DAVE MCGILLIVRAY, for Runner's World
Dear Mr. McGillivray,
I am trying to start a half-marathon, 10-K, and 5-K event. The proceeds will benefit a program for veterans with post-traumatic stress at a veterans hospital. I'm hoping that about 1,000 people will enter. Could you send me a little information on how much it costs to organize a race like this? Based on your experience, what are the costs of hiring a race director and some of the key expenses? Warm regards — Holly
When I am asked about how much it costs to put on a race, I usually respond rhetorically--how much does it cost to buy a house? Every race is different, with different objectives, goals, available resources, and levels of support.
That said, I can offer a few personal rules of thumb:
- First, ask yourself why you are doing this—hopefully you come up with a realistic and reasonable answer.
- Next, set reasonable goals and objectives and assess whether you have the resources, money, time, and support to achieve these goals.
- In general, road races can be expensive and aren't always great fundraisers.
- To raise money for a road race versus a walk or an "athon" event where participants are obligated to raise pledges, you either need healthy cash sponsorship or a lot of cash-paying customers. Revenues must significantly exceed expenses.
- Usually, the major expenses in a typical first-year road race are advertising, marketing, t-shirts, timing services, police, equipment rental, and race management fees.
- I've always felt that the expense of producing a race should not exceed entry fee revenue. That is, entry fees should cover the cost of the race, with the possible exception of management fees and any other extraordinary expenses like prize money or VIP functions. For those costs, use sponsorship money. The more sponsorship you have, the more you are able to cover these extraordinary expenses and the more profit or proceeds the race will generate. Again, this is just a rule of thumb and is not the case with every race or event.
- As for what to pay for a race director, there is no simple answer to that one, either. It all depends on their job description, their experience, whether it is just one person or a company or a team of people. There truly are no real standards and, usually, this is a negotiable figure. The better the event management team, the better the end product — you get what you pay for.
- Attracting 1,000 runners for a first-year event is a lofty goal, but it is not impossible. It all depends on your resources, community support, and the cause. I try to set conservative first-year goals and then build from there. Additionally, I don't just look at one-year projections but rather look at two to three-year projections. Typically, year one is an investment--you usually don't reap any benefits until year two or three. Patience is arguably one of the most important attributes here.
I hope this helps a bit. Of course, I could go on and on about this subject, however, I trust that some of this is helpful as you plan out your event.