The cost of Ultras

Ultras races seem to be split into three types: Run to make money as a business
Run to make money for charity.
Run by non profit organizations with the surplus going to charity.
There are probably other variations but the value for money equation is not simple.
In many cases the more you pay the less you get.
Ok we would like to keep the cost down. Perhaps what is more important is what the runner needs. The longer the race the more support you need as a general rule. This is a particular problem for running businesses . To stage say a 100 mile event over terrain where most of the field will take 24hrs + you will need plenty of feed/hydration stations or allow support crews.
There seems to be a trend to stage new long events(jumping on the ultra bandwagon) expecting the runners to be self supporting. This may be ok for runners with a couple of 100milers under there belts but for the fist timer running 24hrs plus i feel its too much to ask and will detract from the experience.
Anyone got any thoughts on this ,especially commercial operators.


  • The 2 people I know who organise ultras both do it for the love of it.  Although technically profit making they at the best break even and sometimes make a loss.  Their events are friendly and have excellent support. However, I agree that some organisers seem to make a virtue of having minimal support whilst charging more than the better supported ultras.  The very best value ultras imo are those organised by the ldwa which is itself a charity and well supported by volunteers. 
  • agree BBH
  • Perhaps we are being spoilt in having LDWA and scout organized ultras at a fraction of the real cost.
    It must be a real pain for the commercial operators to compete on price.
    Given the choice, although it hurts to say it I would probably pay more if the support checkpoints were up to the course.
    At the end of the day its the support not the flash VW van at the finish that gets me through.
  • Did an ultra yesterday 46 miles and you had to carry all your own food.....but water supplied 5 was so brillinatly organised and friendly marshalls out on tops of marshals for 10 hrs........the organisers seemed to pop up all over the place to make sure people were ok............brilliant......I love the feeling of finishing them even though its a simple banners no balloon arches........its low key like the race...........
  • I don't think it is a pain to them at all, they can tout their races at high prices as people will pay them, now tri has lost momentum ultras are gaining more interest from people wanting a challenge. Unfortunately there is a whole new group of people moving into it with higher disposable income who are not as bothered by the price as they can afford it. It is a shame but probably the way it is going to go until ultra becomes yesterdays big thing just as is starting to happen to tri!!

    At the end of the day they 'can' be run on a shoestring, some organisers 'justify' their costs and then make big profits, sometimes that goes to charity sometimes not.

    To me the challenge of ultras is to do as much myself as possible, so having the minimum of support etc makes it more of a challenge. There are many people who finish 50 mile or longer ultras under well supported conditions who would not be able to go out and just do that off their own back with no support, to me they have not actually done the ultra, I don't see ultras as a team sport but I accept I am in the minority!

    I don't have a problem with that after all it is all about the 'personal' challengeimage

  • To be honest with you, getting value for money is not a particularly high priority for me, when I choose the races that I participate in.  This is my hobby not my business, and if like the look of an event, I will pay whatever the race organisers want. 

    I am not in any way disparaging inexpensive events.  Some of my favourite ultras have left me with change from a twenty pound note.  On the other hand, any British national who has participated in Comrades or the Western States Endurance run, has spent £600 on a plane ticket before they even get to the race fee.  What better use could they have possible made of the money?

  • I understand the 'less is more' acheivement of an ultra - but I disagree with th cynical cashing in on this by some organisers.  There are certain events that have such a low level of support that you may as well do it on your own  - after all you've done the distance, you know what you've done so why pay to get endorsement?
  • The 'ultras being the new tri' thing rings true to me - there's a few people at work who do the occasional tri that have started talking loudly about doing the Lakeland 100. So far as I'm aware none of them have done anything further than a half-mara yet (I'm sure I would have heard about it if they had!), but nothing less than 100 miles and loads of hills will do, apparently.

    I've got my first ultra coming up soon - the 37-mile Tour de Helvellyn just before Chrimbo, which at £20 seems very reasonable to me. Being from a fellrunning background the minimal support, look after yourself approach appeals to me, and high entry fees generally don't! Ultimately so long as the organisers state how much the event costs and what support there will be before people enter then it's up to the individual to decide; if someone wants to enter a 100-mile unsupported event as their first ultra and pay through the nose to do it then bully for them, I won't be joining them though.  

