What’s Happening to Race Prices?

Ever since the COVID pandemic pricing for most things have been a bit in flux. And races are no different. In 2020 we saw artificially low race prices since essentially all events were virtual and overhead costs were much lower.

2023 was the first year since the pandemic where there weren’t any lockdown restrictions. People have also seemingly returned mostly to pre pandemic life. With that in mind, we wanted to take a look at race prices and how they changed over the past few years. 

*Note all data cited comes from our annual Race Trends Report. If you’d like to read the report in its entirety, you can do so here

Race prices are up overall

Over the past few years race prices have steadily risen. No event has seen a particularly large price increase and most have been in line with general inflation more or less. The distance with the biggest year over year change was marathons with a 5.6% increase. This is most likely mainly due to rising overhead costs like permits, as well as general inflation.  

Another interesting thing to note is that of the different race distances ultra marathons are the only ones that still lag 2019 prices. One possible explanation for this is that longer races have more virtual attendees, or are more likely to be completely virtual, so they have lower overall costs. 

Minimums and maximums for race prices hold fairly steady 

Another interesting thing to look at with pricing is the delta between the highest and lowest cost events. Price at open and peak are both up overall, but the difference between those two has held relatively steady. 5ks vary by around $10 and 10ks are slightly higher with a $13 difference. That said, those gaps in price have held fairly steady for the past few years. 

Longer distance races – which also cost more on average in general – have decently higher gaps between minimum and maximum prices. In 2023 half marathon price had a $24 delta and marathons were even higher at $36. Ultra marathons and triathlons were similar with $35 and $36 differences respectively. 

The main difference for longer races may come down to them doing more price increases in general. Since registration for those events is sometimes longer than with shorter distances, they may feel as though they have more opportunity to do price increases. Whereas shorter registration periods may shy away from them. That said, we explore price increases a bit more below. 

Some embraced price increases, but more should

In 2019 the average number of price increases for a race was around two (meaning they had three price tiers in total). Since we’ve seen that decline. In 2020 since things were virtual one ticket price made sense. And even in 2021 races may have elected to not do them as their main goal was just to get people back at races. 

However, as participation has mostly normalized, we expected to see price increases come back but they’re still lagging, with the exception of triathlons which are around pre pandemic numbers. 10ks, half marathons, and marathons were the most likely to have price increases, but were still low with about 1.5 increases on average. 

When people see a price increase is coming it encourages them to sign up sooner rather than later. In fact, 26% of registrations on RunSignup came within three days of a price increase or registration closing. What that lets us know is that deadlines motivate people. 

With RunSignup it’s easy to set different pricing tiers based on specific dates. You can even automate email reminders to people to let them know about upcoming price changes. Making it very simple to do. And with the potential impact, we think it’s something more races should embrace. 

Looking to the future

Having fair prices is important to help attract people to your event. However, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t test out new strategies. We think most races should at least try some form of price change to see if it could better encourage registrations and set up more successful events. 

And if you want a tool that makes the process simple, consider creating a free event with RunSignup today

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