Friday, March 16, 2012

A beef with the races!


When I was in high school, I did a couple road races.   They were cheap, probably around $25 dollars, came with an ugly t shirt, and I assumed most of the money was going to a charity and the sponsors were local businesses.  In any case, I don't think anyone thought of road racing as a high dollar business, just like soccer rec leagues and minor league baseball aren't big money.

But then things changed.

Races became big money. The era of For-Profit running companies and Rock and Roll races in every city began.  And it became normal to pay $100 for a half marathon.  And the weirdest part?  People are still willing to pay it.   They fight for the opportunity to pay it.  (This post and This post address the rapidly growing race fees.)

But it's not the constantly growing race fees that really irk me.  It's the ridiculous restrictions on race entries that make the security restrictions of running a (Insert Corporate Race name here) race about on par with getting a tour of the White House or flying to Dhaka.

Let's take a look at the rules from Competitor's website (skull and crossbones possibly edited in):


"Entry fees are non-refundable and non-transferable.  No exceptions".

Considering your events sell out and people get injured, wouldn't the neighborly thing to do to allow deferment or transferring the bid (even for a fee!) so that another runner can have the opportunity?  I can't imagine it would be a hard system to implement.   

But the kicker of this rules section is "If you attempt to sell your race number, you may be banned from future Competitor events for three years."


You're attempting to ban people for three years?  I can see banning people for banditing, but for putting their bib for sale?  Kind of punitive for a hobby jogger event, don'tyathink?

I don't even want to get into the insane "airline style" fees tacked on for parking, runner tracking, bib pickup, etc. detailed in Dorothy's post.   It's a weird model, and in my opinion, this attitude has no place in the running industry.

But ok.  I've accepted that these for-profit groups are doing what they can to charge as much as they can and not be flexible at all in their entry policies.   I guess if you're running a business and you can make a pile of cash, why not do it, right?

But here's where I get really confused.  Traditionally, road races pulled from the community to get help at water stations, the finish line, etc.   At these expensive, for-profit mega races, the race course are still manned mostly by volunteers!!!  Not only are these groups changing the culture of racing, they are profiting off the traditional "small town" culture of road running that encouraged volunteering.

If they are going to act like a concert venue, or a ball park, may as well hire some high school kids to pass out water rather than pretending like you need the goodness of the volunteers of the running community to get by, right?

Barf.

So what's a runner to do?

It seems like there are still some races out there that aren't just trying to maximize their profits with little concern for runner finances and unexpected life events.

This article in running times interviewed the race director of the Marine Corp's marathon.  He explains that he breaks even at an $80 in 2011 ($88 this year) entry fee while offering deferment to next year or bib transfer for an administrative fee for anyone who needs to.


"If I was a participant, how would I want to be treated".

He sounds like a good guy.  No wonder everyone wants to run Marine Corps!

So I've complained a lot, but what's the solution?

I wish these larger racing companies would consider the impact they are having on the sport of road racing.  I would argue that some of it is positive.  They have made road racing more accessible to more people.  They've increased participation.  And that part is great.
But with these companies have come increased racing fees, races that fill up early (so you have to sign up early), and an increased lack of flexibility.

I think it's about time these races either lower their fees or change some of their bib-transfer / deferment rules.  I get that some events, like New York, or Boston probably can't do this, but for most races, it should be no problem.  Competitor, I'm looking at you.

21 comments:

  1. barf- my fav sentiment!

    where do they even find volunteers to work at one of the high price tag races (exception of NYC or the like bc that's probably a ton of fun)? Maybe Competitor could get charity groups to volunteer and then make a donation to their cause?

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    1. That would be a great idea! Doubt it'll happen but I like where your head's at!

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  2. I hate competitor. That's all.

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  3. Competitor Group is getting ridiculous. At first I respected their well-oiled event machine, but they got greedy and too big too fast. They don't put the participant at the forefront of their planning and it is obvious that their ultimate goal is to sell out races to bring in a bigger profit margin. I could go on and on and on.....
    Trying not to sign up for their races and put my money towards smaller races :)

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    1. I feel exactly the same way. I respect their function (beyond vegas) but I dislike their OMG HIGH PROFIT MARGIN AT ANY COST attitude.

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  4. I agree! Last year when I first injured my hip I had to drop out of a half marathon. I called the race directors and convinced them to let me transfer my bib to a local resident. I had to sign some paperwork and it took awhile but to me it was worth it. I didn't sell my bib or anything I gave it away because I thought that was the respectable thing to do-and I'm happy someone else got to enjoy a race that I couldn't.

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  6. I agree 100% with this post, I love it. I'm already signed up for Seattle & Portland RnR, but I feel like I want to kind of avoid Competitor Group after that (I say that, but they have such a monopoly on all the big races I want to do!). It is such a freaking rip-off and they piss me off. Yesterday the Seattle Half (not RnR) had a $29 deal and I whole-heartedly approve of that. And don't tell anyone, but I definitely did NOT sell my bib to Seattle RnR when I had a stress fracture. :-)

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  7. I'm with you on this. I remember a simpler time when it was more about the running.

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  8. Dude. This post rules. Times 1000. I am on a break from RNR races for all of the reasons stated above. Vegas sealed the deal for me- the entry fee was cray, the race was an effing disaster and all we got was a "sorry, we'll offer you something for next year." Gee, thanks but no thanks. I'm out.

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  9. i would love to see the person who actually gets caught for selling a bib or buying one. i do it all the time. some people act like its such a big deal but hey, if youre not going to run it/cant/injured, why let the bib go to waste? none of us are such professionals that if we really place 11th instead of 10th in one of the 47 different age groups it really matters anyways.

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    1. I CARE IF I PLACE 11TH AND SHOULD HAVE BEEN 10th!!! Jeez don't you know I"m a professional?

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  10. Sadly, I couldn't agree more! As a new runner, I was shocked to learn that entry fees could possibly run me broke. Especially if I compete out of town. And yet, because I enjoy the run, I will still probably pay. Maybe I should reconsider the races I plan to do!

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  11. This is I am going to start creating my own events. And they will be free. Would you like me to put you on the mailing list? :)

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  12. I'm a new-ish runner and some of these higher fees just seem normal. I don't have a basis for comparison, and I think that's the same with a lot of other newbies. With other things I pay for (gas, groceries, tuition), I know that the price is going up and I may be getting less. It's not the same with running.

    Anyway, with this current boom, I don't know if these policies are really hurting for-profit race companies' bottom line. If it was, I think they'd change the policy.

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    1. Yup agree that these dumb policies are not hurting the margins. In fact, I am sure they are padding them very well and their races still sell out. Can't entirely blame a company for wanting to make money, but I hope they start making changes.

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  13. Carlsbad offers transfers for $25 - seems completely reasonable. If Carlsbad can do it and they have a big race (8 or 9k), everyone else can too. Especially Competitor Group who has a staff of employees than can take on the "tranfer" logistics. And they can make a bit of money, too, with the fee. Not sure why they don't do this. Guess they don't care enough.

    I never thought of the volunteer aspect on these for-profit races. It's so true - they are profiting off volunteers! That is wack. I wonder if they give volunteers a free race entry or something because that would make me feel a little bit better.

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    1. I think they are able to oversell the races and because of having a % factor of "no shows" they can maximize profit.

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