I came across an article this weekend in Bloomberg that made my blood boil. The article by Michael Buteau was discussing the rise of the entry fee at the New York Marathon to a whopping $255 (more for international athletes). The article wonders how much runners are willing to pay before they revolt and stop attending. Buteau presents a quote from a New York Roadrunner who says “I’m afraid it’s becoming an elitist sport that nobody can afford.”
This article mirrors the grumbling that had already been going on at the grassroots level in running discussion groups I take part in. I did a little research on marathon prices. Of the big marathons, New York tops the chart at $255, with Boston and Chicago both at $150 and Los Angeles and Rock and Roll Las Vegas close behind at $145 and $140. Definitely the big city marathons are becoming expensive, and that does not even include travel and lodging. However, as the article points out, demand for these marathons is up, so I am guessing that the price will not be dropping soon, as people who have these marathons on their bucket lists race (pardon the pun) to check them off.
What is even more troubling to me, though, than the cost of these mega-marathons is the rising cost of the smaller marathons around the country. Here in Michigan we have two brand new, unproven marathons starting this year. One is the Lansing Marathon and the other is called The Qualifier, which is located in Bay City. These brand new marathons, in their first year, and with courses that have no real scenic appeal, are charging $100 and $110, respectively.
Let's put this in perspective. Runs such as the Detroit Marathon, which is both a big city marathon and which offers a unique course, is only $80, while Bayshore, which is the most popular marathon in the state if this can be judged by how quickly it sells out, and which has a very scenic course, is only $85.
What makes the race directors of these new races think that their races merit premium prices? They don't have a beautiful course to draw runners, although the Qualifier course claims to be fast (hence the Qualifier in the name). Whether or not it will be fast, though, is not yet proven. The race directors may point to other races that they have run successfully, but this does not guarantee that their new race will measure up. What do these runs have to draw runners for that hearty chunk of change?
The question that comes up in my mind is "How much is too much?" At what point will runners start voting with their feet and running away from these races with exorbitant entry fees? When will you walk away? How much is too much for you?