Athletics Magazine

Are Race Entry Fees Making You Bankrupt?

By Brisdon @shutuprun

Some people spend lots of money on fancy shoes and daily mocha no-whip lattes. Me? I spend my “extra” income (if there is any) on – yep, you guessed it– race entry fees.

I will tell you this – I almost spit my non-fancy coffee up out my keyboard earlier this year when I thought I might enter the lottery to for the New York City Marathon.  I know NYC is on everyone’s marathon bucket list. I wanted to get there, or at least start trying. I went through the motions to enter the lottery, but stopped dead in my tracks when I got to the fee page.


Yes, that is right. $255 for a stinking marathon. There has been a 65% increase over the past five years for this race. Last year it was $196. Oh, and if you are unfortunate enough to live outside of the U.S., it is $347.

Yes, I get it. It is NYC and everything is expensive there. I understand that somewhere in that town there is a famous statue holding a torch and arguably the best pizza in the world.  All I can say is that for that price, the water at the aid stations better be specked with gold and the porta potties better be spotting the softest Charmin this side of the Mississippi. No, I did not end up registering.

Are Race Entry Fees Making You Bankrupt?

Imagine that each of these millions of bodies paid $255

You have to figure that for most people the race entry fee is just the beginning. Then there are airline tickets, food, lodging, car rentals, etc. It costs about 4 million dollars just to travel to and run a race. Too bad Oprah doesn’t do marathons anymore because her bank account has got what it takes.

I’ve only been running for a few years, but even in that short time I’ve seen race entry fees sky rocket. Running is now a business.  I understand the costs that go into putting on a race (permits, timing, police, emergency services, aid stations, staff, insurance, swag bags), and I can appreciate that entry fees need to offset certain expenses. I also know that with more people running certain races, the course has to stay open longer, thereby increasing costs.

Is it just me or have the Rock ‘n Roll races gotten way more expensive? I think my entry for Vegas last year was $165 or so. In the end, that was some big bucks to have post-race diarrhea for four days. But, that’s another blog post.

Here is a detailed graph from Stride Nation showing the fee increases for some of the most popular US marathons:


Yes, I make a choice to enter and pay for races. Yes, I could stay home and watch The Simpsons and eat Pop Tarts. The bottom line is that race entry fees have gone up, and it seems that the increase is inching towards price gauging. As running, and marathons in particular, get more popular, it seems the race planners are becoming more and more opportunistic. I guess they figure, why not charge it if people will pay it? I know most races donate to charities, but I would love to see the actual breakdown.

For me, I see race entry fees as a necessary evil to do something that I love.  I enjoy races. I love the race energy. I love the swag and the after race beer gardens. I enjoy destination races where I can make running a part of my vacation. I have budgeted the fees and will continue to pay them. But, just like your Aunt Ethel who complains every year that her hemorrhoids are getting worse, I will complain about the rising costs of racing. Heck, I’ve got nothing better to do. First world problems for sure!!

Some tips to save money on races:  

  • If you want to stick to smaller or less known races, you can still get some real bargains.
  • With most races it’s worth it to register early for reduced fees.
  • The Rock ‘n Roll races usually offer coupon codes, so Google that before you make your final payment.
  • Another way to offset costs is to join a group like Team in Training and do some fundraising. They will usually cover your race fee and travel in exchange.

What do you think? Have race fees increased over the past 3-5 years? Are the increases warranted?

What’s the most expensive race you’ve ever done? The Boulder 70.3 at $250. I can “get” why races like this are so pricey given the multi sport aspect.


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