I live in The Netherlands, where during nine months out of the year one can find a convenient race on almost every weekend (from 1.2k children’s fun runs to half marathons). Many of these races cost only two or four Euros, depending on whether or not you’d like a medal. What do you get for your money? A secure, measured course; sometimes a cup of water at the 10k mark during a half marathon; other racers to help push you to your best possible performance on the day; and sometimes—and maybe for a few more Euros—chip timing. I could run a whole series of spring and summer races for the same price as entry to the New York Marathon (now a mere $255).
I don’t know of cheap race series in the United States. (If you know of a club that holds such a thing, please let me know.) It seems like you have to drop $30 or $40 these days for the smallest 5 and 10ks. This would make racing often cost prohibitive for many people. And if you like to run marathons, some people could be priced out of running more than one a year.
Recently, I’ve been thinking about completing an Ironman triathlon (full). However, the entry fee for an Ironman event begins at $525. That’s more than I paid for the previously-owned Giant bike that I used in completing the 2011 Ironman Antwerp 70.3, which itself cost a bit more than I thought I’d be willing to pay for a race.
The bottom line: Endurance racing is expensive.
However, the first Ironman triathlon and the first Boston and New York marathons were not these huge events run by people who were looking for a lot of aide during the race. They were events brought together by people who were looking for a fun, challenging event. I think endurance racing needs to find its roots. We need to remember that racing doesn’t have to be cost prohibitive if people are willing to organize themselves and provide their own race support. While training for the Antwerp 70.3, my training partners and I completed a couple of race-prep workouts by swimming in a near-by lake, changing out of our wetsuits and into our bike gear in the lake’s parking lot, riding from the parking lot and back to it on our bikes, and running from the parking lot and back to it during our run. We held two of these workouts, and during the second one we swam 1900 meters, road 90k on our bikes, and then ran a 10k. Had we run 11 more kilometers, we would have completed a 70.3 on our own. I see no reason why a group of people with the proper motivation could not avoid the high entry fees associated with endurance sports and complete events on their own that they’ve organized by themselves.
Recently, Dean Karnazes’s blog at RunnersWorld.com showed that people are getting irritated about the high cost of racing, and I have also seen complaints about the cost of racing in the New York Times and on Bloomberg.com.
I don’t think endurance racing should cost people as much as it does. And I don’t think it has to if people are able and willing to organize themselves. I hope in the future to make guerrillarace.com a site that will help people come together to organize endurance races.
If you do (or do not) believe that racing as become too expensive, please let me know in a comment below.