I read this Off the Couch post about increasingly expensive races a few weeks ago, and a part of me grimaced in agreement.
Happily, this type of massive event is not the only option for runners.
Alternatives abound. When I gave up racing fees for a year starting last May, I found with some surprise that I didn’t have to give up racing.
My friend Alyssa and I ran the Tough Ten Mile Turkey Trot shortly after Thanksgiving.The entry “fee” was a donation of canned goods.
Though we received neither a t-shirt or a finish line feast, we enjoyed a well-marked and safe course, two water stops manned by volunteers, and hand-timed, accurate race results. The organizers had stripped away most of the traditional amenities but maintained the experience of running hard in the company of others.
Some running clubs have wholly embraced cheap racing. The Trail Animals Running Club in Boston puts on a full calendar of low-priced races. Last spring, I participated in the annual Blue Hills Trails Race, organized by the Colonial Road Runners. The water stops were tiny and friendly, the awards were home-baked goodies, and the price was $8.
Those races were small-scale events with a few hundred runners, but even traditional, USATF-certified events can be had reasonably by avoiding the most famous and flocked-to races. My Boston qualifier was the Sugarloaf Marathon in Maine, a meticulously organized race that included all the usual perks, for a now-cheap $57.While my current home base is Boston, similar opportunities abound in southeastern Wisconsin. The Badgerland Striders maintain a full running calendar with a variety of fees, all reasonable even for non-members. There’s no better deal than the South Shore Half Marathon and its $12 price tag.
What I see happening as an observer is something great: as racing becomes more and more popular, the variety of racing opportunities is spiraling.
Racing used to be a Mom & Pop café: fewer options but decent prices. Now it’s an a la carte restaurant where runners can choose the amenities most important to them and pay accordingly, or avoid the steep dinner prices altogether and fill up on the lunch specials.
They say running is recession-proof. With increasingly diverse choices, racing can now make the same claim.
Sara Knutson, a Shorewood native, now contributes to Off the Couch while pursuing graduate studies at Boston College. In previous posts, she shared her ski explorations in northern Wisconsin, and a self-contained ultra marathon on the Ice Age Trail.