The cost of a running race – Is it getting too high?

Race - Adidas

Following Christmas, runners minds are turning to think about their goals and the races they want to take part in next year. Race emails are flooding into your inbox and following the excess of food and drink it’s ever so easy to sign up and pass on your card details without thinking about it.

I have done this myself many times when my form or fitness dips and I want to remotivate myself (just like now). However, the price of races is going up and up, and a couple of times due to scheduling issues that have come up months after I signed up, I end up not being able to take part.  The place and money get wasted.

With this in mind, it got me thinking about the money I spend on races and posed the question –

Has the cost of a race ever prohibited you from entering it?

I recently had an opportunity to enter the Brighton Marathon. The organisers very cleverly opened up the chance to get one of an extra 4000 places, a few days after the London Marathon ballot results came out. Very smart marketing! With my London “commiserations” fresh in my mind, I think it was an advert on Instagram (Instagram ad targeting is so spot on) that caught my eye and had me champing at the bit for a Spring Marathon fairly close to home.

I was sat there with 15 minutes to go before the 8 am first come first served enter opened. With my debit card ready to pay the £69.50 fee (which I thought was already a little steep),  I then read through the FAQs and saw that it was required to pick up your number the day before. So, I have to go to Brighton on Saturday and then do the same again for the race on Sunday or get a hotel in Brighton for a night.

  • A return train trip from London to Brighton at £17.60 and a minimum of 4 hours of my time.
  • A hotel in Brighton on Saturday night at over £200 (currently at the time of writing). Yes, with a little work I can find a cheaper place a few miles further out of town, but maybe something around £100.
  • A 110-mile round trip drive and again a minimum of 4 hours of my time. An estimated £10 in petrol and a couple of quid for parking.

There’s was the financial cost, my time cost and the “this is just a hassle” cost that p*ssed me off. Ultimately, I shut my laptop down and headed out to work and didn’t enter. I’m good with my decision. It really came down to the “this is just a hassle” cost, but there was a little bit of the financial side to it too.

I ran the Great North Run in September. As Newcastle is 280 miles from home, I made a bit of a weekend of it. It was great. A nice break and a good experience, but it dented the wallet a bit. Here’s a rough summary –

  • Entry fee – £54
  • Petrol – £60
  • Service station breaks – £20
  • Saturday Dinner – £50
  • Sunday Dinner – £50
  • Hotel – £300
  • Whole day travelling Saturday and Monday

A conservative estimate of over £500. Yes, the hotel was steep and although overpriced, it was nice. The Great North Run was definitely a bucket list race where the price didn’t matter so much and is likely a one-off. But still a fair chunk of change!


If you want to knock off a Marathon Major, it’s a seriously pricey business. The current costs are –

  • New York $358 (£280)
  • Boston $240 (£180)
  • Chicago $220 (£165)
  • Tokyo 12,800 Yen (£85 or $115)
  • Berlin €108  (£95 or $130)
  • London £35 ($47)

The London Marathon is a great price and fairly manageable travel wise for a fair amount of people due to their proximity to London and the size of the UK. I think it’s great that the organisers keep the price so reasonable. It’s getting more and more popular each year though, so getting a place can be tough.

If you are partial to a city break, there are plenty of other marathons and halves. The Paris Marathon always seems to get good feedback, and obviously convenient from the UK via plane, boat or train. Others are Valencia, a great city with a passion for running. There are the Vienna and Rome Marathons that I’ve seen advised. Both cities I have not been to, and really want to.


I would estimate that the average price of a 10 km in London is around £20. Say your travel is £10, that would be £360 a year if you did one race a month. Some London race organisers such as Runthrough are doing season passes where you get to run every one of their events for £285. For a possible 60 races, that would work out at less than £5 a race if you did them all, or £10 if you did half of them. Most 10kms have the basics these days. Medals, chip timing, measured courses and toilets.

The Adidas City Runs in Shoreditch 10km and the upcoming one in Fulham are £40 with £2.30 booking fee (Booking Fee! FFS!) These come with closed roads, big race atmospheres, music, free photos and an Adidas tech Tee. Although it’s twice the price of my estimated average, you could argue that if big races are your thing, then the price is reasonable. Often there are race villages with craft ales, gourmet burgers and also local eatery discounts at these my pricey events, so it can become a bit more of a day out.

There are a regularly races held around where I live, particularly on Wimbledon Common. Sometimes I see these races whilst I’m out running and feel a little pang of regret (also called FOMO) that I didn’t take time to take a look at the local races around me. Then I think, do I really need to pay someone £20 to run around somewhere I’m already running around. Not really. So sometimes it doesn’t appeal.

Doing the odd one is good; running can get a little bit lonely, so having the excitement of a race to look forward to it is nice. It also adds training motivation. I like to support local races and the Thames Hare and Hounds Running club organise an event called Dash for the Splash which is excellent and is a little bit different at the bargain price of £16.

Is running getting more popular?

The number of events seems to be going up and there is plenty of appetite for them. People are currently willing to pay as the prices get higher, to take part in what are more becoming “running experiences”. I think if prices continue to climb, people will start to push back and go looking for more “authentic” races, but as the rise in health and fitness continues these people may just be replaced by new runners. Some 10kms over the last few years have hit the £50 price mark. A price many would baulk at. The £40 to £45 “Big City 10km” seems to be where the price is at, at the moment.

The London Marathon is always going to be super over-allocated and that’s not going to change. In fact, it is probably only going to get worse. Other race organisers are getting a little cleverer in their marketing (see Brighton Marathon above). The use of exclusive early entry periods, cheaper early bird tickets, sudden closing dates (that keep getting extended) and generating the sense that demand is super high, which plays on your FOMO and has you tapping your card details in before you know what you’re doing. These are selling the community aspect of running, which is very shrewd and very attractive to lots of people and why many get into running in the first place.

This post started as a bit of a rant at the rising cost of races. But, I suppose there’s whatever you want to do, out there. The big city event, the local club event, the rural ultra, the county cross county league. I suspect you can find yourself whenever race you’re after at a fairly decent price. I suppose I’ll just have to wean myself off the expensive city 10kms.

Happy Christmas and Happy Running!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *