How Much Money Are You Willing To Pay For Race Entry?

Last week I received an email from the organizers of the NYC Ironman announcing registration for the 2013 race.  I had signed up for the 2012 Ironman (which was held last weekend) but had to cancel my entry when I found out I was pregnant (I received a $150 refund on my race entry fee).

My husband and I had recently been discussing my intentions to sign up for next year’s race – training and completing an Ironman has been on the forefront of my mind for the past few years and rather than put it off for another few years, we decided I would make the NYC Ironman my target race post-baby #2.

Well, we did…until I got the email with the registration information.  The price tag for the 2013 NYC Ironman?

$1200

This is about $250 MORE than it was for the previous year’s race (2012 NYC Ironman).   In my mind, I could <somewhat> justify $950 for an Ironman but just couldn’t bring myself to pay $1200. Maybe it was the four digit figure as opposed to three.  Not sure.  But that extra $250 was the cut-off point for me.  (Registration is currently suspended for the NYC IM – more details here.)

Although the NYC Ironman carries a bigger price tag than other Ironman races, they still range between $600-$650 (the cost for 70.3 races (Half-Ironman) typically range between $150-$300).  Understandably, IM and 70.3 races are typically more money than marathons and half marathons since they require more road and water closures, logistical support, safety and emergency vehicles, etc.  And, typically these races cap out at around 2,500 participants where the larger road races can have upwards of 30,000-40,000 runners.

But these high price tags for entry are not just limited to triathlons.  The larger, more popular road marathons in the US are slowly getting up there in cost as well.

Members of New York Road Runners must pay $216 this year to enter the marathon <NYC Marathon> compared with $156 last year. For United States residents who are not club members, the fee increased to $255, from $196. International applicants, if accepted, will pay $347, up from $281. – New York Times

You may be shaking your head at this cost – but despite the huge increase in cost, the NYC Marathon saw a record breaking number of entrants (28,000) in the first 24 hours the lottery system was open earlier this year and had over 50,000 hopefuls by the 11th day (Source: StrideNation.com).

<Note: Not all large marathons carry such a hefty price tag – the Marine Corps Marathon, the fourth largest marathon in the US (only behind NY, Boston, and Chicago) has a entry cost under $100 ($92).>

I’m certainly not an expert at determining the validity of these high entry fees –  each race has their own cost structure for entry fees and I’m sure they can justify the high cost.  But, after receiving the email last week with the entry cost for the NYC Ironman, I started thinking about how much others were willing to pay for these races.

Was I being irrational thinking that $1200 was too much?

I don’t think so.  But all I know is that I had sticker shock for the first time.  Up until that point, I had previously not walked away from a race entry because of it’s cost (I’ve run/signed up for many high-dollar races – NYC Marathon, Boston Marathon, Syracuse 70.3).

Are you running a race that has a high entry fee?  Is it a race you plan to only run once in your life (it’s on your bucket list)?

Do you have a cutoff price?

What’s the highest you have ever paid for entry into a race?  

Have high price tags caused you to run a different race? 

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    55 thoughts on “How Much Money Are You Willing To Pay For Race Entry?

    1. This can be great vincent. I really like having superior details, i had to find out significantly more. Appreciate your having these kinds of fantastic pertient files.

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    3. I was having this discussion a bit on my blog…. (I know this is an old post but it caught my eye)

      I typically won’t pay more than 175 for a race and I feel even that is pushing it some days… I feel guilty spending that much on a race when I have two kids ya know… however I will make an exception if I ever get into the NYC marathon…

      I typically shop around for races ya know? I feel better if I can keep them under 100… I love that running has become so big but I hate that it has allowed pricing to get out of hand…

    4. The entry fee for the NYC Marathon is actually more than $216 because most runners are getting in by doing 9 runs with the NYRR to get automatic entry. So the actual cost is closer to $400 (9 races * $20/race + the entry fee)…. minor details.

      • But you are getting a race for each of those fees you pay. Those include shirts, medals (sometimes), water/drinks along the course, etc. And for those of us who don’t live in NY the cost was significantly more – already expensive NYC hotels increased rates, plus air fare, etc. All told that race cost me about $7,000 ($3,500 twice – showed up the year of Sandy).

