How Much is Too Much?

No, I’m not talking mileage. Different topic, different post. And I don’t think I have yet hit the weekly mileage that feels “too much” for me, so I’m not sure what that magical number is.

I’m talking about race entry fees. You know, the amount you pay to torture yourself in some kind of endeavor and maybe get a t-shirt or medal or beer (or all 3, if you’re lucky!) at the end of it.

I’m a bit of a race junkie. Love ‘em and rarely turn one down. I have found myself signing up for races that involve things I don’t even like (like getting wet – yeah, I’m looking at you, Warrior Dash) or don’t know how to do (ahem, the upcoming Peak Snowshoe Challenge Half Marathon) simply because I love the race experience. I generally don’t pay much attention the cost unless there is some kind of deal attached and I can feel good about myself for saving a buck.

Over Thanksgiving, however, my oldest, M, and I had planned to do a 5K race together while up in Boston. It was one of those “theme” races, but I don’t want to mention the name because I have nothing against the race organizers or the race itself. We planned to sign up last minute, after checking out the weather forecast, family plans etc. Two days before the race, I went online to sign up and learned that the cost for both of us would be $100. Yup, $50 per person. For a 5K. I was shocked.

After a quick discussion with my son, we decided that 20-something minutes of fun was not worth dropping $100. By way of cost comparison, we ended up going to the Museum of Science instead, and we were able to purchase a full year membership for our family for $125. Definitely a better use for the money. And as an aside, if you are ever in the Boston area, you MUST visit the Museum of Science. Best museum ever.

I get that races can be pricey to organize (and I never balk at a high entry fee where it is going to charity), but I have to say that I had complete sticker shock at this one. I ran a 5K on Thanksgiving Day, and it was $20 – maybe $25 for last-minute sign ups. It was pretty low-key, but they had a DJ, coffee, water, bagels, Gatorade, T-shirts for the first 600 entrants, B-Tag timing and a well marked course with police handling traffic and road closures. A full-service, well-organized race. I can’t understand why a similar race, in a town only a few miles away and only a few days later, would cost twice as much. I think that the entry fees for the 5K’s I usually run are in the $25-$35 range.

I’m a total capitalist when it comes to casual recreational events like this – I have no problem with race organizers charging whatever they want since it is my prerogative to say no. It’s not like they’re price gouging on milk, bread and eggs on the eve of a snowstorm, for Pete’s sake. There are 5K’s almost every weekend, and I can just choose to do another one if I don’t like the price. And if enough people “Just Say No,” they will have to lower their entry fees. So it’s not as though I’m outraged, or anything. It just surprised me because I have never cared much about cost before until $100 stared me in the face on active.com.

Marathons, obstacle course races – I get it. They are extremely expensive to organize and I expect the entry fee to reflect that. But a 5K on a Saturday morning? What the hell costs $50 per person? The free beer at the end can’t be that good.

Do you pay close attention to race prices? Do you have a break point? I didn’t know I had one..until now.

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