After a lot of thought and consideration -- I have decided to retire One Foot in Reality and leave it as an Archive. I will still monitor it to keep the trolls at bay, but will not be posting here any longer.

If you are looking for my new posts, please go to www.haroldlshaw.com .

Thank you for all they years of following One Foot In Reality.


Sunday, September 20, 2015

Do I Look Like An ATM

Okay another one of those old fart soapbox posts, so if you don't want to read about my whining and blathering, this is a good place to stop. Especially if you tend to get your knickers in a bunch very quickly about one of running's sacred cows.

What am I jumping up and down on my soapbox about today?

Races, well sort of.

This post has meandered on its focus for the past week and I have written probably five drafts, that seem to change the focus each time, I came back to it. It started out that I was whining about the cost of races, which is definitely a huge issue, then it morphed into whether racing had become too much of an event and less of a competition between runners or more likely themselves and it finally ended here.

No one particular race has caused this rant, it has been more of an accumulation of experiences over the past few years and it finally reached the point where it bugged me enough that I felt that I had to write about it.

One of the best races I have ever been a part of

What sacred cow of running is bothering me?

Believe it or not - not all of my race experiences have been positive and it has not had anything to do with how I ran.

The causes, charities and for-profits that dominate organizing races nowadays do not always give the race experience we anticipated when we willingly gave - well paid our registration fees for "their" race.

Sometimes I think too many causes, charities or for profit businesses are seeing runners and the races we pay for the "privilege" of running in, as yet another revenue stream - their ATM's

I guess that is what bothers me, is that so many race organizers seem to believe that it is such a privilege to run in their race that supports their cause or their efforts to turn a buck.

From my perspective - race organizers, your cause or your need to turn a profit from your race, is your thing, not mine. Especially, since I finally figured out that in reality I am a customer who is paying for a service that you are providing, whether you want to acknowledge that - or not.

That service is:

  • Providing a venue for me to run in a race with other runners and having a good experience while I am there. It doesn't mean that I will run a great race, but it means that I will have the opportunity to do so.

Yeah it changes the perspective when you look at paying for a race that way - a lot.

Just the way I see things.

Don't get me wrong I don't begrudge any organization attempting to raise funds or even for profit companies making a tidy little profit - after all that is the way it is and this system has given runners a multitude of race opportunities that we didn't have in the past.

However, when race organizers focus so much on their cause, organization, whatever to hell they are promoting with the race or more likely the amount of money they can raise as a result of putting on the race... it is beginning to seem that they overlook something, well someone very important when it comes to their event, err race.

The runners.

To be quite honest, the cause, charity or for profit organization, that my race registration supports is very seldom a big consideration, when it comes to choosing a race to run in.


What are the factors that I look for in a race:
  1. What is the distance
  2. The date
  3. Where it is
  4. Are any friends running it
  5. The course
  6. How much
  7. How much extra for day of the race (I tend to wait to the last minute to register)
  8. My goals for the race
  9. Are any of the other locals running in it, so I can socialize with them before and after
  10. Have I done it before (was I happy with how things were done)
  11. The cause (I won't run in a race if I don't believe in the cause, just being honest) Where the money goes becomes a tie-breaker for me, if there are multiple races in the area, than the reason to do a race.
You can see from my list the importance that I place on supporting causes - unless it is a very specific one that I do really believe in and yes there are a couple.

In other words your cause is probably not the reason I am running in your race.

Cause Races

Now don't get me wrong many of the causes and charities that put on races are great and fantastic causes, but...

Unlike the race organizers or volunteers who are committed and enthusiastic about their cause or charity, I am there to run a race and compete with myself or other runners than supporting their cause. If the money I pay to participate in a race does good things for others - that is a by-product of my running, an added bonus.

It really is not the real reason I am there.

Isn't that being callous or arrogant?

Quite simply - No.

I am up front that I am not there for any reason other than the running and camaraderie that I am sharing with other runners or the volunteers, unless it is a specific cause that I choose to support.

For Profit

When I choose to participate in a for profit race, my expectations are even higher to have a positive experience - after all they are supposed to be professionals who are expected to provide at the very least - good customer service and a superior race experience.


I will give small, local races more of a bye on this, since those races are mostly done on a shoe-string, support something close to home and for the most part really try to do right by the runners who are participating in their races. They give a damn about the smaller number of runners who show up to run in their race.

However, that hasn't always been my experience in larger races and even though the race is the focus of the serious money raising efforts, sometimes it really seems like runners get treated like an after-thought or worse a tolerated, but not really a welcome guest at their event - you know "one of them". Not the experience I expect or will tolerate.

Then it really becomes frustrating when runners start to complain about ANYTHING, they are quickly reminded that the cause is the focus of the race, not the participants of some silly-ass race.

Those same damn runners who happen to be so generously supporting their cause.

You will notice that there are not that many "bigger" races that I have done a second time - there are reasons.

The reality is that

Just because I love to run and finally have started to enjoy racing, doesn't mean that race organizers should expect me to be as enthusiastic about their cause and willingly give them carte blanche to do less than provide the runners who show up to participate in their race/event a positive experience.

This ATM does not have an unlimited supply of cash and I have become very particular about what races I choose to support.

I guess that I have to just remember in today's world - races exist more to make money - for someone or something, than they are meant to be an athletic event where we are given the opportunity to challenge ourselves, while having fun before, after and every once in a while during the race.

Non profit race organizers need to remember there are enough races out there that if you don't do a good job of ensuring that runners have a positive experience, we really don't have to come back to your race/event and it really doesn't matter how great your cause is.

If you are a for profit race organizer, you know the deal, that runners and their great experience at your events are your number one focus, if you want to remain in business for the long haul.

Yeah, I am getting to be an old curmudgeon, but at the same time I get to choose where I spend my money and I think that sometimes race organizers need to be reminded of that fact and remember that runners do talk to one another and word does get around pretty quickly.

In some ways it is sad, but it is what it is.

Remember, runners are not just another revenue stream or ATM's that spit out money.

This post originally appeared on One Foot In Reality if you see it elsewhere, it has been used without permission, please go to my site to see the original post.

1 comment:

  1. I haven't really run enough races to have seen this too much, and generally the races out here are all pretty much 'local', with Wineglass being the largest - and as such they help out most of the smaller races with equipment and resources (volunteers, pretty much). The cause races - even the Susan Komen cancer run - are pretty fun and they have enough local radio & TV people and others to keep it entertaining and loads of support on the courses.

    I DO have one story, though ... as I was getting ready to sign up for an inaugural trail marathon in northern Pennsylvania, one person in the Facebook runner's group I am part of made it pretty clear he would have nothing to do with the person organizing that race and so wasn't signing up.

    I never found out the details, but DO know that it was the most expensive race I'd ever run, pretty sparsely stocked in terms of food supplies and on-course volunteers, had lousy course map info and seemingly 'inaccurate' (I hesitate to say falsified) participation estimates and so on. Something else happened and now they're just doing a half marathon ... makes you wonder.

    But overall I agree with the sentiment - we are running to RUN, to RACE, and to do it with others. Heck, if we didn't care about the race aspect we could just go out for a normal run ... I mean, I essentially DID two half-marathons this weekend anyway, right?


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