    5. $1200?! damn, that is a LOT. I am with you on this too. I guess I never even think about how much races cost, but it is a burden, especially at that price tag!!
      jobo recently posted..My sherpa.My Profile

      • Sam, I am with you…I’d be curious to know where the millions of $ go…Doesn’t seem like it would be that much $. But I’m no RD so I really have no clue!!!

      • I’m glad you wrote this…I felt that it just seemed crazy high, but I’ve never been a RD so I have NO idea what costs are involved in organizing a race of this size!

    6. Yeah that is steep!! I guess if that is the only race you are doing all year but you still need all your gear and what not. I do think the prices for races have gotten out of control. It really makes me assess what races are most important to me. It also makes me stick to local races so that I don’t have to factor in travel expenses as well.

      • Oh I know! I would love to do the NYC Half again, but I think it’s a race I’m going to have to do every 5 years or so b/c I can no longer justify spending so much $ on race registration. I agree – the local races are much more tempting to me now (for so many other reasons as well!)!!

    7. I ha a chance to do the Disney Priness Half in February. We had a planned Disney trip that coinsides with the weekend, but when I found out that it was $130 and started at 4am I opted out. I figured for $130 our family could do something else at Disney together. Rather than have me head off at 3am to make a race that my hubby and daughter wouldn’t be able to spectate or see me finish. I would like to do it someday, but not as part of our family vacation. Maybe a girls weekend or something. But $130 for a half is pricey even if it is a Disney event.
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    8. I am organizing my first 5K race and I have gained a bit of insight on cost. I am charging $35 per registrant and I was worried whether people would think it was too high. However, this a grassroots fundraising affair and is a great cause. I have been in contact with the coordinator of a well established 5K in the same city where mine will be and she shared with me her costs and entry fees, etc. I was astonished. They spent more on Tshirts and other extras that I catagorize as frivilous but as far as I could tell there was a huge profit and no explanation of what happens with those funds. Because I am hosting a Non-Profit affair, there have been many generous people donating needed items for race day to keep costs down such as chips at cost, free finish line, food, water bottles, bibs, and race bags. This means that almost 100% of runner’s registration fees will go to “the cause” which has me giddy. This lady also had sponsors willing to donate the same items which helped her keep her costs down… leaving me to wonder what was done with the profit?

    9. Holy cow!! I thought that the price for the race they did the day before the nyc marathon last year was high, but quickly forgot about it when the t-shirt was really nice. :) I can’t wrap my head around $1200 though!
      Ashley recently posted..Carolina Style Pulled PorkMy Profile

    10. $1200 is just plain stupid and the WTC knows it. They also know that if they are going to put that kind of cost on the race that it needs to be a heck of a lot better than the inaugural race. I spent $650 on my Ironman race entry with the help of friends and family paying my entry fee for my birthday but sadly has to be a one and done. Once you add up the hotel fees, equipment, shipping of the bike, plane tix and then the costs associated with training and coaching, there is no way this school teacher could ever do it again. Ironman owned events are great but you can do a 140.5 without the same costs by going through Rev 3 or a small organization like Columbia Triathlon Association’s Chesapeake Man.

      I have done Chicago, NY, MCM and a slew of RNR’s and they have all been worth the price tag, but the longer I run the more I just feel sick about the cost-benefit analysis of it all. It also increases the elitism of our endurance sports. People with regular sized and down sized bank accounts deserve to run races too!

      You made the right choice about skipping IMNYC. If you really wanna do a WTC event, go to Lake Placid. It is the most beautiful place and the town becomes electric during Ironman weekend. Plus, it is quite spectator accessible and family friendly!!
      Sarah @ RunSingTeach recently posted..it’s a startMy Profile

      • Sarah, I have heard amazing things about Lake Placid. Last year, it was a tossup between LP and NYC…NYC won out b/c I felt that it would be easier, logistically, for me to do – my family is in NYC so it would be a piece of cake for them to watch my son, no driving, hotels, etc…but I just can’t justify the $1200. AND, I heard a ton of negative feedback as well for the NYC.

    11. I started cutting back on some of the more expensive races. I loved Disneyland, and RNR, but even those are well of $150 for a half marathon! I have been looking at smaller, family run races, and have really enjoyed my race experience much more in those races. They not as hectic, and not as crowded, and I feel like they’re in it for the run of the sport.

