Why so expensive?

I've just completed my first full triathlon season coming from a background in all three separate disciplines. As I look for events next year, the thing that shocks is the very high price attached to most races. Maybe I just don't understand the costs breakdown and TW could do a future article to explain, but by reference to other sports there is little comparrison - join a running club and league events are free. Unless organised by big corporates, even marathons are typically only £10 or so to enter. At a swimming club, again most events are free or there will be a nominal charge. I don't cycle race but do ride sportives. These are typically over well marshalled and supported routes of around 100 miles with entry prices around £20. Given most triathlons I have competed in involve loops of a relatively small area, where is the justification for entry fees of £50 plus?

I'm based in SW London, so if anyone can suggest any local races at reasonable cost I would be apprecaitive!



  • I find that many more staff are involved in organising a tri. Pool hire will cost something including security, or the canooists for open water swims etc. Then marshalling a bike course which can be quite lengthy, stand by ambulances, any road closures that may be necessary, people to set up and take down transition areas and manage those areas during the race etc etc. I guess it just costs more than organising a cross country 10k...
  • Id like to know which marathons are 'typically £10 or so"!

  • I imagine the insurance would be higher as well............I know they counted Ironman as an the highest level extreme sport when I got travel insurance in the summer..........

    yes they are expensive but I suppose like lots of things.............there is a market value as well.....

  • There was a cost breakdown in 220 a while ago. Tri is expensive.

    I dont know of any Marathons that cost a tenner.
    The Cheshire Cat Sportif was more than £20 too.

    If you think that organising a tri is a good way to make money - then you should give it a go ! Good luck ! image
  • I think there might be fewer participants as well - so the costs per head are higher.
  • Ok. On the marathon point 5-4-3-2-1 Salisbury, Gt Clarendon, Dartmoor Discovery, Beachy Head - any event organised by Long Distance Walkers. You'll find a few...

    I had forgotten about transition and security there...

  • I think sportives are cheaper insurance wise as they are not classed as 'races' as well, which also helps in terms of local police  / road stuff.

    Agree it's very expensive though! image

  • IM entry fees are mahoosive! But on the one I did, you could really see where the money had been spent - motorcycle escorts for last riders through town (like me) lots of safety kayaks, top notch goodie bags, plenty of feed stations, road closures for most of the day, lots of food at the finish etc. Sure they still make a bit, but its easier to swallow when you can see that they've also spent a bit!

  • I think those you mention are the exception to the rule, having done 2 of those mentioned and several LDWA ones....none of which I SUSPECT involve road closures (whihc is where cost really kick in).

    Anyhoo...that is off topic.

    You dont like the entry fee - you dont pay it. Simple enough?!

  • Philip, I don't know when you last entered the maras you say are £10, but  this year

    Beachy Head - £20

    Great Clarendon - £19

    Dartmoor Discovery - £24

  • I don't think anyone got "rich" organising triathlons! 
  • Salsbury £10 attached.

    Also DD is road run ultra with superb organisation and very decent disco afterwards...

    Agree no road closures for any, but would have thought smaller events outside of town centres wouldn't necessarily need them. Maybe the costs are largely health and safety.

    I'm not saying I want something for nothing. I'm just somewhat taken back by the cost of even relatively small events.


     Thanks Cougie - Just read the article. It does seem mostly health and safety related

  • Mikefrog wrote (see)
    I don't think anyone got "rich" organising triathlons! 

    I agree.  When I marshalled at the Vitruvian it gave me a proper idea at the amount of organising etc that goes on at a tri.  the Vit is run by Pacesetterevents and you'd like to think they would like to make a penny for themselves here or there, being an events management organisation, but I couldn't see where to be honest...  If you tot it all up, rental of the facilities for a couple of days as most things are set up the day before, security/canoos on the lake, transition, the motorbike draft busters, the feed stations, policing, St Johns Ambulance, organising all the volunteer marshalls and scouts, organising the sponsors, a proper finish arch with music, announcements, decent medals, goodie bag, nice shirts... all the way to the fact that they know how to treat their volunteers well and treat you to a bacon butty and black coffee at 5am, --- that divided by a relatively small number of participants (not tens of thousands for Great Bupa runs) and you can't really see how they make a huge living out of it...

    PMSL @ "disco afterwards"... well whoopeedoo!!!!

  • Well it depends whether you're there for an 'event' or a race. If you race often, do you always need to pay for DJ, elaborate finishing tunnel and arch, goodie bag (generally full of junk and junk food), t-shirts and medals? All these add greatly to cost and little to race itself although arguably go towards 'event'.

    What you do want is for the race to be run on schedule, routes clearly marked, health and safety compliant and kit in transition secure. 

    Maybe sometimes less is more...

