Why Are Races So Expensive?

As we head into the 2022 race season (and hopefully lots of safe in person racing) a lot of us are being confronted with the sticker shock of race prices.  Unfortunately inflation is real.  As race director of the Greater Hartford Quarter Marathon and the Hogsback Half Marathon I’ve watched prices go up markedly over the past year.

Mailing prices have gone up by 20%. Prices for medals have gone up by about the same amount rising from about $3.50 per medal to $4.50 per medal.  Same thing with timing.  The cost is so expensive that for the Quarter Marathon we’ve have to change timers.  Cost per person for our usual timer is now at about $6.75 per person.  We bid out a new timer to get the cost down to about $4.50 per person, which is still significantly higher than it was in 2019, the last year we ran Quarter Marathon in person.  The other huge driver on costs that has gone up is shirts.  Once upon a time we could secure shirts for $6-$7 per person.  We’re now looking at $9 per person and we face shortages on availability of shirts.

For 2022 here’s what the budget for Quarter Marathon looks like:

Mailing $200.00
Port-a-Potties $800.00
Medal Deposit $900.00
Medal Balance $900.00
Volunteer Swag $200.00
Timing Deposit $350.00
Timing Balance $1,200.00
Aid Stations $400.00
Photography $500.00
Race Primes $200.00
Food $750.00
Shirts $3,000.00
Van Rental $200.00
Volunteer Food $100.00
Egg Hunt $275.00
Awards $750.00

For 2022, Quarter Marathon is limited to 400 registrants due to parking limitations.  Previously we could go higher by having buses transport runners from off site parking to the race site.  We’ve done away with buses as we ‘re uncomfortable having runners in close contact on buses given COVID-19 pandemic uncertainties.  So if we look at the cost per runner, here’s how it breaks down:

250 Runners $42.90
350 Runners $30.64
450 Runners $23.83

Put simply, we’re spending a lot of money per runner — much more than we ever have in my previous 16 years of race directing.

When we opened registration for Quarter Marathon the early bird price was $25.00.  For members of the Hartford Track Club there was an additional $10.00 discount for a total of $15.00 to register.  At those prices we lost money per runner. The loss amounts to about $5 per regular registrant and about $15 per Hartford Track Club member.  Early bird registration is important to create a critical mass of registered runners who then help drive additional registration, but still, the finances keep me up at night.  I want to offer races that are affordable but the reality of doing that is getting harder.

Currently we are in regular registration at $40.00 per runner with a $15.00 discount for Hartford Track Club runners.  If we don’t sell out by March 14, 2022 the price will go up to $50.00 per runner.  The goal of the race is to raise funds of Achilles International – Connecticut Chapter.  I’m optimistic we’re going to push into the black and be able to make a significant donation BUT this is probably the tightest race financially that I have directed.  As you register for races this year, remember race directors and the charities with whom they work are facing a challenging new world of financial realities.

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