  • If your friends have done nothing longer than a half marathon, then there is simply no way that they will be allowed to participate in the Lakeland 100.  There are systems in place to protect people like that from themselves. 
  • Maybe they are going to be doing other stuff before that?!
  • AndrewSmith - You make a good point. The support can make a big difference to how someone runs. See UTMB this year for example where the US atheletes really struggled, personally I think that is partly down to them not being used to carrying mandatory kit such as life blankets, emergency food and water, phone and spare layers as well as being used to regular support in races.

    In terms of value for money, I work on a £1 a mile rule to figure out what the maximum cost I would pay is.

  • having seen the finishers at the lakeland 50 for the last 2 would take a lot of natural fitness and hardwork to get to be able to finish that in 8 months time..........I struggle with just the 50 and the first half is much harder than the first.................

    just looking at the drop out rate tells you something and i know they are people amongst themthat do ultras all year round that just can't get that one beat yet...........

    the 50 is doable for anyone with some determination........its a different race altogether..............

    I will avoid those races around at the moment that are taking the mick..........very little support but charging a fortune...the hadrians wall one springs to mind

  • Bear B.Hind wrote (see)

    I understand the 'less is more' acheivement of an ultra - but I disagree with th cynical cashing in on this by some organisers.  There are certain events that have such a low level of support that you may as well do it on your own  - after all you've done the distance, you know what you've done so why pay to get endorsement

    BBH - It is still a race that you have entered and I for one still get the competitive edge. If you dont see anyone for the duration of the race then at least you have not been overtaken (unless you start last)

    As Andrew Smith says its not just about the distance its the challenge of doing the event with minimal support which is the attraction, the sense of achievement is greater.

    That said though I would not  pay through the nose for an Ultra however much the appeal.

    Not sure about the  £1 a mile rule, that will get quite pricey for 100+ mile runs....

    Ben with regard to Ultra's abroad, with all due respect it is the individual choice to go there so you cannot factor transport costs into the equation. We are just talking about the cost of the entrance fee..

  • I generally never see anyone on ultras (unless it's a slowest start first) cos I'm last image.  I know about competetive edge, but why not just get a couple of like minded people to do it with you? 
  • There certainly are some expensive events out there, but compared to marathons/halves/10ks Ultra's appear better value. £20+ to run a 10k for example - thats 50p/minute! 

    In ultras there are no economies of scale, with fewer participants per event. But the costs to host must be at least equal if not higher due to the increased duration/support costs.

    There seems to be a number fo companies offering running events at all distances, who are just looking to gouge those who are willing to pay - The Wall being a perfect example. I'm happy not to pay for these types of event.

    I can see what you're saying Bret Runner, about the challenge of completing with minimal support but as more runners move up to ultra distances I think more support will be the way many events go.

  • I fear your right pmo, it will be a question of companies taking over to fleece the wannabe Ultras. I just hope the existing Ultras run by the dedicated few who do it for the enjoyment dont give up when faced with this onslaught....

    Dont get me started on The Wall image

    BBH - I was not refering to the more expensive newer Ultra's offering little support, I was talking more about the smaller established Ultra's. Essentialy the low key events start out as you described, getting a few mates (like minded people) together and have a bit of a long run which ends up being a race.

  • The unsupported ultra as a concept is fine if its about making the race a challenge . Its the fact that some organizers are using this to save costs on one hand and promoting the race as having more bragging points as it is unsupported.
    Its almost like announcing a new cross channel swimming race and calculating they can charge more or get more takers if they don,t provide safety boats.
  • Personally, I think most ultra's are pretty good value for a day's "entertainment" - anything under £50 for a well-organised etc race  is acceptable to me. Over £50 and I start to look at what I'm getting and it has to be really worth it in my book - eg Lakeland which I didn't hesitate to enter or other events with excellent reviews. When new races are announced with high price tags then I start to wonder why the extra?

