Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Value for Your Racing Dollar?

The week of rants is officially over, but I still have some issues to discuss. This isn't quite a rant, but more a guide to selecting races based on dollar value and distance needed to travel. I suppose if a race is too expensive, then I would say "Screw you RD" and this column could be considered a true rant! So, if your race is more expensive than the guidelines below allow, then you should lower the costs! In many cases, I don't believe us racers are getting the best dollar value per mile run.

When I was president of Second Wind Running Club, I'd write the standard "President's Corner" columns in the club newsletter. One of them keeps coming back to me. I wrote a piece about how I decide which races to run. It was mostly about how much the race costs and how far it is to the start. I developed a few rules for deciding whether a race was worthwhile. Here is an updated version of that newsletter column that I wrote back in 2003. Ten years later, I still like these two basic rules.

There are so many races to select from, how do you pick? Well, I have a couple of pointers or rules that I follow. Here are two of my rules: 

(1) race entrance fee must be equal to or less than $15 + $1 per mile
(2) the time needed to travel to the race must be equal to or less than 10 minutes per mile raced

Quick examples of the cost issue. A 5k race (3.1 miles) should cost less than $15 plus $3 = $18. A 10k can go up to $21, half marathon $28, and a full marathon $41. I run ultras too so they fit the same rule—a 50k (31 miles) can charge $46, 50 miler $65, 100k (62 miles) $77, and a 100 miler can charge $115. This seems very reasonable to me and it works for all the races I enter (except the Chicago Marathon, which I will not run again!). Longer races have more costs so they can charge more. 

Why do race directors need more money? They have sponsors and clubs or organizations backing their race. Why should runners be ripped off? If Chicago wants to award $100,000 to the winners--that’s fine--just don’t ask me to pay $175 to run your race. Ask Bank of America for a little more sponsorship money. As I look at local races I like what I see. The Buffalo Trace 5-Mile Trail Run charges $15 for early entry fee. That fits my rule! Awesome race. So does the Allerton trail race (if you register early). Kennekuk’s races fit the bill too. Most of Lake Run Club’s are right on target as well. I also like races that give their members discounts. Club members should be tossed a bone now and then.

What about that distance rule? The longer the race the longer I’m willing to travel. I’ll go 10 minutes travel time per 1 mile of race distance. For 5ks that’s only 30 minutes—anything much outside of Champaign-Urbana is off my list. No Sweet Corn 5k in Hoopeston, no Memorial Day 5k in Danville, no Dog Days 5k in Bloomington. But increase the race to a 10k or so and I can go to the Bagel Run in Mattoon, Lake Run in Bloomington, or Wild Wilderness trail run in Danville. Get the picture? Marathons allow me to travel over 4 hours (26 miles = 260 minutes = 4.3 hours). Drive fast and you might extend that boundary. Fly and you can really go far. Start running ultra marathons and you can get some good travel time in—just over 5 hours for a 50k and over 16.5 hours for a 100 miler!

So what’s the best deal for me when combining cost and distance?  Buffalo Trace 5-Mile Trail Race is a pretty awesome deal, 1 mile to the starting line and only $13 for club members. Howl at the Moon 8-hour Ultra is a nice bargain too. It’s an 8-hour race (allows me to run over 45 miles) and is only 45 miles away (less than an hour drive). Entrance fee is as low as $53 if you’re a KRR member. Hard to beat that combination. According to my formula, I could travel 400 minutes (6.5 hours) and pay $60 for this race. Good job Kennekuk!

Did I mention my aversion to roads? One more rule for me—I only do trail races. Roads are no fun. I have made three exceptions for future road racing—the Boston Marathon (most prestigious marathon in the world), Comrades Marathon (the oldest ultramarathon in the world), and the Badwater Ultramarathon (the hardest running event in the world). Oh yeah!

Think about all the races you run. Are you getting fair value for your race fee? 


David said...

I'm of Scottish/Canadian heritage, so I agree whole-heartedly about not wanting to pay too much to enter a race! Your limits are pretty tight though - tough to find races in that price range where I live...

I mostly race trails, though I do like to hit the roads once in a while. It's good to get a reminder that breaking a 12min/mile pace is not really 'crushing it'.

As for your exception list:

Boston - Definitely worth it
Comrades - On my bucket list
Badwater - Are you nuts?

Chris said...


Tough to find races in that price range here too. Especially the longer ones.

I already crewed/paced at Badwater...that may be enough for me!

Jon Allen said...

My rule of thumb is $3 per mile. Maybe a bit higher for short races, and certainly lower for ultras.

Cheap races can be found. I did a free 50k (not a fat ass, either), and the Barkley was only $1.60.

Chris said...

Jon Allen,

Barkley is a GREAT deal!!!