Sunday, September 1, 2013

Six Ways to Avoid Paying the Race Entry Fee

I could have written a bitchy post complaining about the price of entry fees for endurance events and how, back in the day, a sprint triathlon used to cost $20 back yadda yadda but instead I've decided to be helpful and compiled some ideas on how to avoid entry fees altogether.

Volunteer

One of the huge challenges of putting on a running or triathlon event is finding and coordinating volunteers. How profitable event companies convince people to work for them for free in the first place is a mystery to me (note to self for future blog post).

However, this common need for free labor can be seized upon and many race directors will be prepared to dish you a free entry for a future race if you offer, or recruit someone else, to help out at one of their events. I've even helped out the day before at registration (which is a far better job than being stuck on a street corner with an orange vest and a flag for hours) and raced the next day. It was a nice little arrangement.

Win

On the couple of rare occasions I've won an event I've usually been invited back the next year for free. It's worth asking if it's not offered to you. Unfortunately, attracting fast athletes to races seems less and less of a priority (see Competitor Groups recent decision to dump support of elite athlete fields) so simply having good performances might not get you a comped entry.

If you're speedy try sending a nice resume, and promising some collateral marketing, like a blog post previewing the race and some social media love and you might get in for nix. Finish Line Productions in California has the novel idea of giving away race credits as age group prizes at its events to use for future events.

Corporate

Team Building! Running a relay with your work buddies is a much better option than falling back into each others arms in the conference room IMHO. I've had great times at corporate paid events; a team adventure race at the Sea Otter Classic, Seagate paid my entry for years to the Wharf to Wharf when they were the major sponsor and Tuesday I've taken the afternoon off work to go run the JP Morgan Chase Corporate Challenge in San Francisco. If you work it right you can get time off work, and travel reimbursed as well, in exchange for your competitive endorphin fix. Win, win, win.

Don't wait around for it to be offered the opportunity either. Find a team event, some sporty work mates and pitch it to your Corporate Communications people. If you do it right you'll come across as a motivated team oriented employee and not distracted endurance junkie who can't wait to get out of the office.

Competitions

I'm struggling to think of a specific example but some events will raffle off free entries (most times long before the event) to promote it. Follow your favorite events on Twitter and Facebook in case something comes up. International destination races are particularly susceptible to these types of promotions.

Sponsors

Oftentimes, as part of the sponsorship package, a limited number of free entries are given to businesses or clubs officially supporting the event. These might not even be taken advantage of by the recipients so it might be worth shmoozing up to a sponsor if you have a connection. Offer to race in their t-shirt at the event and they might happily hook you up with a free entry.

Bandit

I've never done it myself. Not necessarily because I have a particularly strong moral objection to it (although I do think it's a pretty rude thing to do) but because half the reason I race is to see myself in the results. But, it is a way to race for free minus the crappy t-shirt and medal you'll throw in the drawer and forget about.
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