With the new year and lots of people signing up for 2015 races, I hear lots of comments about the price of races.  I’ve written about race pricing before (here) but that dealt with the Hogsback Half Marathon.  In the interest of full disclosure, I thought I should provide the information for the Greater Hartford 1/4 Marathon (I’ll do a post about Solstice Sprint closer to the race date).

First, some background.  In 2014 my races raised $16,634.80 for the Blazeman Foundation ($5761.02), The Farmington Village Green and Library Association ($2002.01) and Running for Rescues ($8871.77).  All three races are strictly volunteer — no one receives payment for their time, including the race director and the races do not have cash sponsors (that is all the money that is donated is from race registration fees).  The goal of the races is to provide a top notch experience while maintaining a local feel.  There are plenty of big corporate races out there, that’s not what I do.  While the 1/4 Marathon is a fairly small race we still have about $20,000 in incoming cash in the form of athlete registrations.  Here’s where that money goes:

Race Timing: $2500 — This includes the base timing fee plus a start mat to collect gun and chip times and bib tags for all the runners.  With a race of about 600 people there’s not a huge need for a start mat.  Most people will cross the start mat within a few seconds.  However, people have come to expect both chip and gun time regardless of the number of participants in a race (especially if they’re wearing a bib tag).  Its not a problem to provide a start mat, but it does add to the cost of timing the race (as do split mats for those races which utilize them).  There is no question that timing could be done cheaper by going with basic electronic timing (no bib tags).  Bib tags, however, have become the standard and as accurate as basic electronic timing is, I don’t remember the last time I raced without a bib tag.

quarter timing

Buses: $1000 — There is not enough parking at the race site (the MDC Reservoir in Farmington) to accommodate all the runners so we offer off site parking at the UConn Health Center about one mile away.  In order to get runners to and from the off site parking we charter two school buses for the morning.  The cost of the buses plus tip for the driver runs just under $1000.  While the buses are expensive they allow us to continue using the the Reservoir.  Since we do not need police presence at the Reservoir, the cost of the buses is well worth it.

Insurance:  $0 — The 1/4 Marathon is put on under the umbrella of the Hartford Track Club, a RRCA member club.  Hartford Track Club pays $1030 in insurance per year, which covers all Hartford Track club events.  We’re lucky to be associated with Hartford Track club, otherwise insurance would add significant additional costs.

Shirts: $4530 — This is our biggest expense.  We work with SweatVac on all of our shirts and they give us a FANTASTIC deal on really nice shirts.  That being said, shirts are still expensive.  The other wrinkle in shirts is sizes.  We’ll order shirts about two months before the race.  We use the information provided by athletes who have already registered and historic shirt size information to make a best guess as to the sizes we will need on race day.   That being said, we’re never exactly right.  Last year at the 1/4 marathon we had an abundance of men’s large and extra large shirts left over, whereas at Hogsback we ran out of men’s large and extra large shirts but had tons of women’s large.  Shirts are really important to a lot of people so we do our absolute best to make sure we have the right sizes, this means we slightly over order and end up with extras (in some sizes) every year.

quarter shirts

Medals: $1300 — Runners love medals.  Some think its a little cheesy to get a medal of 6.55 mile race, but we’ve been doing medals since year one (its now year nine) and we’ll keep doing them.  We use Ashworth Awards for medals.  They do a beautiful job with the medals, so while they add a bit to the total cost, they are well worth the investment.

quarter  medals

Runner Awards: $650 — We haven’t finalized awards for 2015 yet, but I strongly suspect we’ll be going with custom embroidered beanies from SweatVac.  We’ll need 72 for division awards and then some additional goodies for our overall winners.  I’m a big fan a giving away awards that use the race logo/brand and that help spread the word for future years.  I don’t have a publicity budget so anything I can use to get free publicity is a huge plus.

quarter awards

Bibs: $200 — We could use free bibs from Road ID (they have an awesome race sponsorship program) but custom designed bibs are so very nice.  Plus they help advertise the race and they look good.

Port-a-Potties: $600 — There can never be enough port-a-potties at race.  That being said, they can be expensive.  The usual math is one pottie per 100 runners.  We expect about 500 runners.  There are already 3 potties at the race site and we add an additional 5 for race day, for a total of 8.  With 8 potties we’ll still have lines (we’d have lines with 16 potties too).  You can never have enough potties to please everyone, but I feel were doing a good job if the wait is limited to less than 10 minutes during the businest times.

On Course Nutrition / Fluids: $400 — For a 6.55 mile race we have two aid stations that the runners pass twice.  The aid station at mile 1.5 / 4.8 is stocked with water and Skratch Hydration mix.  the aid station at mile 3.1 / 6.4 is stocked with water, Skratch Hydration mixand gels.  We get a really good deal on Skratch, but we still need to purchase it.  Plus there the cost of cups, gloves and trash bags.

