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Andrew Shelly’s Race Entry Fee Chart- Intro Post

Controversy? When I first showed Grant Guise a chart of race entry fees earlier this year he thought it would be cool if I could to do a “controversial” guest post for the Backcountry Runner. But I am some complex mix of ultramarathoner, data geek, statistician, economist, philosopher, and writer. As I collected my ideas for the post accompanying the chart I found that I had enough material for an entire essay, not just a blog post. So the end result is a series of posts which should hopefully encourage some discussion and debate.

Although the posts haven’t all been written yet, the titles and topics should be pretty much as below:

That Costs How Much? (The data geek / statistician post) Various charts of race entry prices for different distances and surfaces including from sub-marathon trail races, standard road marathons, trail marathons and short ultradistance races, 50 mile races, 100km races, and 100 mile races. Some thoughts on what might be a sensible way to compare prices across events, and what the numbers do and don’t tell us.

The data likely will produce gasps of disbelief in some, and could all too easily be interpreted as poking the stick at certain events. I expect this will have some rushing to defend their favourite event. However, I’m a much more fair-minded guy than that, so later posts will poke the stick at runners themselves!

Everybody’s Doing It, So Why the Hell Should I? (The philosophy post) Accompanying the rise in entry prices has been a rise in participation. This post is something of a philosophical piece that looks at possible motivations for the increased level of participation, characterising runners as either “Eventers” or “Lifestylers”. I also touch on the question of whether the increased participation is inexorably altering the character of what trail and ultramarathon races “used to be” (which for me stretches back all of 10 years).

Trail Runners are Soft. (More philosophy, and reminiscing about the “good old days”…) Part of the justification for increasingly high entry fees is the cost of developing and implementing safety plans (did I ever mention that I’m also a qualified Health & Safety Auditor?). But another part of the justification is the increasing level of amenities / comforts that runners seem to want. Races in rugged environments requiring self-reliance seem to struggle to attract the same numbers as events on more groomed trails with abundant on-course support. Whatever happened to the hard core spirit of self-reliance that typified trail and ultrarunning?

Discrimination is Good. (The economics post) The first part of this post will look at the general concept of cost drivers, why shorter distances may (by some measures) cost more than longer distances, and what does and does not constitute a cross-subsidy. How price discrimination can allow us to charge different prices to different groups of consumers (runners) without making anyone else worse off, but instead making at least some people better off. There may be various ways to do this, but one that has started to appear is to have a “club” or series entry that provides a discount. Depending on perspective, series entries may be a way of making events more accessible to Lifestylers, or potentially locking a cash-strapped Lifestyler into a given series of events. The benefit of entry “menus” where runners can pick and choose their preferred “extras”, at least until an event’s marketing has been so successful that is always a sell out and the Eventers are not particularly sensitive to price.

So that’s the general thrust of the series. I’m sure that the posts will generate some discussion, but I can’t guarantee that I’ll respond to it all. Not intended to offend anyone, but more to raise issues.

Andrew Shelly has been running (and) walking for about 11 years. I was first attracted to running by the rugged Tararua Mountain Race (TMR). As part of my build up for that I started running road marathons and shorter trail races, then after the TMR moved into ultramarathons and rogaines. Andrew’s current tally is 30 ultra-marathon finishes (after Great Naseby Water Race on Saturday), approx. 30 rogaines (from 2 hours up to 12 hours), 25 marathons (mostly road), and countless shorter races including 5km, 10km, ~8km cross country, half marathons, etc. You can find Andrew at andrewwalking.blogspot.co.nz – If the blog title/url confuses you it’s because Andrew both runs and walks events of all distances, and hold the NZ walk records for 50 miles, 12 hours, and 100km.


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  1. There is a simple solution- don’t run in events and pay nothing.

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A Backcountry Running Community for New Zealand trail, mountain and ultra runners- We want this to be the place you come for all things trail running including race previews and reports, interviews with New Zealand runners and hopefully a whole lot more! Our aim is to provide as much original content- previews/reports/interviews on New Zealand trail, mountain and ultra races. We can't be everywhere- so feel free to get in touch if you have the scoop on a race or event.

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