To Pay or Not To Pay and How To Start a Race No One Pays For

Yesterday my wife ran a half marathon and I decided that rather than cheering for her and our friends from the sidewalk I would do so by running alongside them and self-supporting.  I carried 24 oz of H2O, three or four GU’s and was very intentional about not using the services being provided for the paying runners… except for the public streets of La Crosse.

This pretty insignificant act caused a bit of fuss over the morality of running on a  race course without paying to race.  Some folks simply equated it to stealing, others thought paying for races is simply silly, and some said that the support of having a friend running with them made a difference in their day.

My thoughts?  I was simply out for a run with my wife…and I’m okay with that.

Also, I need to be very clear that if there is a price for a race and you don’t pay it you should not use the waters, GU, medical assistance and post race consumables provided for paying runners.  That’s just plain shitty.

Chris “Almanzo” Skogen did an amazing job articulating why we’re seeing race prices go up and up ($80 for a half marathon?), why we can do it for free, and how you can (and should) start your own race.

Here’s his post:

“While you’re certainly spot on in regards to what a lot of races (at least the organizers of those races) are doing to put things together, I think you’re missing an important part of what is possible in this grand world of ours. 

As someone who has spent the better part of the last seven years of my life working tirelessly to create an environment that is free from the common barriers that surround the typical events like the one you’re referencing above, I can tell you that you’re missing out. 

Nobody should need to pay to enter an event. Sure, if somebody wants a t-shirt full of logos and some orange slices, go ahead and pay. If you’re just there to run though, no charge. 

Organizers are getting rich putting events together and at what cost? My best guess would be that the cost is an increase in general paranoia, inflated insurance prices, more expensive (and arguably unnecessary) equipment that is created, marketed and facilitated by the very companies that are making even more money than the people creating the events. 

So why would I write all of this without giving you a possible solution? I wouldn’t.

Here’s my suggestion: 

1. Create an event because you whole-heartedly believe in it, not because you want to pay your bills.

2. Invite people to come without charging them an entry fee because you want them to be there.

3. Start small.

4. Don’t talk about yourself in regards to the event, but rather talk about your experience as it relates to the things you love.

5. Grow the event through the people you first invite.

6. As the event grows from year to year, build on the credibility you gain through being honest and open about staying true to the principles laid down in suggestion number one.

7. As you grow, make the correct connections with people in the industry your event leans to.

8. Nurture the connections you make in suggestion seven and work with those to create a viable option for their involvement as your event continues.

9. Continue to build on all the relationships you make and never forget suggestion one. 

Caveat: if for any reason you find yourself away from suggestion one, quit and find someone that can do number one in honesty.”

– Sven


3 responses to “To Pay or Not To Pay and How To Start a Race No One Pays For

  1. “Community” biking and running events are getting silly. I just won’t do the fitness festival. Rather run with a smaller group of real runners and cyclists. Then I can give my money to charities I believe in.

    • We have no qualms with the Fitness Festival or organized endurance events…and there is certainly a place for them. 40,000 participants in the Boston Marathon, 10,000 runners at Grandma’s, and the thousands at the Fitness Festival can’t be wrong, and it sure is awesome to see them all getting out there enjoying the sport we all love.
      With that said, there is another way to run a race and it doesn’t have to be a small deal. Look at where Almanzo is after seven years…1,500 riders! We can only dream of a success story like that.
      Keep up the good work Tim. 30k next year?

  2. First of all Sven, I think you’re great and I have a lot of love for you. I do think however you are missing the point here. This isn’t about what’s better, races that require you to pay or not. This is about not paying for a race that payment is required to participate. Yesterday, when “you just went for a run with your wife” what happened is you violated civic trust. There was an unspoken understanding with all people involved in yesterday’s race that they all were playing by the same rules, rules that were forthcoming, laid out and agreed upon. When you decided to make up your own rules and participate on your own level you chose to violate the trust and the integrity of the race and it’s participants…that selfish regard is what’s uncool. I think in races, especially with races like Wilder, which are awesome, it is extremely important that participants trust each other. It is your job as the organizer of Wilder to cultivate a culture of trust around your event. I believe you, that yesterday you really just wanted to support your wife and go for a run, unfortunately you didn’t think through your actions.

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