Let Them Eat Cake. (begin highly opinionated rant)
In this day of high dollar entry fees where cheap shirts snag at the first sign of a finger nail, isn’t it about time WE tell these races to take their high dollar prize money events and shove ‘em up their ass. I have not been running this long to watch jackasses turn OUR sport into BIG BUSINESS and then pass the proverbial buck toward their host city. Horse shit is what it is.
I did my first 5K at the Capt. & Anna Bates Festival in Seville Ohio. 3.1 miles and my entry fee was 3 bucks. I even got a t-shirt. It was 1980 and 3 bucks has not gone to $35 for a 5K due to inflation. My t-shirt was 100% cotton and one color printing. Damn thing lasted me until my first year in college. THREE BUCKS. What’s the cause of the amazing if not unimaginable increase in entry fees? If you look to New York City and the N.Y.R.R you might find that the club blames the city for overtime fees, city workers, blah blah blah. And they add in “rising operating costs for N.Y.R.R.” Rising operating costs? Don’t let that slip past you. Someone need a new Beamer? But we are going to let the city take the lion share of the blame and then let the club skirt by somewhat unnoticed. The finish line of the race is in central park and that place closes at the first sign of rain or snow. Hell, it even closes for runners and cyclists during the morning hours. You can’t tell me that it suddenly costs more to close a park that is already closed just to host a marathon. I’ve run 8 mile loops in the park and have gone two loops without seeing a single car save the occasional cop car swinging by to harass the homeless. New York even starts on a closed bridge. Here again that damn thing shuts completely down at least twice a day. RUSH HOUR. Do that many people really need that bridge and the other bridges of the burroughs on a Sunday morning in November? Isn’t most of NYC sleeping off their hangovers? Most won’t leave the slumber of their vomit-soaked beds until dinner time. Seriously, there’s got to be some fluff to the information we are being spoon fed. And the N.Y.R.R. even tops this “increase” off with the $11 dollar non-refundable entry fee which the N.Y.R.R. calls “the most democratic part of the race” and “what makes the New York City Marathon such a special event.” Democratic? Special? Sounds more like a ponzi scheme to me.
And what of the labor associated with these marathons? Is that what causes this massive increase in entry fees? Well, I tend to think that 5,000 unpaid volunteers would like to see some of this increase. Pay ‘em doulble. I’ll cover it.
In as much as I review daily news articles about running, I can tell you that these BIG cities almost throw it in our face how much money is brought in by tourism from a marathon weekend. The city room tax at some of these races is 17.5%. I have seen room occupancy tax nearly as high. Races estimate the revenue to be in the tens and even hundreds of millions. One race claimed $317 million. Perhaps a BIT of an exaggeration to some degree. However large a number it is, seems that it would more than adequately cover a few hundred hardworking traffic officials. Even if the city charges the race and ultimately the runner for double overtime. Surely it recuperates most of that with this HUGE economic impact. These races should not have it both ways. Raise the fees and the brag about economic impact, which is it? At any rate it seems they could hire a foreign army to patrol the race with this economic windfall. I hear we have several groups that exist right here in this country that will work for cheap. According to some people, these unspoken masses are stealing all our jobs. Well why not let ‘em work as course support for the marathons. How hard can it be to stand in the middle of the street and block traffic. Let’s ask the OCCUPY movement to join us. Problem solved and I can RUNMORE without maxing out my damn credit cards.
And that brings me to another point associated with these large overly priced marathons; the foreign army of runners that attends the race. How do they get here? Who pays for their travel? What about all that prize money? The race may claim that sponsors have generously donated or funded the prize money? Money that could go toward you and I or even the brave souls passing out much needed water and fuel along the course. Instead of handing a HUGE cash payout to a runner(s) you paid to come to your race, why not split up the prize money to include age group runners. Split it up based on percentages of the total runners in the race for each age group. It’s really not prize money when you pay to bring in a crowd of runners who you expect to win. I agree that money can motivate. Why not spread that motivation out a little bit. Have you ever seen an eighty-year old run a SUB 3 hour marathon? Offer up equal age group money and I bet it happens in less than a year.
Further, if you’re going to help deplete my bank account, how about stepping up on the schwag bags and give us something worth while for that mammoth entry fee. Something besides more fliers for other high cost races. Better yet just give us our bibs and let us run. Keep what was formerly known as “schwag” bag which is now just a litter bag. Whatever happened to the “NO T-SHIRT” option. I’d just as soon be handed a used paper towel when compared to some of these rags that are passed off as race shirts. I feel like I’m being charged for peanuts on my United airlines flights.
Some races almost have a “cock fight” mentality with the competition on their course. They pay to bring a slew of fast foreign runners so the course record can be “smashed” by a few seconds and your race will make the news headlines. This all the while charging an ever increasing amount to the people that really matter. The ones who want to be there for your event. Sure a course record is great for your race and of course your sponsors who get free advertising when they are a title sponsor. But consider that a death at the London Marathon got just as many headlines as Mary Keitany’s national record. The whole thing has become a money making shark tank and runners are giving away their retirement funds just to be involved. I don’t give a rip if a course record is lowered by a minute or an hour. Keep my entry fee low and I will come back to run your race. Tell your sponsors that runners are sick of paying for something that they should be providing. A fun race FOR the runner. We will take notice of who is chipping in to the overall marathon experience and not just targeting one or two select athletes.
Before you tell me that I should go find smaller, less expensive races, please note that this is one of the reasons why I run smaller races. Sure the winning time may not be a world record, but I am not schlepping my coin collection to pay for some foreign runners plane flight or hotel room. I like low entry fees. I love race directors and/or race committees who care about the runner and not entirely about making money or pleasing some “in it for the wrong reason” sponsor. Who doesn’t or wouldn’t like a low entry fee. As the commercial goes “IT’S FREE MONEY.” Except the flow, right now, is going in the wrong direction and to the wrong people.
Most of these race directors seem to be so out of touch with the participants of their races. Sadly, runners today are mostly of the “one and done” variety and don’t even realize that they are being price gouged during race registration.
Judging from the skyrocketing number of recent race entries, I must be the only one who is pissed about giving up a kidney to do what used to cost pennies. And people wonder why I loved the 80′s.
I realize costs go up, but when do we, the runners, take back control of our races. It’s not the race directors race. It’s a race for us and should be all about us. Not 6 or 7 ‘elite’ runners or 2 sponsors. And it sure as hell should not be about some running club or the race director. It should be about the hundreds of thousands of us who toe the line to compete and we should all be treated with equality and respect. Still think the running world is “all inclusive?”