    Bret - out of interest - what are the issues with The Wall? - I was thinking of entering

  • The wall want £150 for the one day or £200 for the 2 day......which includes a campsite fee................they only agree to supply water in the middle of the two stage as a minimum but might supply food but some snacks ....................

    so you think that you have to carry it they tell you to buy water and food from the many farms and shops on the route.............

    its a pointb to point and you have to pay extra to get back to the start


    so they are charging a fortune and then telling you to buy water on route from the shops etc............seems like that is just taking the mick..........either this is a serious race where every is self supported or its good for beginers fun runners and they should provide some basic things like waterimage

    but like all things if enough people think its worth a few hundred pounds for a few cup fulls of water then these events will continue

  • Rich - The price tag of £150 for a one day event is whats wrong..

     This is what you get for that price direct off there website:-

    • Traverse Northern England on foot -  (umm this is the point)
    • Stunning scenery  - (cant charge for that)
    • Electronic Timing with stage splits - (overkill & not necessary)
    • Pit-stops en route with water and snacks provided - (That will be std CP's then)
    • Special Edition Tech T-shirt - (Dont Care, I do it for me not to show off)
    • Free half-way camping with entertainment, massage, hot showers, real ale bar and food available (wont use if you go for the one day option)
    • Free bag transfer service for Challengers and Experts - (Oh please its not free is it)
    • Special Edition Event Apparel runs from the Rat Race Store - (*$?**%£$$***)
    • Finish line finale with food and drink (Oh Please)
    • Medals for all finishers - (Ok cant complain on this one)

    Obviously thats my opinion, but I think this is precisely the kind of company that is out to fleece.

    I would like to do Hadrians wall but I will organise my own outing on this occasion....

    • Hadn't realised it was £150 - that sounds outrageous - especially if no jaffa cakes!
    • Jaffa cakes are extra - special price from there store image
    • Will strike if off the "maybe" list - shame cos the idea is great and the date fell nicely for me - was thinking of using it as build-up to the Lakeland 100 (which is considerably better value!)
    • they do not make it clear of the masages  real ale and food is free in the campsite...........
    • I thought the £150 was the early bird price.. Can't be bothered to look it up now, but I'm sure it's more if you haven't already signed up..

      I also thought it looked good, but can't justify the cost. At all.

    • seren nos - That still leaves most of the single say runners out. I say most, I am sure one or 2 can manage a pint half way!

    • Hi all, yes LDWA events or Mountain rescue events for me are the way to go.

      Recently went to wales for a coastal marathon only to be told at checkpoint 3 that i was not to put any of the water in my camelpak and at checkpoint 4 they had no water so the marshall had to knock on a locals house to use the outside tap. i paid 50 notes for this and they had no 'technical t shirts' in my size at the end. 

    • That's outrageous David!

      I suspect it was CTS Gower - which I also did... I must admit I was disappointed by the checkpoints - custard creams and water. Fortunately they still had water at CP4 when I went through.

      I work on £1 / mile as a good benchmark image £99 for multi-day events like Pilgrims which include accommodation work too... The best value I've seen recently is Ring O Fire - £99 for 131 miles over 3 days, including accommodation!
    • I don't mind paying for events. £50ish for a days running seems like good value to me. Lugging a load of water around and providing food is not cheap.

       Remember that these people have also spent a lot of their time organising things. Though some will not charge for this if others have had to take time off their jobs to make events happen I dont resent them claiming that back.

      Most of the stuff that's out there can be done on your own for much cheaper, but then again that's like saying "why go to the pub and pay loads for beer when you can sit at home on your own and drink cans for half the price?"

       That said the Marathon Des Sables is the most abhorent money making scam there is in running. My number one bit of advice to anyone doing ultras is to avoid that one like the shits.

    • I sometimes think that the organisers of inaugural events get too much flak for charging a high price.  In a first time event, you incur a lot of expenses which would not be incurred in a well established event.  Some of these people who are accused of "jumping on the ultra bandwagon" are lucky to break even with their first event. 

      At the end of the day, most ultras are pretty good value in terms of miles ran per pound spent.  If you are getting a mile or more for a pound, then it is probably fair value. 

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