Monday, February 16, 2009

Rant: Rising prices at NYRR

(Edited to update the official cost for this year's marathon.)

Ok, first of all I've become a weekend warrior. I run once a week, and then suffer the next few days. Not a good plan, but 8 and change yesterday. Need better weather, and less laziness.

Now on to this rant, that's been coming for months.

It wasn't that long ago that running a NYRR race cost $11 for members in advance. Now it's going up to $17, up to $25 on race day. Non-members took a much bigger hit, and they pay $30 in advance, up to $40 on race day.

At the same time, the amount of people running these races has gone up dramatically. I took a few races that they have every year, and looked at the amount of finishers for three random years:

(And I know they'll be limiting the Central Park races to 5,000 this year. That's still quite a bit up from a few years ago.)

I imagine that there are certain costs that go up with more runners (e.g. water, shirts, etc), but then again many of the costs will be fixed (park permit, timing mats, etc.). Also consider that new this year, in order to qualify for the marathon, you have to volunteer at one race as well. And so the workforce has increased without any added costs.

Oh, and let's talk about the marathon? Including transportation which is now mandatory, it was $85 in 2005, $100 in 2007, $125 in 2008, and $138 in 2009! In addition, there is a non-refundable processing fee of $7 in 2005, $10 in 2007, and $11 in 2008 and 2009.

It's common knowledge that the amount of applicants for the marathon has increased every year. Last year there were 105,000 applicants! Which means that for the over 65,000 people that didn't get in, this $11 "processing" fee was charged. ($715,000 if you're counting.) I'm quite certain I never even got a mailing from the marathon until I was accepted. So how much processing is there for an extra email??

And so, in a few short years, the Road Runners have rapidly raised the prices, even as they have more than doubled the amount of paying customers.

Now, let's talk about membership. Last year, I became an annual benefactor for the first time. What that meant is that I paid a higher price - some of it a donation to their foundation - and was able to run most of the races for free. (I blogged about it at the end of this post.) That allowed me to never think about the cost, and just sign up for any race I felt like running. But this year, this option has become unavailable.

(Initially, the price was released with yet another dramatic increase. Up from $199, of which $103 was tax deductible, the new rate was set to be $250 - of which only $75 was tax deductible.
Reading between the lines, they raised the actual price from $96 to $175, about an 80% increase! Since I don't run in the Saturday races, this was definitely not worth it to me. After a few emails trying to figure out what happened, the option to be an annual benefactor was removed the site. Instead, a note was left saying that membership packages were under review.)

And so now, I have a regular membership. And I have to pay for each race. And quite frankly, I'm quite disgusted by the Road Runners. There are many people who feel the need to run the 9 races in order to get automatic marathon entry, and so they sign up for all these races, regardless of the distance. But for me, I'm done with that. I may run the marathon this year, but I've given up on running races just for the sake of "getting my 9 in". I'm only going to run a race if I'm trained for that specific race, and if I'm in condition to make a run at a PR. Otherwise, I can go for a run in my neighborhood for free.

I used to get asked this question all the time by non-runners. Why do you pay to run, when you can do it for free? Well there's certainly an added experience to running with a number and a timing chip, and with other runners. But what price is that worth??

Look, I can't give advice to the Road Runners. Obviously in spite of the rising prices, the amount of runners has gone up. I hear everyone talking about this recession all day long on the radio, but it doesn't really seem to apply here in Manhattan. (Maybe when all the Wall Street executives get limited to $400,000 things will change!) And so why would they make it cheaper? They'll probably continue to raise prices. But for me personally, I find it appalling and consider it price gouging. How much of the cost is necessary? (Much of the cost is supported by whomever is sponsoring that particular race.) Do we really need those stupid T shirts? Maybe they could charge less without a shirt? Maybe members could reuse their number and their chip for each race. Maybe they can come up with their own ways to control costs.

What do you think? Am I being unreasonable?

Monday, February 09, 2009

Back to the Park

One glorious day for running yesterday. (And by glorious, I mean in the 50's for an hour or two. Back to freezing now!)

I went out to Central Park, and it was packed! Actually kind of nice to be out there with everyone. To be short, I ran the loop in a little over 55 minutes. Slow for me, but not as bad as expected. Considering, that I've only run 6 times in the new year.

Later in the day I realized it was the Bronx Half. I remembered how cold it was last year, and it was kind of shame not to have run it this year. Seeing how I felt after 6 miles, I definitely could have finished the whole thing. Oh well.

Not that it's a good excuse, but I really can't wait for the warm weather again. I'm so sick of winter...