So what I'm going to do is something very few races do. I'm going to share with you the financials from last weekends Tommyknocker Ultramarathons. Keep in mind, that putting on that one race involved hundreds of hours of work on my part, that I have not been paid for, nor will I be paid for years to come if at all. Race Directing, especially first year races, is not as lucrative as some people think. For instance, the number I shared above, $3500, is a fraction of how much I'm actually in the hole to pay for the infrastructure of the race series. I haven't made that back yet and not sure when I actually will. Thankfully, a number of local runners donated to our Indiegogo Campaign to help defray some of those costs.
The Tommyknocker Ultras saw 42 registered runners. Seven of those runners were comp entries (for various reasons). Total income for the race from all paying runners was about $3,775. This is the money we had to work with in order to make the race happen. Let's look at where that money went.
Awards: $11 each x 40. We had about 40 awards handmade here in Colorado from a local artisan. They charged us $11 per award. You never know how folks are going to do at your race. We started 37 runners and had a 65% finishers race.. So we didn't need 40 awards but I'd rather make sure everyone has an award than have someone cross the finish line and get nothing. Total: $440.
Aid Station Food: I went to costco a few days before the race and bought the aid stations foods. I bought sodas, chips, bananas, watermelon, grapes, gummy bears, snickers, m&m's (plain and peanut), hard boiled eggs, wraps, hummus, bread, peanut butter, jelly, paper plates and bowls, utensils, aluminum trays to hold food in. I also bought some whiskey at a local liquor store. I spent about $500 on aid station food.
Water: I was able to get 5 Gallon Jugs of water. These usually cost about $9 each but was able to get the water for the event, 17 5-gallon jugs, donated by Eldorado Springs Water and we thank them. Cost: $0
Pre-Race Meal: The local county government required that either we have a food license, or whomever prepared our pre-and post race meals has a food license. Our race host, Camp Elim, has a food license so we asked them to cook for us. We paid about $342 to feed everyone the pre-race pasta feed.
Post Race Meal: Same thing, we had to find a local vendor to cook for us, deliver the food, and at a reasonable rate. $238 fed everyone a pretty simple BBQ meal at the race. I honestly wish it was a little better but, compared to some post-race food I've had.. it wasn't that bad.
Bib Numbers: $9
Insurance: You have to insure yourself, and all the other land managers who permit your race. For Tommyknocker, we had to add additionally insured for the host Camp Elim, The United States Forest Service, and the County. It cost $100 to join the RRCA, then $158 to insure the race. This fee is based on the number of runners and volunteers you have. Over a certain number and that rate increases. For this race, we paid $158.
Shirts: If you get screen printed shirt, you need to do what is called a futures order. This means, you have to order the number of shirts, and in correct sizes, for the runners you "think" you're going to get. You place this order 3 months or more out from your event. We went with Sublimation and our friends at Brand Evolutions West hooked us up with quality shirts and a great design. Shirts for everyone cost $7 a shirt +tax. So far I've paid $375 for shirts. Late registrants still need theirs and it'll likely run us an extra $100.
Course Marking: Surveyors tape, surveyors flagging, clothes pins and the reflective tape on them, ground paint, laminated signs for out on the course and at the aid stations. Total: $30.
EMS/Sheriff: The County Sheriff's Department wanted to charge us about $600 to have a deputy on patrol during the entire event. We managed to talk them down to what we needed. Which was a deputy at 2-2:30a, another from 8a-8:30a and then one from Noon to 8pm on the road that the runners run out and back on from the start/finish. Total: $240.
Permits: The county did not charge us for a permit but the USFS did. It equates to 5% of your income for the event. So far we've paid them $137. We owe them $52 more. Total: $188.75
Porta Potties: We had to rent 2 of them for the start/finish line so we wouldn't overwhelm camp elm's septic. This cost us $290 for the weekend. The only deliver on Friday and pick up on Monday. So you have to rent for the entire weekend.
Electrolytes: We bought GU Brew from GU Energy Labs at a discounted rate, and S-Caps from Succeed! at Full price. We spent about $200 on electrolytes for our runners. NO HEED!! :)
Rent: Camp Elim was our event host. They not only cooked our pre race meal but they put up with us for the weekend. We paid them another $305.. which is about $5 per person who was on site for the race on Saturday.
Awards: Othman Doubiany carried a 50 lb rock about 3.5 miles to the finish line. When he crossed, I gave him a check for $250. I bought a few frames and printed the other awards out on photo paper. I haven't included this cost as it came out of my personal pocket.
So.. we had $3,775 to work with for the race. After expenses, we ended up in the black... a whole $110. Guess where that $110 goes? Right back into the race series to pay off that other $3500 we're in the whole from infrastructure. Think about that for a minute. I worked for 2 years to put on this ONE race. I struggled and ripped my hair out just to get permits. In the end, I made $110 on the race we put on for 42 people. Then, I took that money, and paid some bills, for the races, with it.
Why did I lay all of this out there? Easy.. there are a number of Race Directors who will tell you that expenses for a race are incurred MONTHS in advance. This may be true but it doesn't have to be. I paid for 95% of my races expenses, the week of the race. I'm not sure if I'll always be able to do this, but for this years Tommyknocker, that was the case. It will be the same case for our second race, the Indian Creek Fifties. There are a lot of expenses involved with a race as we've pointed out. Maybe all the other RD's are paying the bills too.. so most of the money is gone and their in the hole too.. for awhile.. but really.. you don't pay for much more than 2 months out.
There are a number of folks out there who think that just because Ultra Running is experiencing a boom, they're going to get into Race Directing and make a pretty buck doing it. Maybe so.. but it's going to take a few years before that is even close to a reality. Directing a race is expensive from a monetary stand-point, and a time standpoint.. and time is money. It may be 3 or more years before it's truly worth it to most. For me, when that first runner crossed the finish line, it was totally worth it to me despite all the time and money that had to be spent.
Race Directing is NOT an easy gig. You are responsible for everyone and everything that happens during your race. From top to bottom. You not only have to be willing to take on the financial burdens of the race, but the risk and responsibility for all runners and spectators alike. In the end, your race director puts a lot of time, money and effort to make these races happen. THANK THEM. You'll be able to tell the ones who truly love what they do.. they don't complain about it, and they keep going for years to come.
This is Part 5 of a multi-part series focusing on the ins and outs of race directing. You can read the previous three parts by clicking their links below:
Part 1: The Decision
Part 2: Your Course
Part 3: Permits
Part 4: Infrastructure