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?

8 Comments:

Blogger brent said...

holy smokes those are some ridiculous prices man. i had no idea it cost that much for the ny marathon. in terms of the road runner membership, the MN chapter here of similar ilk is $25; you get entry into a few small races for free, plus a free pizza/ice cream party at the end of the year (i skip this), but i don't think you get anything if you complete all the races on the MN circuit. i know its new york, but those prices and the increases seem crazy!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting post. My guess would be that the increased revenues go largely to fund appearance fees and associated costs for the high profile events, plus staff salaries. Don't know what, if any public disclosure is required, but nothing shows up on a few minutes searching around.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009  
Anonymous DREW said...

I don't think you're being unreasonable. The fact is that more and more people are signing up for the races and NYRR wants to make the $$$. That's never been a secret.

We have a local 1/2 marathon here that has increased the race fee this year to $70.00, doubled the cap on runners and are now charging extra for technical shirt, same-day packet pickup,wine glass for post-race wine tasting, race orientation with a guest speaker. If you get all the extras it's close to $200 for a 1/2 marathon.

And they'll probably sell out.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009  
OpenID runningbecauseican said...

I don't think you're being unreasonable at all. In fact, I think that's total bull-sh*t that the prices would continue going up like that. Eventually those higher prices will backfire and the numbers will drastically drop. In Richmond, Va., I just ran an 8k this weekend that was only $15 for non Road Runner members. Not bad at all. But this coming weekend there's a 5k -- on trails in a public park -- that's $25 for non RR members. So for almost 2 extra miles, there's a $10 price difference? Fortunately here, we have a separate non-profit group that puts on the "big" events - a huge 10k that draws 30,000-plus, and the Richmond Marathon. Those prices are extremely reasonable.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009  
Blogger nyflygirl said...

Totally not being unreasonable!! I feel that a part of this is due to them being the "only game in town" if you want an easy "in" to the NYC Marathon. And as another commenter referred to-there are a lot more professionals at NYRR races than there were 5 years ago when I first started running them. And all the appearance fees and prize purses have to come from somewhere...it's almost like they're forgetting who the "core" audience is.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009  
Blogger Darrell said...

I'm no economist or historian, but isn't our whole economic system set up on the princple of "whatever the market can bear". Any business that is in it for the profit can charge whatever price they feel necessary as long as there are still customers willing to pay the price. The NYC marathon is a sought out race, that could easily sell more entrants. If under these current conditions people stop showing up and opening their wallets things may change, but I wouldn't hold my breath.

Don't get me wrong I think the prices are outrageous, but I'm just as guilty as the other 60,000 people who tried to get in and are willing to pay the price, no matter how ridiculous.

Along with the race, why should a hotel room in NYC for three nights cost more than the average monthly mortgage payment?

Monday, February 23, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, race entry fees are outrageous. Fee's for a 5k should be $15 and $20 for a 10k. To me, this would be reasonable. It is nice that in chicago, there are wonderful races every weekend, mostly 5 and 10ks, that I would love to run in and have my family participate. But for me and a couple of my kids, your looking at over $100 minimum, each weekend. Simply not doable. And how enjoyable and what a wonderful experience it would be for the whole family to participate.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder what you think about the current race fees the NYRR is charging! :-)

Thursday, January 28, 2016  

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