Why are entry fees so high?

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I have been monitoring race entry fees and increases since 2019. I’ve noticed that there have been significant jumps in the entry fees for most big city races whilst the increases are much smaller for the out-of-town events. So I asked race director Graham Block about the costs to run an event like the Joburg North City Marathon.

Click to expand. This table shows the percentage increase and rand per kilometre charge for all February / March marathons and ultras together with Two Oceans, Comrades and Cape Town (who’ve all announced 2022 entry fees).

The total cost to put on an event like the Joburg North City Marathon is around R500,000 – and almost half the expenses are used just to pay for the services of the 168 race day traffic police (many runners think this is a “free service” but this is only true for most out-of-town races).

Other major costs include venue hire plus three fields for parking, transport costs for 203 marshals and various general costs (including medals, food and drink for the 14 support tables on route, signage, fencing, and the all important porterloos).

Big city one-lap marathons are more expensive than double-lappers so we as runners pay for the privilege of a more interesting route.

For this event a decision was made not to pay prize money but that usually adds another big expense item to the debtor’s column.

You’ll notice than most of the major costs are fixed (like traffic police and venue hire) rather than being dependent on the number of runners. Covid regulations force reduced field sizes, so it is very difficult to break even with smaller fields without increasing the entry fees.

This race (like many unfortunately) does not have a major sponsor providing a significant cash injection.

With costs of R500,000 and a limit of 2,000 runners for this event (many of whom are doing the cheaper, shorter distances), just to break even you need an average net entry fee of R250 (i.e. the money left over after deducting online entry commission and the substantial percentage paid to the local athletics body).

Based on the simple income versus expenses equation, it’s highly unlikely a race organiser is greedy or ‘just in it for the money.’ The sad reality is that no one in South Africa, not the athletes or the organisers, is currently getting rich off road running.

Afterword

With some astute planning, the Joburg North City Marathon did manage to turn a modest profit. Nearly all of the surplus will be used to finance Run Zone’s youth development program and ensure that there is prize money for the next big Run Zone event (the Autumn Chase Marathon on 26 June).  

READ MORE: Joburg North City Marathon (The new kid on the Block)

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4 Replies to “Why are entry fees so high?”

  1. Good article. Quite amazing that the cost is only R500k. I wish we could get our cost down to that 🙂 The fixed cost, like the traffic police, venue hire, crowd barriers, Covid compliance, etc. has really sky-rocketed for the MiWay Wally Hayward Marathon.

    These costs are incurred irrespective of how many runners is allowed to participate.

    Add to that the variable cost like AGN levies, water and Coke, race numbers, timing services, medals, etc. and suddenly it becomes very, very expensive.

    PS: The MiWay Wally Hayward Marathon entries open soon and we hope to see you there.

    1. I actually thought of the conversations we’ve had previously about race costs when writing this article Francois. I was also impressed (and filled out) the survey you sent to your runners about 2022 entry fees. I’ll be in touch for all the Wally details when I get to the May marathons article.

      1. Hi, thanks for completing the survey. We learned a lot from the survey and have applied it during our planning. We also shared it with our sponsor, which they appreciated. Without them and their amazing financial support it would not be possible to host an affordable Wally.

        Cool, we’ll talk soon.

  2. Race fees are still quite reasonable compared to the Uk. However, I am rather puzzled why the Two Oceans Marathon has a much higher fee for overseas runners. It may be worth while to see if other major races have similar policies and the reasoning behind it.

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