November 14, 2012

Unbundling race "amenities"

This morning, I signed up for a 5K that’s coming up in the Dallas area: The Great Santa Run. It happens to be the same weekend as my company’s holiday party in Dallas, so I’m actually going to stick around here for the weekend instead of going back to NYC. The Great Santa Run is a little different than your normal 5K, though – all participants are given Santa suits to run in. I’m pretty excited for this festive holiday event!

The race cost $35 – kind of expensive for a 5K, but you do get a Santa suit with your entry. (Though I’m guessing it will get so sweaty that I’ll never want to wear it again.) Luckily, I found a great deal via Active Schwaggle, where registration is now half off for only $17! Not bad.

However, as I proceeded with the registration process, I discovered an option I haven’t yet encountered in all the races I’ve run. For an extra $5, would I like my race to be chip timed?



It seems that races are starting to go the way of the airlines by unbundling what they offer. I’ve seen races offer a discount if you don’t want the t-shirt (and I love that option; despite my post yesterday, I really don’t need any more race shirts). But putting timing as an a la carte service really threw me off. Isn’t that the whole point of a race – to be timed? If I’m not getting timed, why don’t I just go out for a run with my friends? What am I paying the race fees for at all?

Note: it’s since been pointed out to me that they specified “chip timing,” so it’s possible they are offering free gun time but no chip time. However, it’s been years since I’ve seen a race go the old fashioned route of having someone clicking splits for each runner to cross the finish line, so I actually still think the choices are chip timing for $5 or no timing for free.

While discussing this strange unbundling with my friend Adam, I mentioned that I was not going to be paying the $5 for timing. Running in a Santa suit with hundreds of other people, many of whom are likely in it for the fun and not for the run? The chances of me PRing are about as high as the actual Santa Claus showing up at my door. (Apologies to my 6 year old readers who just learned the truth.)

Adam, however, said that if race timing was unbundled like this, he’d pay for timing every time. This led me to devise a new fee structure for next year’s New York City Marathon.

Lottery entry: $25 (Paid whether you get in or not… oh wait, they already do this)
Registration: $50
Name listed as finisher: $10
Official gun time: $50
Official chip time: $10 (must be purchased in conjunction with gun time)
Bib: $25
Race t-shirt: $50
Shuttle to race start: $25 (again, they already do this)
Bag check: $25, or $50 if you would also like your bag to be transported to the finish instead of just guarded at the start
Porta potties: $20 in advance or $200 day of race. $5 more for toilet paper.
Water stops: $10 each, or $75 for unlimited access (VOLUME DISCOUNT!)
Gatorade/Gu at water stops: $10 each or $75 for unlimited access (must be purchased in conjunction with water stop pass)
Crossing the “alternate finish line” in the Bronx (created to divert traffic at the end of the race in Central Park; that’s right, your course will be different for the final 10K): Free
Coming back to Manhattan and crossing the actual finish line that the elites do in Central Park: $50

My picks:
$25 for lottery
$50 for registration
Don’t care about being listed, time, bib, or t-shirt
$25 for shuttle to start
No need for bag check or porta potties
$75 for water stops, but no Gatorade/Gu
$50 to cross the official finish

Grand total? $225. Hmmm, that’s about the current price that includes everything. Hey NYRR, I have a revenue generation strategy to pitch to you!

What would you buy?


5 thoughts on “Unbundling race "amenities"”

  1. You could also add a bib fee, a safety pin fee (of course, you can buy each pin individually or get a discount for all four), a spectator admission fee if you’d like a friend on the sideline, and a post-race trash clean-up administration fee.

    Stuff like that is ridiculous – of COURSE timing should be included! :/

  2. Soooo, are you saying you think NYCM is a good deal right now and you think they should charge more?

    The Turkey Trot here in Houston offers timed and untimed prices as well. Since I actually PR’d at it last year, I’d always pay for the timed. But most likely not running it at all next week since I’ve been nursing an injury. 🙁

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