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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Grey Areas of For-Profit

Last week, I published a post about For Profit vs Non-Profit races. In it, I mentioned the Nike Women's Half Marathon, which made its debut in Washington, DC last month. Is this a for profit race or a non-profit race? It does, after all, team up with Team in Training in order to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Here's my thought on this. I would say that, yes, the Nike Women's Half is a for profit race. Nike is putting on the race to make a profit. If you look at the fine print of the website for the event, you won't find anywhere that states that race proceeds are going to any type of cause. Races are expensive, but I find it hard to believe that a race with an entry fee as competitive as the Rock & Roll USA race (meaning, it's really high) is not turning a profit. Let's look at a few races that all take place in Washington, DC with very similar courses:

  • Nike Women's Half DC: $160-185
  • Rock & Roll USA Half marathon: $85-120
  • Marine Corps Marathon: $92 (2012 price, I had trouble finding the 2013 price)

The Marine Corps Marathon is not only 26.2 instead of 13.1, but it also has a goal of breaking even and does not turn a profit. I believe it also does not raise money for a specific cause, but supports TNT and other organizations to raise money just like the Nike Women's Half, except it charges half the cost and is twice the distance. You can't tell me that Nike Women's Half is not turning a profit, and a big one. And, if they are giving any of those race entry fees to charity, why doesn't it say so on their website. The 26.2 with Donna Marathon does give race proceeds to charity, and says so in big red letters on the front page of their website. 

But, none of this is a black and white issue. Take the New York City Marathon, for example. It started without a doubt being a non-profit race. New York Road Runners may even have lost money on that first NYC Marathon. Now, though, it has big corporate sponsorship and I'm pretty sure NYRR turns a profit on the race, making it seem like a profit race... But, the NYRRs are a non-profit. So, it's a non-profit race. But, the CEO of the NYRRs makes a six-figure salary. So, profit?

How about the Baltimore Marathon? It's put on by Corrigan Sports Enterprises, which also runs the Frederick Running Festival, the Baltimore 10 Miler, the Preakness 5K and a bunch of other races and events. This is not a non-profit company. So, I would say it goes into that same bucket as "for profit." Does that even matter in this case? After all, the Baltimore Marathon is such a big race and there is not NYRR equivalent in Baltimore to put on a race of that size. Without Corrigan Sports, Baltimore would not have a marathon, and no one wants that.

Here's what I think the bottom line is. If you want to race with a good conscience, then there are some questions you should ask about the race you're signing up for. It's not even a matter of whether or not the race is for profit or not, it's about what you are getting for your race entry fee and how that race organizer is handling themselves. Did the participants of the Nike Womens Half get their $185 out of the race ($14 per mile)? I don't know, I wasn't there, but that's a really expensive race.

What exactly are you getting for that race entry fee, and is it important to you? Do you need bands on the course? Do they need to be bands that are paid with your fee or are volunteer bands like high school bands ok? Are you going to be disappointed if you run past and the band is taking a break (as is what always happens to me at Rock & Roll Races)? Do you care that the race offers a giant medal or some sort of other bling? Is the bling worth the cost? How many water stops are on the course? Are they providing amenities like bag check, a big expo, etc, and do you need that? What food will be offered at the finish line? What about port-o-potties? Will any of your race entry fees be given to charity? Who is profiting off of your race entry fees?

Of course, as I write this, I remember back to the Hot Chocolate 15K, where the chocolate was worth the race entry fee, if it had been as described, but it wasn't. Or, the fact that they ran out of water and didn't have enough volunteers on the course. Or, the Rock & Roll USA Half that ran out of shirts well before the expo finished. Or, many other races that I mentioned in my last post that did not exceed expectations. So, I guess there's another question - are you ok with surrendering more than $100 to run a race when the corporation putting on the race may or may not come through with the things you want and need?

And there's my biggest question:
Is the race company actively pushing local races out of the area? 

Just more food for thought.

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Kathryn said...


RnR is coming to Raleigh, NC in 2014, and pushed out a local half marathon (RunRaleigh) that had that done a half on that weekend the past few years.

It caused a big controversy in the local running community. RunRaleigh was sponsored by the local PD, gave to local charities, and supported a lot by the local Galloway group (500+ people, one of the largest in the country).

I am not very happy with the way the large-scale orgs are handling races. Overcrowded, poorly managed, and sometimes downright dangerous as a result. Even Disney has succumbed to this - the Princess, for example, went from a 13K max to a 26K max and with no additional course modifications to support the extra people. I found 2013 to be almost dangerously crowded.

Kathryn said...

Btw, I read this post before I read the last one - sorry for the duplicate about RunRaleigh. I live there and used to be part of the Galloway group (had to drop due to excessive travel) so it hits close to home!!

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