Cost v Value – are we getting a good deal in our racing

I’ve had a bee in my bonnet about the rising cost of races for some time, I tend to race regardless of the cost but not everybody can do this and so having competed in over 50 races in the last 3 years I thought it was worth looking at the cost of the races and the value that I got from each race. I’ve picked 3 races at different price points and all 10km.

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Name: VirtualRunnerUK 10km run
Cost: £5
Medal: Yes
T-Shirt: No
Competitors: Variable
Marshalling: No
Aid Stations: No
Goody Bag: No
Support: Online

I’ve been banging on for a little while now about the VirtualRunnerUK – I’m a big fan. The £5 buys you quite a lot of stuff. First you get a race number emailed to you, secondly you are making a donation to a charity, third you get to race and finally you get a medal and congratulations letter. It’s very true that it’s not a UKA race, there’s no competitors around you to push you on and there is no goody bag or finish line banner but I think of the virtual run like being a kid with imagination, let me explain… When you were a child you could make a castle out of pillows, spaceships out of boxes and dragons out of sofas – the virtual run plays to our imagination and I know that those who do it get as much out of it as they put in. It’s run monthly so if you miss an event you simply go back and do another a few weeks later, it’s open for several weeks per event so you can fit it around your other commitments. The medals are actually pretty nice, much better than some of the actual ‘races’ I’ve lined up for and it feels good running it. Some would argue that there is limited support on a race of this nature but actually through the power of social media it’s actually always about and how often do we get a cheery wave from someone we meet out as we are running (aside from Central London obviously). Well living in a Kent you get lots of people offering bits of encouragement – I can only give this race 10 out of 10, it’s perfect.

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Name: Dartford Bridge 10km 2013
Cost: £15
Medal: Yes
T-Shirt: No
Competitors: 200
Marshalling: Yes
Aid Stations: Yes
Goody Bag: No
Support: Yes

The second race I’m looking at is the Dartford Bridge 10km, a review of the race itself in 2013 can be found here. However, I’m looking at value for money and I’m glad to report that one of the smaller, local races has it by the bucketload. One of my bugbears is that races, especially the big ones, have become a bit faceless and this means that races become a little soulless – however in the hands of these local events we still very much have the charms and personality that I very much associate and appreciate in racing. The Dartford Bridge 10km had more personality than you could shake a stick at, it started I suppose with the MC and DJ for the morning a man who I now know and run with, he was infectious and you suddenly felt like you were at an occasion – I half expected him to put on. Ride of the Valkyrie before the start. Your money though didn’t just buy you the entertainment it also covered a near traffic free course on excellent paths, great marshalling, portaloos, a bit of a coffee portable coffee shop, secure bag storage and a little tent if you really needed a changing area, the best bit though? an excellent PB course. The medal was also pretty nice given the cost and all in all it felt like an event run by runners for fellow runners. The nice thing was that it was partly run through new housing developments which meant that the supporters could cheer from the comfort of their beds and so as you went round there was a near constant minor stream of support as well as the main swelling at the finish line. This meant that over the two lap course you felt very well supported and part of a very nice race. If you were looking for minor improvements then maybe chip timing instead of gun timing but other than this I had a really good time and I know many of the other runners did too. It be criminal not to award this 9 out of 10.

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Name: Bedgebury Trail 10km 2013
Cost: £30
Medal: Yes
T-Shirt: Yes
Competitors: 200 (multiple waves)
Marshalling: Yes
Aid Stations: Yes
Goody Bag: Yes
Support: Yes

If you want a prime event, with a great medal, great T-shirts, great organisation and a generally great time then you’d have to a long way to find much better than the excellent Rat Race events. Having run with them several times, including ultra distances and obstacle courses I had no hesitation in paying £30 for what sounded like a great race. Bedgebury itself is a pinetum and houses wonderful trails for any type of trail runner, it also houses an excellent hill at kilometre 9 which was a 100% bitch of a hill to get up. The course other than that was pretty fun, perhaps one might say standard good quality trail, it wasn’t the kind of mud fest that comes with some of the winter races either, which can be a good or bad thing depending on your perception. It’s also a well covered and well marshalled course with lots of lovely people egging you on, so there is no lack of encouragement and the organisation is first class. Additionally as with all Rat Race races there is the excellent medal and even a good quality, event specific T-shirt. You couldn’t ask for much more, right? Well rate Race even manage to thrown in the car parking, a day at the pinetum and some excellent pre and post race extras (like a bouncy castle for kids), these are the nice touches. However, I found this bigger, bolder event a lot less personal and that is where I think I felt as though it was probably a bit expensive. Had someone said £23, maybe £25 I’d have walked away without complaint because the whole set up is outstanding but I did come away from it feeling like I’d been sterilised of enjoyment because sadly it didn’t have the individuality of say the Dartford Bridge 10km.

The truth is I didn’t get anything more from Bedgebury than I did from my virtual runs or the Dartford Bridge and they were at least half the price. With the rising cost of races it has become important that organisers understand what we want – Rat Race who organise Bedgebury, as indicated above, really do offer a great day out, but the price of this 10km and ones like it are too much – especially at times of austerity. I would heartily recommend that if you considering any race – be it 10km, half marathon or even an ultra then look around, there are great value, hugely atmospheric races at very inexpensive rates. Some people like the big races and the special medals but for me, increasingly, there is something more valuable, and that is having a great time and that doesn’t need to cost a large sum.

Enjoy whatever races you’ve got coming up guys


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