      • It’s crazy when you think about spending $150 for 13 miles. It works out to more than $10 a MILE!! Insane!! The more I race, the more I hate large races. One of my best race experiences was a race that had ~250 runners. No need to show up hours in advance!! And it was pretty cheap as well!

    12. I do think $1200 is crazy expensive for an Ironman. But as far as the NYCM and the other local NYRR races, it is what it is. We will in NYC. If you want to race here, you pay the price (just like everything else here…) It’s just a gosh darn expensive city. Both for the runners here and for the companies putting these races up. If I traveled to another city to “Pay less” for the race, I would be paying WAY more for travel and lodging.
      Carrie M recently posted..NYCM Training Week 7My Profile

      • Carrie…I agree with you…that’s ultimately why I registered for the NYC IM last year…even though it was about $350 more than any other IM, it still would have been cheaper for me to do b/c I didn’t have to travel anywhere. And I know that the NYC Marathon raised it’s prices b/c of a new contract with the NYPD…I have no doubt that the cost is justified – just makes you stop before you hit “pay”. LOL.

    13. I would have had sticker shock on that price tag as well. I had extreme stick shock when it came to the NYCM price tag but paid it figuring it is a once in a life time race and I may not get the opportunity to run it again. I often look at price points to see if races are worth it. I have had some of my best race experiences at the cheapest races out there. It seems as races get more popular, the price tags keep raising. I would definitely run more races if it were more budget-friendly!

    14. Yowzers – that is steep as hell!

      My most expensive race to date is the NYC half – UK races tend to be a bit cheaper. Come over here with your family and race with us! You’d be so welcome! :)
      Helen recently posted..Progress….My Profile

    15. I paid $150 to run the R&R Vegas Half. I’ll never do that again. I paid $200 for my Javelina Jundred and that I could justify. I would say $100-$125 is my limit. I am finding I like the small, intimate races more and those are a lot less and have been a lot more fun. Less herd like running. :)
      Lisa recently posted..Leading Ladies Marathon Race RecapMy Profile

    16. DAAAAANG!! But first let us say that neither one of us ever plan to do a tri. We are simply not bike people and if we learn to be good swimmers prefer to do it in a pool with no one kicking us. We are also VERY grateful that we have this view because I’m not sure either one of us could afford to do tri’s. They are just an all around expensive thing, but we do hope to volunteer for some and support friends. $1,200 is ridiculous! Can understand that it’s the NYC one, but oh my god, yes making it a 4 digit dollar amount is a HUGE deal. The most expensive races we have done were Disneyland Half (our fav Disney race) and Disney Princess Half, but we knew we were just going to do them a handful of times so we were ok with that. Actually we fly out in a little over a week for our 2nd Disneyland Half and each of us asked for the race entry as a Christmas present this past year. There are races with hefty price tags we can only dream of doing and should we ever qualify for them I’m sure just once we would save money elsewhere in order to make those races work.
      LifeisaRun recently posted..Wordless Wednesday No. 29My Profile

    17. I was just thinking about writing a post about how running is EXPENSIVE. It’s not just a pair of sneakers; it’s moisture wicking clothing, appropriate socks, fuel, things to hold the fuel, a watch perhaps, and then the big one that doesn’t earn its price through years of use: Race entries. I’m running NYC for the second time and the price increase hurt. I don’t run many races (3-5 a year) and try to do the ones that go toward charities rather than to simply join in. If an entry is too high (Like the Hamptons half marathon at $80) I won’t do it. I did that one once, it was fun, but it did not have a crowd pushing you. The scenery was beautiful, but as my second half marathon I wasn’t mentally prepared to be ALONE! Swag was great though 😉
      Kristin Miller recently posted..Workout out on a vacation: In a hotelMy Profile

    18. Thank you for addressing this issue. Over the last few years, the cost of race entries has skyrocketed. I used to sign up for significantly more (mostly NYRR) races throughout the year, but with these prices I have to pick and choose which ones I want to do most. I refused to even try to register for the NYC Half due to the ridiculous fee. I have definitely been swaying towards more local races for this reason.
      Jen Correa @ Mom’s Gotta Run recently posted..Healthy Living Summit 2012My Profile

