On Rising Registration Fees

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.

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About Noelle De Guzman

Noelle De Guzman is a freelance writer and recreational athlete with over 12 years of experience in wellness and endurance sport. She believes sport and an active healthy lifestyle changes lives.

43 thoughts on “On Rising Registration Fees

  1. i just pick 1 good race per month. if it’s runrio, i feel it is worth my money. safety of the runners is always a priority.

  2. Running’s not the only thing that have higher race fees……even triathletes are grumbling….

  3. A 10k race below P500 is now considered an instinct animal. No matter wha the organizers/race directors say…P1000 is still a freakin P1000!!!!

  4. I really appreciate what you’ve posted and for being a voice for runners like me. More power! And I do hope your efforts and discussions bear fruit.

  5. You’ve said more or less everything I have to say on the topic, but at the risk of sounding redundant I’ll just use my copy-paste-fu to re-post an earlier comment I left on Facebook:

    It’s the law of supply and demand in its purest form. Demand has undeniably skyrocketed and supply cannot increase along with it since there are only so many places to hold a race and 52 sundays per year do it. So inevitably prices will rise. This is an integral characteristic of any free market economy and the only way to control prices would be through government intervention and regulation, or subsidies something I don’t ever see happening here.

    Furthermore, look at it this way, if prices don’t increase in response to increased demand, what will happen? Either races will get wayyyy too big and end up a big chaos, or if they keep the same number of slots, races will sell out even faster than ever, and hence the chance of missing out on your favorite race increases. Race organizers arent necessarily the greedy pigs that some might think; their costs are also on the rise. The prices of obtaining permits from the municipality and the hiring of the traffic marshals is also higher than ever, again due to the increase in demand. Yep even city hall is perceptive to supply & demand.

    If you want to run cheaper, I suggest staying away from the marquee events and look up the smaller races in unconventional locations. A lot of times you’ll find they are even more fun! If you want to run the big races I’m afraid we’ll just have to bite the bullet re price. I’d rather run my favorite race at an increased fee if it means a well-organized event than to run in a mess of 20 thousand runners, or not be able to run at all because the slots filled in the first day.

    Anyway, compared to most races around the world the prices here are still pretty reasonable IMO 🙂

    If you want to run free, just call up some buddies and go running. Running isn’t a luxury, just races are 🙂

    That being said, I really really really wish Manila would invest in some real parks with real running paths, like HK, SG, Tokyo, so many other Asian cities.

  6. Well said, noelle.
    Agree, we runners had a part in the increasing prices. One because of runners’ expectations that keep on expanding. And second, because runners continue to buy at the high price point.

    Another force at play: new race organizers bringing down the costs. There will be a learning curve for these new race organizers, thus expect a few foul-ups. But when they learn the trade and improve their race management, they will allow the market to race at a lower pricepoint.

    My guess: at a certain point in time, racekit prices will normalize to the real cost. When that will happen? Time will tell. But your contribution, Noelle, of the spotlight on reasonably priced runs — two thumbs up! Suporta ako sa iyo diyan!


  7. nakakalungkot lang isipin na malapit na dumating ang araw na hindi na makakasali ang mga magagaling na mananakbo sa mga karera at yung mga may salapi na lamang ang makakalahok.
    tungkol naman sa law of supply & demand, bagamat dumadami nga ang mananakbo, dumadami din naman ang mga patakbo. simula kasi nung natuto akong tumakbo nung isang taon, halos linggo-linggo ay may mga karera at kadalasan magkakasabay pa. ibig ba sabihin nito na kung sakali na walang nakasabay ang isang karera, maaari syang maningil ng dalawang libo?

  8. You, Mark M and Bhoy covered all the bases for me. Rising costs, runners expectations, more competition, etc. What I took away from this discussion, “I really really really wish Manila would invest in some real parks with real running paths, like HK, SG, Tokyo, so many other Asian cities”

    Maybe there should be a “run for more parks” that runners and other health enthusiasts can own. We really can’t count on the government for that 😉

  9. “Running is free, but racing is not. So pick your battles — I mean, races — wisely.”

    Well said. High prices of races have made it impossible for the Average Joe to join the really nice ones. There has been talk among other groups to organize “free races”. Nothing fancy, it’s a sort of “anti-race” type of a race. Just come as you are and RUN.

    Ang tanong may sasali ba? Would you join if there was nothing for you at the end? No loot bag, no medal?

