While running is usually considered a low-cost sport – all you really need is a good pair of shoes and a road or track – if you hope to compete, even for fun, it’s likely that you’ll see things start to get expensive. All across the U.S., the entry fees for racing, cycling and multiple sport events are on the rise, and the trend has some participants complaining.
While the figures vary wildly depending on the sport, distance, venue and profile of the group organizing it, even short 5K ‘fun runs’ can demand a $30 entrance fee upon registration, with these rates rising rapidly for longer distances. For race organizers, the fees are covering expenses such as licenses and permitting, bibs, water and other supplies, a police and EMT presence and insurance. Most races offer at least a T-shirt to participants. (Some organizations, following a new trend, will offer a “no T-shirt rate,” which may be a blessing to the runner who has dozens of them already.)
For those who participate once a year or so, it may not seem like a lot. For race enthusiasts who participate more often – perhaps at least once or more a month, the fees can add up quickly. Many racers are also complaining that online registration, which is becoming typical today, adds new fees to the mix. Rick Shaw, a blogger for the Web site Runworks, bemoans the ubiquitous online “processing fees.”
“Ten years ago, most race registrations were made by mailing in a form, and the race entry fee was all that was paid,” he wrote. “Today there's often an additional $5 fee when registering online, beyond the race entry fee itself. Yes, the sign-up service must get paid too, but I find it hard to believe that automated processing of an electronic registration should be more expensive than paying someone to tear open envelopes and transcribe information from hand-written registration forms.”
Shaw recommends that frugal runners try to minimize entry fees by seeking out smaller events in more low-profile locations. While it might seem that events with fewer runners should be more expensive since there are fewer participants to spread the costs over, this is rarely the case. Other race enthusiasts recommend weighing the value of entrance fees and making decisions from that evaluation.
According to Bill Cullins writing recently for the San Angelo Standard-Times, it’s often about what the fee brings you -- or doesn’t – and participants should do the math before they shell out money. If the event is raising money for a legitimate charity (and be sure to confirm the group’s legitimacy before you write the check), offering coupons or discounts and swag bags, it may be worth it. If the fee seems high and seems to buy you only the right to stand on the start line, maybe it’s time to look for another event.
“If the entry fee for an event seems to be too high for what you get in return, the best way to voice your opinion is to simply not sign up - the event promoter will get the message,” wrote Cullins. “On the other hand, if the entry fee seems reasonable based on the race amenities and if excess revenues go to support a good cause then paying a higher race fee may be a great decision.”