There was recently an article in Runners’ World about the cost to put on the NYC Marathon. We think it ran with the intent to make racers’ jaws drop. We kind of went, “meh.”
After ten years of events, when we really buckled down and looked at why we were still avoiding turning on the heat in the house and putting off that much needed car repair, we realized we were doing something wrong: putting on top tier events but charging bottom tier prices.
As any business major will tell you, if something you’re selling costs you more than you make, you’re in trouble. Well, folks, that’s where we’re at.
Why are races so darn expensive?
Let’s break down a simple one, like the now-defunct SLO Mountain Run. We decided to drop the event this year when we found that a field of 100 people only netted us $600, and that’s not including overhead (insurance, office expenses, etc). At $35/person, you would think we’d be doing okay. After all, it’s our simplest race and doing the math, that’s $3500.
But here’s what our expenses were:
- T-shirts ($6 x 200) = $1200. We had to order more than this because we expected more people. We do all our design in-house. It would be so much more otherwise. We could get cheaper shirts, but you wouldn’t love them – we’re not going to give away crap.
- Advertising = $300. We did posters and rack cards, along with some Facebook ads. The budget was pretty low as we realized that people aren’t generally going to want to travel for a 10k and focused locally. Again, in-house design and hitting the streets to distribute the wares.
- Permits = $500. To rent the facility for the day. Some people poach for smaller events, but relationships with the governing agency are important to us. We won’t scrimp here.
- Insurance = $200. Not too bad, considering we’re sending you up some treacherous terrain for a 10k. That’s a lot of alliteration.
- Non-employee compensation = $700. We’re too small to have a full time staff, so we get contractors to come in day-of. This was for our timer and one other operations staff other than ourselves. This event was so small that we didn’t look for volunteers, but we did need aid station set up, course marking, and venue setup and maintenance.
- Supplies = $200. Stuff like bibs, waivers, and sundry items.
Grand total = $3100.
Cool, so we “made” $400! Take out 12% for our donation to Special O, and they got a whopping $48. Thank goodness they know we try.
Things that didn’t get included in this:
- Our “salary” for putting it on. The people we hired got paid, but we didn’t.
- Our time for design work and putting up posters.
- Our time for securing permits and contracts.
- Our time for dealing with inquiries and preparing websites.
- Our overhead expenses for just having the business.
- The money we saved in having all the stuff (tables, chairs, water jugs, finish arch, marking materials, radios, vehicles and trailers) that normal event directors would have to rent.
- Emergency medical staff (we’re trained and certified to do our own emergency response, so for a small field, we don’t hire).
So you’re reading this and thinking, “Well, a field of 100 people is pretty sad, so of course you lost money – small events always take a while to ramp up.” Only, we’ve been trying to grow that event for four years. Adding a 5k did nothing. And we love the event. The people that come to it are awesome. The course is awesome. It’s a beautiful tour of one of the best runs in SLO. But it didn’t pay.
So let’s take any other event we put on.
- Multiple governing agencies requiring permit money and processing.
- Road closures.
- More staff.
- Supplies for construction of course obstacles and improvements
- Time and rentals for creation of courses
- Cost spent fixing the venue after damage or repairs are needed.
- Prize money
- Rental of equipment/transportation means
- Prizes for multiple age, gender, and team categories
- Time spent seeking for sponsorship/partnership/swag donation.
Ten years ago, when we started this, the economy was strong and companies’ event marketing money was easy to come by. A contract for $10,000 an event was pretty common. But that’s dried up. Our events are self-produced, largely unsponsored, and paid for entirely by your entry fees.
In 2011, we took $5000 in total for a salary for two owners of the business and donated the same to our charities. While some events do awesome by being put on by volunteers – they have enormous teams, a budget being funded by the organization it benefits, and only one event a year.
This is a business and to keep making our events spectacular, we needed to look at how we did things. We vow not to cut costs to the detriment of racer experience, and that’s why All Out Events needs to charge more going forward. We are so lucky to have talented and dedicated volunteers who believe strongly in what we are doing and what we do for the community, but to grow and not kill ourselves in the meantime, we have to start charging like the professionals that we are.
And once we do, the charities and communities we benefit can also benefit. And we’ll be able to hire people to keep growing – and that creates jobs and stimulates the economy!
We hope you understand.