Been having some interesting discussions with a group of race directors recently. One of the topics is if runners make decisions about what races to run by whether the race or RD pockets some of the proceeds. There are a range of business structures out there in the ultra world: from volunteer where all proceeds go to a charity; to volunteer but expenses and maybe a small stipend are taken with remaining proceeds going to a charity; to non-profit organization with a board of directors and a paid RD; to businesses that are for-profit.
While, as an RD myself, I’m usually aware of the business structure of a race, I seldom make the decision on whether to run a race based on whether the RD is paid or not. Judging by the range of races that are the most popular, most runners don’t either. Course, history, location, organization, etc seem to be bigger influences on the decision to run a race.
Do you care if an RD is paid or not? Whether a race is non-profit or for-profit? Even if you do care about it idealistically, does it actually make a difference on whether you run a race or not?
I would hope that all RDs profit from their races in some way. They put in a lot of hard work and initiative. Profits compensate them for their troubles and probably help play a part in keeping them going, giving us more races to run.
I consider if the RD is being paid ususally only if the price of the entry fee is remarkebaly higher than other similar races. There are a few races I will not do again becasue of this.
Doesn’t matter to me. If I want to donate or fundraise, I will typically choose a smaller race or marathon to use as that catalyst. Would you mind explaining a bit how profits are usually handled though? I am fairly clueless as to how you guys usually disperse the earnings.
Tim, some races write a check to a charity or organization for all net proceeds each year after all expenses are paid. Hard to distinguish those from races that write a check for a portion of their net proceeds. Both of these types of races usually list their beneficiary on their website. The non-profits with boards and paid or non-paid RDs will have listed a purpose on their application for non-profit status with the IRS and state. You can find their 990s on the web as they are public. The businesses that [usually] put on several races a year may or may not write checks to charities which might be different for each race they put on. You can usually dig around on race websites for this information (or you could write the RD and ask). Hope that helps.
Yes, thanks Craig.
I agree with Bev…I don’t really care. Unless its $50 for a 5k or $500 for a 100 miler. Then I wonder.
If there is a large prize purse, then I may not care anyway.
Brett, I don’t understand the second part of your comment.
My rule: “If it looks like poop and smells like poop…”
I’ve found myself shying away from races or “directorships” that seem to either manufacture races or seem to try to grope for ways to make more money. Leadville is the leading example: laden with “Lifetime”-this and that, having six different RUNS (and another charged “training” weekend), and charging for ridiculous add-ons (read: IV bag fiasco). All these things make me hesitant to run such a storied event.
Races and directors pooping on tradition for financial reasons is also a major detraction.
Ultras don’t have to be hippie co-ops. I consume them like anything else: I want value, I will pay for a quality product, and I feel those supplying it deserve an honest compensation.
But the poop doesn’t have to pile too high or be too rank to be noticed…
Lifetime had nothing to do with creation of the Leadville Race Series. Ken and Merilee created that all on their own providing the minimal amount and achieving maximum profit. I think the purchase of the races by Lifetime will improve the quality of the whole experience. All the things I have heard or seen have been positive. They are paying for a new trail to be constructed that will avoid using Winfield road, they added extra aid and have/are improving online tracking. There is also rumor of a prize purse this year. Seem like all things positive.
I don’t really pay much attention to that stuff. Although, I do think if it is a for-profit venture the expectation of quality increases. The old “you get what you pay for” deal.
In most cases it doesn’t make a difference to me when deciding to run a race or not. However, I won’t volunteer at a for-profit race unless I’m getting something in return, such as a free or discounted entry to a future race. I’ll gladly volunteer with no expectations of compensation for a non-profit race.
I am not concerned wither the RD gets paid or not, if it is a race I want to do.
But I have done races just to support/help the charity, that the race was helping.
Where I would not of done the race if it was not for a charity fund raser.
It seems to me that the RD’s who “own the race” make it what it is for the runners and everyone else including the photographer(me). Salary or profit doesn’t change that ownership in the least in my experience (limited as it is) Billie Holiday, amongst others, was person who understood “mileage” better than most…her comment? ” ain’t nobody’s business what I do…” which I take to mean, let me do my thing as I do it and if it works for you don’t ask me no questions that are none of your concern( Lynyrd Skyrnd sort of said that too)
Don’t care either way. I do agree with AJW, that the expectations are higher, which I think they should be. Julie Fingar comes to mind. She puts on quality events from beginning to end… and you to LB. Waldo is all quality, even though you take no cash from the event. That is unless you sold my headlamps I have always forgotten to pick up after the race.
