Thursday, February 19, 2009


I just wanted to rant for a moment here. This morning I decided it was time to sign up for the half marathon I usually run in the summer. I had waited because the registration cost for the Chicago Marathon was quite high ($125), and I also signed up for the Shamrock Shuffle ($40), which I had to do in January because the race fills up fast. I usually do all my registrations online. It's faster and instantaneous. And usually I'm charged a dollar or two as a registration fee. I don't really understand the fee, since everything is being done online so I imagine there is little manpower required on the race organizer's part, but a dollar or two is not a big deal. Today, however, I'm signing up for what is now the Rock N' Roll Chicago Half Marathon (used to be the Bank of America Chicago Distance Classic Half Marathon) and find out they charge $6.95 as a registration fee. The race itself cost $70, so that's kind of a hefty fee to tack on. Not only that, but if you fill out the registration form by hand and either fax or send it in, you just pay $70. So for the convenience of online registration, you're paying almost 10% more in fees, even though registering online should take less work for all involved.

So of course, what did I do? I canceled my online registration before paying, filled out a hard copy form and faxed it in. In this economy, I'm trying to save all the money I can, and my race fees per year probably cost me about $300. Add in shoes and running clothes, and you have another $200 to $300. I would think Elite Racing, which runs the Rock N'Roll series of marathons and half-marathons, would understand this. Bank of America never charged $6.95 for registration. In fact, last year, I paid $55 with a $4.95 fee. Now, before you say, well that fee's about 10% too, sure it is. But in total, I was only paying $59.95. That's $17 less than this year's registration cost. And the year before (2007), the half marathon again charged $55 with no registration fee.

Now, in all fairness, it is the Active Network, which Elite uses as its registration service, that charges the fee. But Active isn't a small company. They handle a lot of the registrations for various races, including the Chicago Marathon. They don't need a 10% fee. And every year, these races charge more money. I remember my first Chicago Marathon I think I paid $80 or something, maybe less. This year, it's $125. I used to do both triathlons and marathons, but had to stop because the race fees were getting so high I couldn't afford to do both. The Accenture Chicago Triathlon is $165 this year.

I'm not saying the cost isn't warranted to some degree. The race organizers have to pay for supplies and food, medical personnel, police presence and any paid employees (many are volunteers). But why just a couple years ago could the Chicago Marathon get by with $110 registration fee, and this year it's $125? Sadly, I believe the answer is -- because they can. We'll pay it because we want to run. And even if I decide to bow out once the fee gets to say, $150, there will be many other people willing to pay in my place. It's a shame that those of us who love running or doing triathlons have to almost work a second job to afford the races. I'm starting to wonder if I'm better off as a "recreational runner." It would definitely be cheaper. If the Chicago Marathon goes up another $15 next year, I probably will seek out a less expensive marathon, even if I have to travel. Sure, I'd have to spend the money on travel costs, but at least I'd get a little vacation out of it. If I can find a marathon that costs about $60, and they are out there, I'm already $80 ahead.

Well, that's my rant for today. I faxed in my form to Elite Racing, to save the $6.95. I can put it toward the new running shoes I need.

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