Why do we find events irresistible, despite the price?

I don’t hear my running friends complaining about the cost of entry fees, but we have all had this thought as we click ‘Pay now’: I could run this (or a very similar) course for free!
I read an article written in 2011 that asked ‘Will we get to the point where people pay $50 to run 5km?’ Well, in 2019 we are there – some events are charging around $50 whether you choose the 5 or 10km run.

So, if we keep paying the money we must be seeing value. There are clearly some tangible elements that add value for the runner – professional timing, road closures and traffic control, access to places where you can’t usually run, drink stations, first aid, medals, and event villages with entertainment and sponsor giveaways. For some runs, part of the entry fee is a donation to charity, which always feels good.

Some things are less visible to the runner, yet they are real costs for the organisers – staff to organise the event, and systems for ticketing and processing payments, etc.
But is this enough to pay sixty-ish dollars for a 10km run or over a hundred for a half-marathon?
No doubt part of what we are paying for is intangible. Excitement – that’s what actually draws us in and keeps us stumping up with the cash. What better feeling than being in a crowd of thousands as the starter horn sounds, being part of something with people of all ages, able-bodied and disabled, some pushing prams, some wearing outrageous costumes? Then there is the emotion that goes with the struggle (an extra bonus for the strugglers!) and the elation of the finish line.

Choosing an out of town event tips the value equation even further. It’s a mini-holiday, and you’re running somewhere new and often very beautiful. The social part is also ramped up a notch when you’re away from home. The entry fee seems just a small part of the whole thing.
And if you’re lucky your entry fee might also get you a bonus surprise element, depending on how you look at it. In a 10k event that a few of us attended in November, I was ready for the end when my watch said I’d covered the distance, only to find the finish line was almost 1 kilometre further up the hill. I would have been okay with that if it was a misinformation problem … but then we found that the runners at the front of the pack had completed ‘the same’ course and had clocked up only 9.5km! Luckily the after-run entertainment and wine were superb.


Next month: Tales from Great Ocean Road

Posted in Events.