"There's only one hard and fast rule in running: sometimes you have to run one hard and fast."

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Two Days Running...

I managed to run on consecutive days, and that's worth mentioning, as it's become a rarity. 10 plus  miles both times.

The post's title, however, is that I'm on the same blog subject for the second day. The comments were getting rather too long to cover in short responses.

Matt said that 5 hour marathoners subsidize the race for 3 hour runners and doubted that the Twin Cities Marathon could be put on without the 3000 or so finishers between 3 and 5 hours without substantially increasing the price. That seems reasonable at first glance, but I think it's wrong. The first year (1982), TCM had 3511 finishers with 3270 under 4:30 and no time limit; it made a profit (they charged $25 per entry, as I recall). The increased popularity of the race caused the Minneapolis parks department to claim that they were going to have to charge per person per mile of the park system used, increasing their demand from $40,000 to $450,000 (again, as I recall; I'd have to look it up). It's like maintaining a highway: as traffic increases, maintenance costs go up, the road gets extra lanes to decrease congestion, the extra lanes invites more traffic and the maintenance costs go up... and you end up with Los Angeles' 12-lane highways and gridlock. The increased number of entrants means that there must be twenty times as many portable toilets, police traffic protection must be extended for many hours at triple-time pay, the awards have to be amped up to compete with other mega-marathons... and the cost per runner goes UP with an increase in the number of runners, not down!

As for Glaven and Keith's questioning my argument that qualifying standards are not elitist, I expected that. That's why I wrote the post. Is it elitist to say that not everyone who wants to pitch a baseball should be put in the Phillie's starting rotation? Running is just about the only sport where the best in the world compete with everyone else - and that's part of the beauty of it - but the cost to good, but not great runners has become too high (the great ones get free entry) for that to continue and the races have now become "hollow," that is, have a few great runners and a ton of barely-finishers and nothing in between. In 1982 at TCM, I finished in 2:42:41, good enough for 129th place of 3500; in 2009, that'd be 85th of 8500. In 1982, 21 Minnesotans broke 2:30, in 2009 there were only 5. The race is dying from bloat!

Keith said if I don't like it, try putting on a race for less. Because there's a history of races being cash cows for the cities they're in, the cities will not allow cheap races to exist any more! Ask Andy Holak how hard it was to convince Duluth that the Wild Duluth races couldn't (and shouldn't) pay what Grandma's Marathon pays for road use! How little can a race cost? The Langford Park 4th of July 4 Mile hasn't increased its fifty cent price since it started in the 1970's; that's extreme, of course, but one can still find a few 5K's around $10 in small towns.

Keith also said he couldn't understand someone complaining about a $50 entry fee. First, that's pretty cheap by current standards. The Badwater ultramarathon is now over $900 just for an entry, for example. The problem is again the regular racer. A marathon charges $125, but in training a 3:00 marathoner will usually do 4 or 5 half-marathons, which, following the lead of the marathons (which followed the lead of triathlons, by the way), will charge $40-75 each. The standard used to be that a marathoner would have a back-up race, in case his goal race had bad weather; that's another $125, plus airfare and hotel room. No one does that now because of the cost involved.

Did you see that there's a $4950 entry fee for Ironman Canada? Look here. Standard cost is about $600.

The argument that entry fee costs are self-limiting due to competition is simply wrong. An analogy is when Reebok in the 1980's had a shoe priced at $75 and it wasn't selling, so they increased the price to $125, being the first shoe over the $100 mark. They sold out instantly and had waiting lists. People assumed that they were getting their money's worth and that a $125 pair of shoes must be better than a $75 pair.

I have about twenty more points to add to this rant, but it's long enough for today.


Glaven Q. Heisenberg said...

[Glaven tried to comment but his post was blocked as insufficiently high-falutin' for this august site. All he wanted to say was "FIRST!1!", which, in 1982 comment standards, would have made him 426th.]

Glaven Q. Heisenberg said...

['in' = 'by'. Proving the point about plummeting standards. FOUR HUNDRED AND TWENTY SEVENTH!1!]

Glaven Q. Heisenberg said...

There was a PBS version of TCoE starring Roger Daltrey. I remember seeing ads for it at the time, but I didn't watch for some reason.

I'll have to see if we have it here and get it out after.

Lisa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lisa said...

I agree with you completely. I am one of those slow 4 hour 30 minute back of the packer marathoners. I think the prices are ridiculous and I don't mind if they say I am to slow to run I can always find another race. I am okay with being slow :-).

Matthew Patten said...


I must be cheap. I cringe at an $80 Ice Age and $150 Zumbro.

But I agree with Matt, all of the 30+ hour runners at Zumbro subsidize the sub 30 hour runners.

First year I ran Chicago Marathon, it was $40. There were not a lot of 5 hour + runners and it was on the verge of going bankrupt (LaSalle Banks saved it with premier sponsorship).

I would agree with you Steve if Boston maintained their elite statuts, but they have not. I keep seeing shows where overweight non runners have overcome their obeisity with a goal of running a marathon. Somehow, they show up and run Boston as their first.

I think our society, in general, has lowered the bar of excellence. We celerate mediocrity. We criticize and punish excellence.

Outside of the running community I find more people think my running goals and accomplishments are "bad for my body" or "addictive" or "detracting from my family" or "can't be healthy".

Standards and excellence are subjective. Results are not.

And yes Steve, you are an elitist. But you already knew that. And I don't mean it in a bad way

joyRuN said...

Oooh, reminds me to register for the Ocean Drive Marathon before prices go up.