For-Profit Races are Charitable Organizations Too

“The result of charity is often beyond calculation”

When I worked in the obstacle racing industry, we got a lot of questions about our races:
“How long is the race?”
“What should I wear?”
“How hard are the obstacles?”
“Will there be a lot of mud?”
“Can I run with a group?”

Pretty typical. Then there were the inevitable ones based on the million-dollar (or in our case, $50- to $80-dollar) question:
“How much does it cost?”
“What do I get for that fee?”
“That’s way too expensive, I’m not participating if it costs that much!”
(Notice that last one isn’t actually a question – I’ll explain that soon…)

Then came the ones that could get really tough:
“How much of the fee goes to the charity?”
“Why doesn’t my entire entry fee go to the charity?”
“I won’t support your race because 100% of entry fees don’t go to the charity!”

Obstacle-Race-Event

PR & Marketing Director by day – event team/construction/set-up at every race!

Things often escalated from questions to angry statements. On the one hand, I get it; A) people want to know they’re getting good value for their money and B) they want to support charities (races have become synonymous with charitable giving). But on the other, I think people forget that when he or she signs up for a race, it’s no different than going to a movie or going out to dinner. You’re paying for a service. From a business.

True, a lot of races out there are strictly non-profit and put on solely to raise money for a charity or cause. They’re also run by volunteers and larger organizations that are financially supported on their own, allowing them to donate all race fees to a charity. And that’s great. But why the anger and judgment towards for-profit race companies? Is it because so many races involve a charitable component that it’s sort of become the expectation all races support charities? You don’t expect the movie theater owner to give all ticket proceeds to charity. You wouldn’t boycott a local restaurant because the owners don’t donate 100% of food sales to charity. So why should a race company be expected to give its profits to a charity?

Obstacle-Race

After pulling off a successful event, we didn’t stop – time to teardown & plan the next one.

I’ve seen it in my years as a participant in the racing world but I really understood it when I worked for a race event company. Our team put in so much hard work, physical labor, sweat and passion into executing each and every race we held. And that was just the race itself. Our small team put that same dedication into the business of creating these events, from our race director sourcing port-a-potty companies to our IT manager making sure online registration process was smooth and easy for customers to our volunteer coordinator pulling together hundreds of people to help our small team pull off these events to the world-class level our runners deserved. Everyone wore multiple hats and put in a ton of hours to provide an experience to customers.

For-profit race companies aren’t greedy companies trying to take all of your money and run (pun intended). They’re businesses providing a service. With real people who work real hours and deserve to earn real salaries, bonuses, PTO and health benefits. It takes a lot of time and energy, people and planning, supplies and money to put on races, whether a 10k or triathlon, an obstacle race, mud run or color run – every race. This goes way beyond the cost of your finisher’s shirt and medal.

Race-Company

We didn’t pay pros to model on our signs – that’s just me & our course director.

Beyond providing us with a form of entertainment, race companies give us even more than that – encouragement, a sense of achievement and health. Training for a race gives us a reason to push ourselves in the gym and show up every day, especially the tough ones where we’re just not feeling it. Finishing a race makes us feel amazing about ourselves. And the cycle of doing another race and another keeps us motivated to stay physically healthy. If that’s not charitable and helping the greater good, I don’t know what is.

Think about that next time you register for a race and are tempted to balk at the $60 race fee. You’re paying for more than a shirt, you’re paying for an experience.

I write this as I’m about to run a local race on Saturday. The Fargo Mini Marathon is a race I try to do every year and put on by GoFarEvents, a local race company in Fargo that puts on a ton of great running events, from 5ks to marathons to youth runs. I love all the opportunities the GoFarEvents team brings to the community and they put on fantastic events – plus, the company does plenty of charitable work and donates a lot to the community (much of that is done “behind the scenes” tho so most people don’t see it). So I’m always thrilled to support and participate in its events. Side note, I’m hoping for a PR in the half marathon and just to enjoy the 5k afterward!

Do you agree with my point of view? Are there local races you love to support because of the good they bring the community? Or are you one who feels races should completely support charitable organizations? Leave a comment or tweet me @runlikeagirl311 on Twitter.

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