Why Are Marathons So Expensive?

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Why are marathons so expensive? A few different factors drive the cost of marathons, including location, planning, and accommodations.

Has the world of big business ruined the joy of running marathons? As the cost to run these high-intensity races continues to skyrocket, more and more runners are abandoning organized races and doing their own underground competitions. As for why marathons are so expensive, the hefty price tag is behind city municipal department and police charges, permits, equipment, staff wages, and other factors.

The Economics Behind Running A Marathon

RunningUSA claims that since 2007, the average cost of running marathons has gone up 35%. This rate is more than the cost of inflation. 

One example of the rapidly rising cost of marathons can be seen in the New York Marathon. In 2004, it cost $80 to run this race. Today, the price is $255. 

If you ask the marathon organizers why the costs of marathons continue to rise, they cite the charges accumulated by city municipal departments and police. The city provided these services for free in the past, but many don’t anymore. However, there is much more to the equation than these rising municipal costs. 

These are some of the things that are required for marathons:

  • Hydration stations
  • Medical personnel
  • Medals
  • Porta-potties
  • Shirts
  • Food
  • Charitable donations
  • Shuttle buses
  • Stocked aid stations
  • Prize winnings
  • Security
  • Traffic police
  • City permits

Beyond the municipal costs is the fact that many of the larger races employ people full-time. Some community races have volunteers, but a team of paid workers is usually needed for big races. 

why are marathons so expensive
A marathon should have a medical personnel

Hidden Costs Of Running Marathons

Besides the entry fee for running a marathon, there are a lot of other costs that are naturally built in. Of course, there are travel costs for getting to the marathon and back home. Also, in most races, runners have to provide their own accommodations. 

That doesn’t go into the cost of gear you need to run a marathon, which includes hydration tools, running shoes, and more. 

For example, Disney organizes half marathons, 10Ks, and full marathons.

In addition to the entry fees, you have to pay extra for a pasta dinner, commemorative pin, and VIP viewing. There are also fees for pre-race and post-race amenities. And none of this includes the exorbitant cost of staying at the theme park.

You might be interested in our explainer on what do marathon runners think about.

Why Are Marathons So Expensive?

Many marathons started out as fundraisers for organizations such as local high school track teams. However, the marathon circuit has captured the attention of some dollar-oriented entities and global conglomerates, including these.

  • Venture-capital investors
  • Disney
  • Commissions for ticket vendors 
  • Multi-million-dollar IPOs
  • Cash-strapped cities

However, the main reason the cost of running marathons continues to rise is that there are simply more runners in the sport. In short, marathons are a victim of their own success. Since 2000, the number of marathon runners has risen by more than 47%. 

With these types of numbers, marathons have attracted the attention of investors who envision huge profits in a sport that used to be dominated by nonprofit organizations such as the New York Road Runners. 

The plain truth is that marathons have become big business for organizations that are focused more on profit than on sport and community. 

Runner finishes first in the marathon
Marathon sponsored by some dollar-oriented entities

Check out our explainer on when to take energy gels during a half marathon.

FAQs About Why Are Marathons So Expensive  

Are Marathons Worth It?

Human beings are built for running. If you have the commitment to being a marathon runner, it can be worth the expense and effort. 
Here are some of the benefits.

Improved cardiovascular health
Production of mood-lifting endorphins
Better mental health
No equipment needed
Sense of accomplishment

What Is The Most Expensive Marathon?

According to Climbers.net, the current most expensive marathon in the world is the North Pole Marathon, which costs just over $20,000 for an all-inclusive package. 

The best value for high-profile marathons if you have a large budget is the World Marathon Challenge, which consists of seven marathons on seven continents in seven days (7/7/7). This race costs just over $32,000, which includes your travel once you arrive at the first destination. 

What Is The Average Cost Of A Marathon?

Many variables go into marathon pricing, so there’s not really an average cost, although some estimates ring in at about $112. However, you can estimate approximately $20 for running a community marathon. To run big-city marathons, expect to pay between $150 and $300 for your entry fee.