age group 1st place medals to ribbons.  This would save some money – but not really that much.

    Our big costs this year were the certification of the two courses, sanctioning and the printed materials. 

    Certification is good for 10 years as long as we keep the course exactly the same.  So we will not have that expense for the near and mid future.

    Also, I thought I would mention that most of the gift certificates were meant to go to pledge raisers but there was very little of that as well.

  • #30419

    Andrew A.
    Member

    Those trophies are not very expensive and I am considering dropping the gender designation and giving one to the winner of each the 10K and 5K.  I am also considering changing the age group 1st place medals to ribbons.  This would save some money – but not really that much.

    If I may suggest, keep gender designation and perhaps even go a little deeper (top three? top five?) in those and cut the age group awards and simply announce the age group winners at the awards ceremony, if anything.

  • #30420

    Ryan
    Keymaster

    I wouldn't drop the gender designation. Age group awards are a tough call because a lot of people will be disappointed if you don't “spread the wealth”. I like Andrew's idea but I'm not sure how popular it would be overall.

    One thing to think about, you can get some nice paper and there are incredible things you can do with a good computer program and printer. I have a couple of certificates from races that did those in place of trophies, medals, or ribbons. If you had access to a laptop and a reasonably small printer and you had a power supply at your disposal, you could even come up with a template that would allow you to print names and maybe even times on the certificates before the awards ceremony. I'd want to take a few dry runs with cheap paper/ink to ensure you have it down and can do it quickly but that might be a way to cut costs and hand out something that would be pretty unique. I'm not sure what the cost would be but I'd guess less than trophies and medals, maybe even less than ribbons.

You must be logged in to reply to this topic.