    19. I almost choked when I heard how much Ironman NYC was charging. That’s complete insanity. I mean I get that it costs a lot of money to shut down the city but wow, $1200 is steep. That being said, if it was a bucket list race, I’d pay it. I’m doing the NYC marathon this year and being a non US citizen I got hit with a $357 entry fee. That is almost as much as what I paid to do my first Ironman 6 years ago!! But, it’s a bucket list race and luckily I qualified in so I coughed up the dough.
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    20. I think race fees for the larger events have definitely gotten a bit out of control. I know large events are costly to put on but I think there’s a bit of gouging going on. I also think you don’t get what you paid for in some cases–the really big marathons are really just a PITA–you have to get up at 2 a.m. to get to the start, take 30 minutes to cross the start, and then fight for space the entire way. Not fine in my mind!

      Speaking for myself, the most I’ve ever paid was $350 for my Ironman (this was 1999!). It was worth it. But I do draw the line on the big marathons–you’ll never see me doing an RnR!
      misszippy1 recently posted..Running styleMy Profile

    21. That is a BIG price tag. Racing is expensive. This year is the first year that I have really gotten into racing. In the past I would run one maybe two races – typically small 5 or 10 km runs. So the prices were not too crazy.

      But this year because I finally took the plunge into distance running (that to a nudge from a certain mama) I will be running 7 races in 2012! It really starts to add up!
      Krysten Siba Bishop (@darwinianfail) recently posted..#WIAW – Rest DayMy Profile

    22. I know ironman runs a great race but i think $600 is too much that’s why I go w/ the independents like chesapeakeman and also it’s the closest one to my home. w/ the $1200 remember you will save a bunch on hotel and travel expenses you would have to pay enough for a ‘nearby’ ironman or iron distance.

      • It’s funny you mentioned the closeness of home – that is initially why I signed up for the 2012 NYC IM and why I was *okay* with paying the same price this year. We figured that the airfare and/or transportation as well as hotel costs for 2-3 days for another IM would make the others more expensive. But that plan backfired on us when I got pregnant and lost $800…it would have been more cost effective to have signed up for a different one at that point! LOL.

    23. I guess that I can’t complain too much about my $5.00 to $15.00 entry fees that I whine about up heah at times. I didn’t enter a 1/2 marathon because it was going to cost $45. if a 10K race or longer costs over $50 I really have to think is it worth it to me and figure out how badly I need to run the race. $25 is my ceiling for a 5K. Fortunately, up heah in Maine it is fairly easy to find a different and cheaper race on a weekend.

      I guess that running “big name” races isn’t really my thing and I am a bit cheap or is that frugal.

      Marathons are a different story, but I only plan on running one next year MCM if I can get in.
      Harold Shaw recently posted..Double the Planned Run 8/21/12My Profile

      • Harold, I didn’t even touch on the cost of the halfs these days. RnR races are upwards of $125 and the NYC Half is almost $150 (or more, I think!). If you figure it out, per mile, it ends up being over $10 per mile!! CRAZY expensive.

    24. I don’t blame you for walking away from that one. That is really, really expensive and hard to justify for something that will be over in a few hours. I don’t run a ton of full marathons (I’m training for my 3rd one now) but I’ve done a lot of halfs, 10 miler, 15K, etc. I got really fed up with Rock n Roll races because the fees are astronomical for half marathons. The San Diego RnR half was almost $125 last year. That is really, really uncalled for. That’s how much I paid to enter the 2009 Chicago Marathon! Then we got talked into doing the RnR Nashville half earlier this year, and the entry fee (way early too) was about $90, and after flights, hotels, etc that race probably cost us $1000 each, which just isn’t worth it. It’s really a shame that RnR is buying up so many races and bloating the fees so much. Many people who are new to running now have no idea that it is NOT normal to pay over $100 to run a 13.1. We are running the Baystate Marathon in October – it only has a $70 entry fee!

    25. Wow. I know there is some really nice swag you receive, but 1k+ is too much. I’m ok with organizations charging a fee to enter. You have to maintain the general administrative staff to answer questions and get the permits etc. However, I supported a friend and the race had was minimal safety; probably only 2 lifeguards, one boat, little markings. My friend never came out of the water and they didn’t even notice! They were ready to pack up the sprint swim, when I approached an official and told them I didn’t see my friend come out. Turned out she accidentally crossed over to the other course and swam an extra 200 – 400 meters out into the lake. They said she was lucky I was looking out for her!

