Race Fees: Short distance races – worth the money?

In my initial post about race fees I said I would never pay for a 5km, after my post sparked online and offline debate my good friend Liz, who introduced me to running, won me over with her arguments for paying for a 5k race. 

You can catch up on the full race fees debate here.

Over to you Liz:

There is nothing to stop us from running most race routes in our own time. So why is it that organised running races are growing in popularity year on year? There must be something about each race that the participants deem worthy of parting with their cash for. In other words, a runner only signs up for a race when they have decided that the race offers good value for moneyEton Dorney not 10k

The question explored in this series is, how do we decide what we place value on when it comes to organised races?

Stephanie’s written about the value she places on mileage per pound, and how she’s sworn off paying for a short distance race. Here I talk about the reasons I’ll be signing up for an organised 5k, and why I am not the only one.

The free run: parkrun

Along with thousands of others around the world, I am an occasional parkrunner. If I’ve not got other plans (or a raging hangover), I’ll usually show up to scamper round Stoke Park in Guildford, even if I haven’t run in a few weeks. It’s been a while since I have found myself unable to finish a parkrun, so in that respect the 5k distance is not a challenge. However as with most races, it’s trying to beat my PB that makes me push hard enough that I usually collapse in a heap after collecting my position number. Every time I beat my PB, I am raising the bar for my future self, and that’s what keeps it interesting for me.

Chip Timing

Right now I am a good 3 or 4 minutes off my parkrun PB which I set over a year ago. But I am hoping it won’t be long before I am back where I was, and trying to slide under 24 minutes. Since parkrun is gun timed rather than chip timed, a parkrun PB doesn’t necessarily represent an accurate best 5k result. Which is why the next time I beat my PB, I’ll be signing up for a chip timed 5k. I’ll be looking for a flat road race with a smallish field, for example the Self Transcendence 5k races that are held in Battersea Park during summer months.

The value I personally place on knowing exactly how fast I can run 5k is around £10, so the Self Transcendence 5k will be a steal at £6.

So for me, the accuracy element of a short chip timed race is what represents the most value. But I’ve also been exploring a couple of other aspects of short races that people will happily part with their cash for.

Paying for a mile

This weekend, the London Borough of Westminster will close some of its most iconic roads to allow 5500 people to enjoy them from a unique perspective. The Westminster Mile shares its start line with the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics marathon start line. Runners will take in the sights of St James’ Park and Horse Guards Parade before finishing in front of Buckingham Palace.

For some it’s a chance to run a manageable distance in a terrific setting. For others, an opportunity to try and rival Roger Bannister’s incredible feat, 50 years to the month after the famous race at Iffley.

Whatever their individual reasons, each adult participant has valued the experience at no less than £8 (or £6 for Westminster residents).

Fun runs

Other races are less about taking in landmarks, and more about having a laugh with some friends. The Colour Run  is a popular untimed 5k event where marshals hurl coloured cornstarch at runners who are instructed to wear white for maximum effect.

It’s a good excuse to have a fun run (in the truest sense!) without the stress of race positions and PBs. And the sight of hundreds of smiling technicolour runners wandering around London afterwards is quite spectacular!

Entry for the Colour Run is £25, and the London event for this year has already sold out.

A bad experience

No one wants to come home from a race feeling ripped off. I know that feeling and it sucks. I left a 10k race round Dorney Lake with a great time only to discover later the course had been measured 200m short. For me, it made the race a waste of money. But many other runners had signed up to run around an iconic Olympic venue, or to enjoy a challenge with friends, and probably were less concerned about the distance error.

Different runners value different factors of a race, so before we sign up for any race, we need to check we’re happy to pay for what the race has to offer. Do you just want an accurate race time, or do you want a more memorable experience? As long as the price is proportionate, does it matter whether it’s 5k or 20k?

Whether it’s speed, scenery or silliness you’re after, races under 10k have a lot to offer.

Do you agree with Liz, would you pay for 5km? What would make you pay,  fun, scenery/location or for an accurate chip time?

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  1. Gill Bland says:

    Interesting. I hadn’t thought of it quite that way. I still find it hard to justify paying more that £10 for a 10k. I do wonder why a 1/2 mara costs the same as a mara when the staffing times and costs must be considerably less..

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