You may be aware that for many of the races I feature here, I get complimentary race kits thanks to the organizers. However, I did experience a time when I had to pay my way through some races, particularly in my first year of running.
I remember the first race I joined: the Globe Run for Home 2009, which cost me P500 for 10K (I think 21K was P600). I didn’t think much of the cost, but at that time it was expensive compared to other races. The additional cost was attributed to disposable timing chips, which were being used for the first time at that race.
Fast-forward a couple of years, and Globe Run for Home is now priced at P1,050 for a 21K!
Yes, that is the sound of my jaw dropping.
Although oil prices have risen, the cost of living hasn’t doubled. Timing chips/strips are now standard in all the big races, but last year a chip-timed race only cost P750 thereabouts. So, what’s driving the increase?
It’s not as if the number of races has decreased, causing a scarcity of supply versus the demand. In fact, with so many companies and entities mounting their own races (even if their product has nothing whatsoever to do with running), you’ll be hard-pressed to find a weekend where there are no races being held.
And even with the rising reg fees, more runners sign up for every race set before them. The Adidas King of the Road 2011 (set in October) is targeting 20,000 runners; its registration fee costs P1,050 for 5K and 21K!
Yes that is the sound of me falling off my chair.
I’m now going to clamber up onto my apple box and attempt to explain what may be happening here.
The easy way out is to blame the organizers and sponsors for pricing the races. But there are a few other forces at play here, too. Forces named you and me.
You see, every time you or I signed up for a race that was slightly more expensive than the last one, we showed the organizers that the running market could tolerate paying that much for a race. Every time you or I noted some small failing of the race organizers (hydration, marshaling), they had to boost their efforts to cover that hole for the next race, which costs money. Every time you or I complained about the lack of post-race activities or freebies, the race organizers had to increase their efforts in getting sponsors to provide these, which could decrease the monetary support to pay for the actual race.
This is not to absolve the organizers and sponsors from their hand in the matter. They acceded to our demands for chip timing, hydration every kilometer, abundance of marshals, overflowing loot bags. They spoiled the runners, creating huge expectations that can’t be met without additional funding.
Sponsors have a choice: they can absorb the costs, or they can pass them down to the consumers — that’s you and me. It really depends on why they’re holding the race in the first place. Organizing a race is not an altruistic deed; of course people involved would like to make money. But I think that early in the running boom, races were counted as part of advertising cost; a “loss leader“. Nowadays they’re more overtly about money-making regardless of whether there is a charity beneficiary.
There is also another hidden cost for races: road access permits and fees. Cities and developers have realized there is money to be made in charging for the right to use their roads and lands in a race, and some areas have doubled their asking fees in the past few years. (Tsk, tsk, tsk!)
Yes, that is the sound of my heart breaking.
At yesterday’s Globe Run for Home presscon, I asked what necessitated their price increase. While Globe declined to comment, Coach Rio (of RunRio, the race organizer) said their cost per runner was P1,000, and they could only recoup about 40 to 60 percent of that through the reg fee. In an aside to us bloggers, he said that the lead sponsor for a race sets the pricing. If he asks them to set prices lower, the amount the sponsor gives him to spend on the race organizing might be less than optimal, and if a race fails, it’s he and not the sponsor that takes the brunt of criticism.
This is my attempt to describe our reality now as runners. As Gingerbread Man Luis put it during one of our team’s chats, “We’re fueling a monster. And now this is the aftermath.”
The running boom hasn’t been all bad; whether it’s just a fad or part of a changed, healthy lifestyle, more people are into running and getting fit.
I’m not in a position to propose a solution; Rio’s offered to sit down in a roundtable discussion, so I hope that (if that happens) will shed light on where our registration fees go.
Meanwhile, here’s what I can do as a responsible runner-blogger: every month I will spotlight reasonably-priced races so that you, dear reader, know the choices you have out there. Watch out for it! (So if you’re a race organizer/promoter and would like to be included in the monthly spotlight, hit up my Contact Form.)
And here’s what you and I can do as responsible runners. Pick a major race a few months in the future that you are willing to spend for, and train for it. That will be your A race. You may or may not choose to participate in other races leading up to it, but only as tune-ups to help you determine where you’re at in your training. These are your B races.
Running is free, but racing is not. So pick your battles — I mean, races — wisely.
And now this is the sound of me stepping off the apple box. I’ve said my piece. What say you?
Before you post your comment: I won’t be answering your comments per point because I’ve already said my piece about the registration fees.
As for the other questions you are all raising about RunRio, please note my post was about rising reg fees in general, not just about one race organizer. I will wait until Rio calls the roundtable discussion to form an opinion on his particular race organization, since I do not have all the information I need to back it up.
Please note that while I have kept this comments section open, it is only for those who want to contribute to an educated, civilized discussion. I will be deleting any inflammatory comments and those that are merely meant to provoke an argument. This is also NOT a venue to air your discontent about particular race organizers. Please direct those concerns to them.