  10. well said noelle! nagulat din ako sa price ng kotr. P1050 for 5k!!! pero yeah, we the runners are to blame din naman. hmmm. something has to give. sponsors? city hall? race organizer?

  11. very well said….if prices keep being at this level…we will just have to run choice races & run on our own during off-race sundays….

  12. I agree that runners have contributed in biting off high entry fees to the point that it creates a demand for big-time races. And these high fees eventually turned into a standard pricing level for other races, even the “B” type. However, who are these runners who can only afford these fees? These runners are only those professionals with high-paying jobs, businessmen like Gokongwei, Ayala and people who were born in silver spoon in their mouth (rich kids). But how about those who are average income earners and those that only have menial paying-jobs? Surely they will be left behind just salivating to join but always get restrained by economic reasons.

    How can you produce an international level runner who can compete against the Kenyans, Ethiopians in world races by having the upper class participants in big-time races? How can the runners from the grassroots level join the races nowadays with skyrocketting fees? Know what, only Milo has the real passion to develop and discover potential competitive runners from Manila and the rest of the country.

    Do you think the P1,300 entry in Hong-Kong, Singapore Standard Chartered Marathon is of the same target market with the P1,300 in the local races? Definitely, P1,300 in the former countries have lower purchasing power than its value here. Moreover, Standard Chartered being a profitable financial institution in the Asian economies, would be willing to shell-out funds to finance such a high-caliber race. The problem is, the organizers here are trying to duplicate the level of races abroad without the intention of engaging in out-of-pocket costs. Remember, these races locally carry their names as a form of advertising, but the question do they subsidize the cost to lessen the burden of runners?
    Another thing, the monopoly. It’s always Runrio that does it all. I just hope that another firm, enterprise or organization comes out and compete with Runrio, head-on, just like what’s happening in the entertainment media where ABS-CBN, TV5 and GMA tried to outdo each other. Unless we get out of monopoly of Runrio, the local runners will always be fed with high entry fees. Remember, high fees were introduced by Runrio in the Timex Runrio Trilogy 3, and what happened next became the benchmark of history.

  13. what municipal road permit fee are you talking about? i’ve been conducting the BDM 102K Ultra Marathon Race for the past 3 years and I don’t know about such fee! I just simply write a letter to the Provincial Governors (where the road race would pass through) that a running event is being held on this date for their information. And that’s it. My registration fee for this event is costly because of purely logistics and coordination in the planning stage. bottomline, please tell to your readers how much is coach rio is receiving as his professional fee in every race that he directs or organizes and once the runners will know this, that will be the time that every road racer will know how he would choose his races wisely. by the way, i would be happy if i can gain P 20,000 out of my PAU Races which in turn i use for the support of my team elite bald runner in their out of town road race participation. for BDM 102, i am not gaining anything financially, but i am gaining more friends, here and abroad!

  14. I hope there’s a “Like” link in BR’s comment similar to FB*laughs*…as i’ve said from before…there’s an always option naman..if you don’t like expensive races, don’t join. I just thought expensive races nowadays are not helpful in promoting running to the grass-root level….well as Luis said: ““We’re fueling a monster. And now this is the aftermath.””

    …so who’s the monster again?*laughs*

  15. very well said my kikay runner!

    it’s a good thing talaga na piliin ung sasalihan na race, there are times kasi na feeling ko hindi sulit binabayad ko everytime na may sasalihan ako na race na mahal ang registration fee, (i.e.last year’s globe run) kaya nga for me, it’s either runrio races ang sinasalihan ko or some races na mura ung reg fee (na along manila area) para mas sulit!

  16. well said ate noelle.

    let me share this thought.

    race nowadays are for business and enjoyment purposes only now that our cost of living (especially at my status as a working student).

    organizers can really make reg. fees more affordable for the runners if they really want them to run. because like ate kikay said “running is free,racing is not” and there some of the excuse that I cannot considerate there.

    People give their feedbacks for the organizers to know what’s going on, but it doesn’t mean that the organizers have to bail it to the runners by means of increasing their reg. fees. (kaya nga sinabing feedback eh,for the organizers to do it better next time;to be open at anything for any race of theirs to make it better,not to pa-sosyalin ito) and I believe that they can do it better w/out the prize increased.

    what about milo marathon?
    the most prestigious race event in the phil. since marcos regime,they can accommodate a race that’s budget friendly (do i mention the 50php reg. fees for students?that’s very generous and motivated) but look at the event, it’s very well organized and people at any age can afford it.