  • When I entered my first Tri I was shocked how comparatively more expensive it was against a 'normal' run.  But then I marshalled at Henley On Thames Tri earlier this summer and it really opened my eyes.  Unless you have been behind the scenes you have no way of understanding the amount of organisation involved in a Tri.  Now I am of the opinion that I am happy to pay the 'extra' to know that I am participating in a well organised event
  • I disagree that the medals/tops add much to the cost and the stuff in the goodie bags is usually given for free by sponsors.  The example I used of the Vit, for most people a half Ironman is a bit of an achievement so they quite like a medal or similar.  What costs the most will be the actual organisation, insurance, safety etc.  If you want a race that’s well organised, safe, offers chip timing etc then you can’t reduce it to a tenner.  It’s not the same as a bunch of people fell running around some hills signing a disclaimer that everything is at your own risk etc.  Like someone said before… if you think you can do it cheaper but not fall foul of safety etc… go try.
  • I wonder what a no frills tri would cost you ? OK you could cut down on medals and goody bag, but I dont think they cost that much.

    Having it as no frills would probably reduce the numbers of people interested in racing - and so the costs would be higher per entrant.
  • cougie wrote (see)
    I wonder what a no frills tri would cost you ? OK you could cut down on medals and goody bag, but I dont think they cost that much. Having it as no frills would probably reduce the numbers of people interested in racing - and so the costs would be higher per entrant.
    Cougie - IMUK is bloody expensive tho for an no frills event image
  • I've done the Cambridge Tri for the last few years. That would qualify as a no-frills event - basic transition, no road closures, marshalled by club members, no chip timing, basic (but very nice) memento, no fancy feed stations (just one water station on the run) or finish chute. That comes in at 30-40 quid which is at the lower end for an Olympic distance tri and in my view worth every penny.

    That's still a fair bit more a small-scale club race that costs maybe a tenner, but when you compare the two it's obvious why - only 200 competitors (most club running events get at least twice that), they have to hire use of a lake for the swim (no need to do that for running races, or if you do you can be a lot more choosy), a lot more signage needed, motorbike draftbusters etc.
  • *Wonders whether to post, as one of the aforementioned "rich" race organisers, but decides against it for professional reasons.

    Suffice to say, Nam has argued this very well. Tis not a golden goose.

    Cougie - Trev at Black Sheep Sports puts on Eastnor as a No Frills Event - it is usually very popular.

  • Brigton marina tri is the cheapest one I've found, IIRC 27 quid last year for a sort of 3/4 length olympic length.  No frills at all, although the time recording can be a bit wonky (in 2008 allegedly I covered the 8k run course in under 19 minutes).
  • Wonky time recording sounds good to me! image
  • I can't speak for triathlons, but all those 'expensive finish tunnels' etc for my club running events are paid for as capital purchases for the club - i.e. out of membership fees.  The money is not recouped from race entry fees and I don't know of any organisations that do that.

    Food and drink is donated by sponsors.  Prizes are donated.  In fact, the only real costs are for the council and police for road closures and for medical cover.

    Tri's also have pool hire and security in transition in addition to road races.

    And I can only remember one or two races that have not cost me more than £10, and these were off road 10k races.

  • I have helped organise some races and one particular race went really well. Over a 1000 runners enjoyed the race and we recieved a lot of praise for the marshals and all the other helpers and the event organisation. We had charged £7 att and £9 Unatt. This fee was used to pay for the T shirt, good quality, the landowner permissions, the car parking fee concession, medical cover, scout club donations, start finish furniture, water station kit, fruity juice and biscuits, then 10% went to Bluebell wood hospice, oh and the UKA license fee. Our time and the rest of the teams time and a complete w/e setting up and then clearing away at the end

    One runner said he couldn't believe he had paid £9 quid for a malted biscuit. and he had top position on the RW forum. We were miffed to say the least.

  • Reg, Well done! I've organiseed races also with my club and the above sounds excellent, even beyond the call. Unfortunately some people are just really churlish and nothing will ever be good enough. Hope one ar*e didn't put you off... 
  • I don't like malted milk biscuits and I'd have been happy to get just the race for that price !
  • There were a selection of biscuits. I can go on, we organise endurance bike rides like the iconic C2C. the cost is a big hit for people at £255 for a long w/e. However, we take care of everything. The logistics of Cycles to the start and return back, a support vehicle all the time, coach to the start and back, lunches, accomodation, lead and trail bike guides, certificates, champagne at the finish, photo album, maps. If we asked for just the cost of us guiding we could charge £40 quid and people would think it was a bargain until they then had to fulfill all the other costs themselves and the faff of organising it all for themselves. Moan Moan Moan.
  • At the end of the day it is an expensive ssport, and there are a lot of hidden costs in running an event in any sport.  without events, profit making or otherwise, there would be no sport.

    I have listened to a lot of pirates whinge like anything about the freebies given out at IM events.  In my opinion, you pay for the race, if you want a good t shirt or bag, go and buy one yourself and dont enter the race

  • Tri is a commercial sport especially at the "big" events & yes some of those organisers I'm sure do very well out of it.

    However I'm suprised to hear the entry fees here, come & do our tri

    Sprint & Olympic distances available

    or how about a 5k race, turn up, enter on the line £2

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