Paying 100 euros to suffer for 42kms : The economics of marathon running.

Part taking in a marathon is a big deal, and a big financial deal. I recently ran my first marathon in Paris and was lucky enough that my registration was sponsored by a banana producer (true story) and Bonjour Darling, so I did not have to worry about the fees. However, through the process of training for and running this race, I really wondered: would I ever pay this amount of money to take part in a race? and Where on earth does this money go?

Photo credits: Paris Marathon 2017

Most big marathons cost around 100euros (e.g. Paris), some up to 200 euros (e.g. NYC); so there is a real business going on.

Where does the money go?

The truth is that registration fees actually do not even cover what a runner costs. A study done by the Washington Post  showed that with a $99 entry fee, you can roughly cover race operations ($36 for toilets, chip timing, rubbish…), security ($34) and entertainment and advertising ($34). This leaves the cost of staff, vehicles, utilities, race t-shirts and medals, food and aid stations, registration systems, etc. All of this can add up to over $50, and this extra cost is is usually covered by sponsors.

Ok, so in fact, there is a rationale to this crazy price. But still…

…if it is so expensive, why do people register?

There are many reasons why people want to run an official race (because, really, you don’t need an official event to run 42km if you really want to). For me, it was a personal challenge, after a few years of running and 3 half-marathons under my belt, I wanted to take it to the next level. However, I was also anxious about my ability to make it. With a set race day, all my friends and family knowing about it and a preparation programme to stick to, I knew it would be much harder to bail out and that I would make it despite the fear.

For others, it is for fun, or to challenge themselves (a friend of mine was running his 16th marathon!). There is a form of self-presentation as well: becoming a marathon runner is quite something and the whole glitter around an official event makes it all the more appealing. Beyond those reasons, running a marathon is also a way to prove something to yourself and others, to test your body’s ability and fitness, and to defeat age or illness, or even to raise awareness for a cause.

Would I pay for it in the future?

It’s important to know that, beyond the event registration fees, running a marathon also incurs a lot of other “hidden costs”: getting the right gear and equipment, eating proper, travelling to the even location and staying there…Even if I did not pay registration this time, I must have spent a solid 350 euros on that race. I think I might do it again, and pay the fees this time; because I understand it is not a ripoff and I know the thrill you get doing it is totally worth it. Sure you can run a marathon on your own, but you won’t have the fancy medal, the aid stations, the music along the road or the people cheering you all along.

All in all, it comes down to the price of a nice little holiday, assorted with leg pain for a solid 3 days afterwards…but also a lot of fun!

Photo credits: Paris Marathon 2017

7 thoughts on “Paying 100 euros to suffer for 42kms : The economics of marathon running.”

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