Thursday, August 26, 2010

Road race prices

Check out this op-ed piece in our local paper about the entry fee of road races.  The author essentially argues that road racing is too expensive.  In the article the writer states:

Since the race is sponsored by Garner rather than a corporate entity, it should cost less. Promoting exercise and good health should be the goal even if the activity loses money.
Do you think he will be willing to pay more in Town of Garner taxes?  That seems reasonable, since he wants the town to subsidize money losing ventures for his personal socioeconomic benefit.  Just a modest real estate tax increase.  Nothing to lose sleep over.

The writer goes on:
We who love the sport of road racing should want our sport to be accessible to the masses, not just the affluent.
There are costs associated with races. Police are paid to keep the course safe, but couldn't volunteers do this work? Traffic control is not rocket science. Cutting costs must happen if the sport is to grow beyond its small base of affluent runners. I can play a round of golf with a cart for less than it costs to run a road race.
I'll keep running road races with my family - and begging for discounts - but my days as a bandit probably won't end anytime soon.
A quick check of FS Series, which timed the Garner event, revealed several upcoming 5ks that have entry fees of $20 if paid ahead of time, and even one completely free 5k in November.  Free!  My gosh.  It must be an evil communist plot. :P

There is actually an insurance requirement for most road races (and virtually all events on open roads) to have police or county sheriffs provide traffic control, since they are  authorized to stop people.  Volunteers can yell all they want, but they have no legal right to stop someone from driving through a race course. An armed peace officer has that duty.

He also advocates running as a bandit, so he and his family can continue to enjoy road racing.  I have a proposal.  Instead of stealing services from your local race organizer and any of their charities, how about you pick and choose your races?  You could take your family to three or four events a year.  Make it a special family event.

If you are having trouble with your personal finances, making a 5k entry a hardship, perhaps you should work on ways to create additional income streams rather than setting a poor example for your children.  "Hey kids, let's go bandit another road race!  We'll take advantage of the hard work of other people, and then eat the food and drink afterwards, and go home feeling righteous.  Life is not fair, and you are allowed steal from other people as long as we couch the term in something cutesy like 'banditing'.  We showed them. F--- the man."

I could go off on a long political tangent here but will refrain.  

Running is free - provided you get some decent shoes.  Participating in any event you want to is not.

If the author wants to see low-cost running events offered and promoted to the public, I propose he go ahead and establish a free community based running program that culminates with a low-cost 5k.  Then he can learn to enjoy things like fixed & variable costs, event design, course design, course management, t-shirt ordering, awards, permit fees, city council meetings, Fire/EMS scheduling, Police officer coordination, volunteer coordination, insurance and event sanctioning, and every other little thing that comes along with running any sort of racing event.  He could put in a couple weeks worth of time to operate the whole shebang on a break-even or even slightly money-losing basis (since it is promoting health, after all). 

He could then write another op-ed piece afterward and let us all know how he liked fronting the capital and sweat equity ... so he can listen to a small but vocal minority of  people tell him they didn't like your t-shirt design, or post-race food, or course, or your entry fee was too high, or whatever.

(In case strangers stumble across this post in isolation: FS Series is our partner for the Triangle Open Water Swim Series, and I operate as a for-profit race director that donates a significant portion of the bottom line of this race series to a non-profit organization.)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


While none of us like having to pay too much for an event, any who've actually volunteered at events realize it takes a lot of moving parts (and working people) to make a successful event.

The laws of supply and demand seem to preside here. The last time I checked, there is a great demand for well run, fun events in the Triangle. The friendships, the camaraderie and the health that people gain in preparing and competing can be priceless. If the original writer isn't getting those benefits, I like your suggestion of sticking to "free running".