After almost five years out of the running game, I've been so keen to take every single opportunity to run that comes up. That means more than just running around my neighbourhood in the evenings. It's also getting involved in organised events such as the wonderful Parkrun, Race for Life, the slightly daunting Brighton Marathon and (as I've not stopped going on about) the Giff Gaff Money Fit Challenge that I took part in recently.
I adore the atmosphere at these events. Not only are you running with other people, but you're being spurred on by supporters (even family and friends!) and marshals too. You also get handed water en route and they often have handy little markers that tell you how far you've gone. Whether you're an affiliated runner or you're like me, a loner(!), the events are so inclusive. It doesn't even matter if you're going slow. You just feel like you're part of something special, because you are. And you're proud of your achievements. And you get a nice medal and some kind of glorious snack at the end – which (let's be honest) is the motivation that keeps you going for that last mile!
But (yes, there is a but. And if you've read the title of this post you've figured out what the but is already)… entering races is not cheap.
Ok so Parkrun is totally free, which I love. I'm certain it costs money to hold events like this, as well as the valuable time of those who climb out of bed ridiculously early every Saturday morning to ensure the safety of everyone else (what absolute heroes they are!). It's great, because it is inclusive and motivating and it's not just me, on my own, struggling on, constantly battling my desires to stop and walk home.
Parkrun is a rare good thing though, a lot of races require a sign up fee to cover the cost of holding the event in the first place. I totally support these fees, because without them it would genuinely not be successful. The way I see it is that I'm paying to get a t-shirt or a medal and that's all fine.
But there's got to be a limit, right? The majority of the races I enter cost between £10 and £20, which I put into the realms of 'totally reasonable' and happily fork out. (Well I'm not dancing with glee at the fact I've spent money but I often am super excited to have entered a race). I excitedly signed up to a Half Marathon taking place in December (eeek!) and that ended up costing me £32, which my cash-strapped self didn't love. But even that was alright, considering the distance (perhaps a slightly warped view that the cost of organising increases with the distance of the run?) and the fact that it'll probably cause a fair amount of disruption in a fairly large city.
I get that the London Marathon costs a chunk to enter because it literally shuts London down for a day. But the organisation seems good to me, it seems to be necessary when considering the days beforehand where race packs will be collected, the hours of work required by a great deal of people.
But in contrast, when I went to sign up for a 10km race recently and saw the asking price of £40, I was astounded. £4 for each kilometre. When I can run for free(ish). It seems unreasonable to ask for such a lot of money, especially when events are sponsored by several different companies. They must be making an extraordinary profit on these. If you think about how many races the average runner takes part in each year, the total race fee cost is probably at least £500 a year – not to mention the need for proper gear: the right running shoes and a decent high impact bra are absolute essentials above anything else for me.
The thing that strikes me about this is that the sense of inclusivity becomes totally lost. And honestly, if you want people to actually enter your race, it's something quite important to consider. I expect costs, for sure, but I don't expect to feel like I've been robbed for the sake of running a race.
So in summary, race fees are the difference between that fulfilling, inclusive feeling and the sense that you're excluded because you can't afford to take part. While most seem fair, some are just totally ridiculous and disappointing.
I'd love to know what you guys think, whether you agree or perhaps can justify the costs in a way that I haven't been able to.