    26. When I saw your title I knew exactly what race you were talking about. Ironman NYC set an insane price and I hope they bring it down if they can since they suspended the registration. I had sticker shock with NYC Marathon this year. I want to do it very badly but couldn’t pay $255 for a race that I would pay many hundreds to travel there. I did pay $650 for Lake Placid Ironman 2013 but I am OK with that considering it is a huge event, though I am glad they didn’t increase the price this year because I had my heart set on it.
      Robin recently posted..My 5 Hour Training DayMy Profile

    27. I would race SO much more often… if I could afford it.

      The most that I’ve paid for a race so far, I think, has been close to $200. As a college student, though, it is hard to justify spending money on a run over spending it on rent, or text books, or food… $200 is a lot- that’s about a month’s rent for me. Not to mention, there are travel expenses. I’ve only been able to race outside of my own state once because my mom was awesome enough to drive down with me and get a hotel (otherwise I would have slept in my car).

      I am, however, planning on spending more money this year. I’ve saved up $1000 for three ultras that I plan on competing in– funny how some marathons cost more than ultras!

      Right now, though, I have just enough money to make it through May… so, yeah… “ONE DAY, when I am a rich engineer, I’LL BUY ALL THE RACES!” lol Dream big, right?

      • I just keep telling myself that I’ll race as often as I like when I’m a sponsored elite athlete!!! But, you are right – the ultra I did last year was about $50 – just over $1 per mile!! NYC marathon ends up being about $8-12!!

    28. The most expensive race I’ve ever done was Disney’s Goofy Challenge (a half marathon followed by a full). It was $285 when I did it about 5 yrs ago. Now up to $325 I think. Second most expensive was Boston. Both were well worth the price! But I would never spend $1200 on a race. There’s just so much other stuff I could do with that money–I mean, that’s 12 pairs of running shoes! :)

    29. Oh man, I definitely would have walked away from that as well! Paying race fees unfortunately takes a lot of my income during race season unfortunately. I love running and racing, so I try to justify it, but I have to limit the number of races i do each year because it just gets too expensive (on top of buying new shoes when the old ones wear out, etc)

      Smaller, more local races are usually more affordable, and smaller in numbers, which is nice, but they are getting harder to find. Rock n Roll series races are getting more and more expensive, and are getting larger and number, which overcrowds, well everything (Nike Womens as well), but I keep running them. Dang that hardwear!
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    30. I am often in the minority about this, but there is NO WAY these big events are ever worth it to me. I traditionally run trails, which are traditionally cheaper. I personally see no allure to the events and the cost drives me away even more

      With that said, the Utica Boilermaker has 15,000 runners, and unlimited food and beer after the event for less than 40 bucks… so when NYC charges that much for the marathon I think its a joke.. 1200… no way. I work for a non-profit and that would be a HUGE portion of my pay… for the YEAR.

      Dirt cheap – 50 bucks, 6 races, with dinner after.. show me the trails! http://www.trailsROC.org :)

    31. holy cow, that is a lot! I’ve never registered for an Ironman, but I was even horrified when i looked at a 70.3 and it was like $300! i get that a lot of costs go into races but at some point, I think they’re getting ridiculous. I don’t think i could handle $1200!
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    32. Wow…I didn’t realize they were THAT expensive. I guess if I ever do an Ironman, it will be my only race of the year. $100 is about my budget. I have paid $125, but I think that is the top. I am planning on running Boston next year, so that will be my highest.

    33. Jokingly (or not so much) when my husband sees me swimming laps, he says “don’t even think about a tri” He knows how expensive they are and paying that much is just not a possibility for our family. It is hard enough to keep up with the running races. I really enjoy the small, intimate ones anyway, but even those are not cheap. Still shaking my head over $1200.
      Hope your feeling ok.. I’m getting excited for you. xo
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    34. I’m with you on this one. One reason I like the Revolution3 races is that they are a bit more affordable than Ironman. True I won’t hear “You are an Ironman” but that’s no big deal for me. I too have been turned off by high entry fees, etc. I’ve found that the more “elite” a race becomes i.e. Boston or NYC the less interested I become and stay away.
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