    Road permit? I lived in taguig but I don’t think that the road permit has something to do in the reg. fee increase either at my part.

    These organizers had these convincing power to turn people on by these luxuries (freebies) ….. but they had keep in mind that too much abuse of that power ay nakakasawa din at the end (not to mention na ganun nalang yung procedure ng race over and over? tsk tsk…)

    Right now I truly hope that the running industry would not die because of these misunderstanding events or circumstances like this…

    pwede naman magprovide at mag-organize ng race (whenever if its for a cause or a competition purposes) without the over-prized registration fees for the freebies (sometimes nonsense pa yung stuff..sorry for the word)

    let’s not be too selfish and business minded to this factor. if we really want to have people to run and make it fit for everybody,make running and racing their best choice that they going to have, no matter status and cost living of their lives may be….

    mabuhay and god bless!:)

  17. Well said Miss Noelle, you made readers of your blog realize that they themselves contribute to why the reg fees increase every year. It makes sense that some cities charge very high rates to host runs. I’m thinking Makati and Taguig are at fault here because runs held in other places such as Manila are still charging relatively low fees. More power to your blog 🙂

  18. 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.

  19. Yes, you, me and every runner out there who registers is indeed to blame.

    For my part, I just join a race monthly, or every other month because I only run 21k, and most races with the 21k event are the big ones.

    I stay away from those commercialized races that have no have no 21k events, and of which most runners are but those who spend a lot on gear and gadgets, but not on training.

  20. As a runner, I have had this conversation countless times with race directors and even clients; to summarize our conversation basically what they’re saying is that they are just reactors and we the runners are the one who put overserlves to this situation. They are right, and I think the market will correct itself and the change is just around the corner. FYI: There are short corners and there are corners that are as if its endless like the ones on the freeway. Nevertheless, change is around the corner.

  21. Great article! I only started running this year and it has been tough on the pocket. Aside from the races, of course you also have to spend for your clothes, shoes, watches/timers, gears etc. etc.

    I do hope that this kind of awareness would be able to help the situation and have some more sense in the pricing of these races.

  22. I agree with Baldrunner. The good-not-so-old retired general has the credibility to speak. He knows what he’s talking being a disciplined former military man.
    Regarding the permit fee for the use of roads? It’s the first time that I heard this thing. Anyway, I think it’s about time that these corporate sponsors be required to issue a financial statement of the proceeds of the race for the public to know.

    Regarding the line “to choose our race”. Remember this, you can only choose if you have the resources (money, wealth). Simply saying, only the rich are privilege to make a choice of their races…the poor ones are force to get restrained even if they want to.

  23. it’s plain and simple. if you don’t want to pay for a high registration fee, don’t. go join a different race.

    the nice singlet, the freebies, the medal, the finisher’s kits, the certificates, the photovendo, the runpix analysis–they all have a cost. tapos runners pa ang galit pag kulang yung freebies.

    running is free and if you don’t want to shell out money, it’s fine. kung nagrereklamo naman sa rising cost of reg fees, then humanap ng ibang puwedeng salihan.

  24. Hi Kikay Runner! I have been checking out your blog for a few months now since I became a runner. Kudos to documenting your steps! 🙂

    Thank you for posting this piece. I think it is high time for organizers to talk about how to make races fun and at the same time affordable. Unfortunately, I have other friends that I find it difficult to schedule for a race because they don’t have enough budget for it.

    On the other hand, it will also be on US – how we choose our races. If we do not want to pay for large fees, there’s the road outside our places. Running is free, as you have said.

    God bless you.

  25. The registration for Sundown Marathon in SG, happening this coming May, costs 85usd for 42KM. Wala pa ang plane & hotac mo dyan. Malapit lapit na din tayo lumapit sa price nila 🙁

  26. The cost of an expensive race doesn’t exactly constitute to “income” if the inclusion and freebies justify the cost… like technical shirts, timing chips, medals, finisher’s shirts, entertainment, carbo-loading, entertainment, media coverage etc… and LOGISTICS like what the Baldrunner said. Just imagine the magnitude of preparation in organizing ultra-races.

    It really depends on what a race can offer…. and the willingness of runners to pay.

    High end races is healthy for the running boom at some point here and abroad… organizing a low cost run that par international races would be an ordeal I firmly believe.

    To organizers… justify the cost by the quality of your races. And to runners, choose your race wisely and have fun.

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