Egg Hunt: $500 — This is a total luxury, but I love it.  Every year we stuff over 500 eggs with candy and little goodies for the kids at the race.  It takes an hour to hide all the eggs and literally three minutes for each and every egg to be found.  Its a nice way to give the kids something to do while the adults are off racing and I think it helps give the race a special feel.  We try to keep costs down but I am willing to splurge here.

quarter egg hunt

Post Race Food: $500 — We have a ton of food for the athletes after the race.  There’s the traditional bagels and fruit but also cookies, rice krispie treats, cupcakes, brownies, pound cake, muffins and some candy thrown in for good measure.  One of the hallmarks of the race is the post-race sugar fest (and subsequent coma).  All the baking is done by myself and volunteers so it helps us keep the cost low for the amount of food we have.  In addition to the food there is the costs of plates, napkins, cups, garbadge bags and utensils.

Long Term Investment: $350 — Some pieces of equipment don’t need to be bought every year but need to be replaced from time to time including tables, tents and water coolers.  As you can see from the picture below our tents are on their last legs.  For 2015 we’ll be purchasing two new, branded tents that will be easier to set up and take down.  Each of the races will contribute about $350 to the cost of the tents.

quarter tents

Medical Kit: $75 — We have a pretty extensive medical kit on site.  Every year we need to replace expired items and refill things that have been used (mostly band aids, ice packs and wound cleaner for cuts and scrapes).

Publicity: $50 — This goes mostly to boosting posts on Face Book.  The 1/4 Marathon Face Book page has about 1,000 likes.  If I just post up text maybe 100 people who like the page will see the post.  If I include images and video and get a few people to comment or share the post perhaps 400 or 500 people will see the post.  If I want to make sure everyone who likes the page sees a post, I need to pay.  Usually its $5 or $10 to promote a post and I will do this a few time a year in order to make sure certain super important information gets out to the larger community.

TOTAL COSTS = $12655.00 (remember this is a rough number, unforeseen expenses always pop up).

So how do we get this money back?  Here’s what the pricing looks like for the 2015 Greater Hartford 1/4 Marathon:

December 1, 2014 – December 31, 2015 – $30.00

January 1, 2015 – February 15, 2015 – $35.00

February 2, 2015 – March 15, 2015 – $40.00

March, 16, 2015 – Race Day – $45.00

The average cost of entry is $37.50 so the race breaks even when it reaches 338 paid runners (there are always several runners who have deferred from the previous year or transferred from another race plus runners with discount codes so the number is not exact).  After approximately 338 paid runners the race starts to make money for the Blazeman Foundation.  If we reach 550 fully paid runners we’ll make about $7950 for the Blazeman Foundation.  That would be awesome.  The number will likely be lower due to discount codes and transfers, but I would like to see it over $7000 (about a $1000 improvement from 2014).  So even for a fairly small, local race there are some pretty big costs.  We do a good job keeping them in check, but I always want to do better.

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Kelly Burns Gallagher

mccarter english employment litigator / oiselle team runner / coeur sports triathlete / sonic endurance coach & race director / witsup.com writer / dartmouth '02 / emorylaw '05


Jenereesa @ ScootaDoot · January 15, 2015 at 6:11 pm

I always find these posts so interesting, Kelly. Thank you for sharing the information with us! And of course, if I ever find myself up in CT, I definitely want to participate.

Dani Kennedy · January 15, 2015 at 7:20 pm

Kelly, Thank you for doing this. It is super interesting even as a RD myself to see this. I appreciate it. Great job!

blazemanmom · January 15, 2015 at 7:21 pm

Terrific and thorough breakdown…could be a recipe book for a new race director! The Blazeman Foundation for ALS appreciates every dollar raised these past years and our philosophy of managing every dollar mirrors yours…we too, are totally voluntary.
Mary Ann and Bob,
Jon’s mom and dad

Daisy's Mom · January 16, 2015 at 11:12 pm

Kelly, you are an inspiration to everyone you’ve met. This is just more proof.

Charles · January 19, 2015 at 1:05 am

Is it possible to get some sponsorships? i.e. A Stop&Shop is near the reservoir, they may be able to supply the food. Some Law Firms or other businesses put their names on the backs of shirts. A children’s clothing or toy outlet may sponsor the egg hunt, etc. I realize it takes lots of work and maybe some luck to get these sponsors, but the race fees are rather high for most persons who do a lot of racing and the richest persons (corporations) are not required by CITIZENS UNITED to register for individual races. Thank you for your work and dedication.

    Kelly Burns Gallagher · January 22, 2015 at 7:14 am

    Charles — if you have specific leads for sponsors I would be happy to follow up on them. I found not found the investment of time needed to find sponsors to be worthwhile (lots of hours spent with very little to show). That being said our pricing is on the low end for races, many races have registration prices that are almost double of ours.

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