Hah! Grae, your unclaimed headlamps go to the poor Eugene area ultrarunners who go “shopping” in the lost and found box, usually after a huntin’ expedition. They have to sift through good stuff like smelly socks, shirts sticky from squished gel packets, and rotten food. It’s a lovely mix of stuff. I’ll dig through myself and mail items that runners ask for but I don’t go through the unclaimed drop bags and mail it unprompted. But now that I have an assistant….
Wasn’t fishing for a compliment but thanks.
I don’t care and don’t pay attention. I care how much I pay for a race and what I get in return as a racer. If it is a good amount of service (the race, the swag, the experience, the course, the organization, and subjective criteria I leverage as the shopper) for the dollars spent, then I am happy. If the RD makes clams off of that, great.
I guess it would only be an issue if it were touted as some sort of charitable event.
With limited funds for race fees, I am a bit more likely to “splurge” on an extra little race if I know it’s going to a worthy charity. But for an ultra that I’m training and planning ahead for, that’s not a factor. I want it well-run, so if the RD gets paid, that’s fine. Probably even a good thing.
I don’t care if a RD is paid or not. However, I avoid the higher cost races no matter if its going to a charity or to a for profit business.
The answer is very race specific. As an RD, I know that a number of people participate in my races because of “the cause”. In similar local races I would be disappointed if the RD received remuneration that would undermine the proceeds going to a charity. On the other hand, I participate in a number of races where I don’t know where the money goes and I don’t really care – I’m there because of the race (and all the aspects thereof.) Most of us are quite aware that “Rock n Roll” is a profit-driven machine – but we will run their races if/when it fits our needs/schedules. Perhaps the more important issue is that of transparency – don’t advertise that something is for a charity and then pay the RD. (If things are clearly explained that a “portion” of the fee will be go to a charity, I think the runners would presume that some of the money is going to pay for administrative expenses.)
“Rock-n-Roll” and the like aside, is race directing really that profitable? Until now, I’d assumed “not really” and hence have never given it a lot of thought. “Love for the sport” and charity not withstanding, I would think the RD should receive some remuneration; it looks like a LOT of work.
By now, when the sport is developed so much that way too many races have paid RD’s and put quality races, it doesn’t matter to me. A few points do: when the RD gets the full (or most) profit, hopefully he charges fair entry fee (a.k.a. not blown out of proportion) in line with other races in the area, he delivers fair care during a race (in line with others charging similar fees), he doesn’t advertise that the race is non-profit, and he somehow pays or treats fairly his volunteers (because if he gets paid, but the people that help him for hours and sometimes days do it for nothing but their own beliefs, it kind of odd-sounding). The donation cause are sometimes not important to me, so at this point I rather have RD and his helpers get something and put their heart into the race and runners (and not feel resentful, because I’ve seen that too).
I actually had another opinion rolling in my head after a weekend at Cactus Rose I wanted to write about. I think every runner (especially ultrarunner) has to volunteer at the race, and not only by marking the course (a jog in the woods with glow sticks is awesome help, but still nice for a runner), but by serving an AS. First of all, you’ll see how much work and patience goes into setting up and ultra. But most importantly, your (ultrarunner) help is invaluable for those other ultrarunners. Because anybody can cut watermelons, pour drinks into the cups and make Ramen noodles, that’s what Mom and Pop and wife/hubby and kids are for. Only another ultrarunner can offer advice and figure out the help and say the right words and…you get the idea. If each of us gave back, our races would have been better off. Especially for those new folks coming in and not knowing much.
Sorry to highjack the topic, may be you can write about it later?
Olga, we’ve beaten mandatory volunteerism to death on this blog. Thanks for your comment, though.
I didn’t mean to sound like mandatory. Just a call to the heart:) If it’s mandatory, it won’t be worth much if resented (unless discovered while mandatory that it is something they love to do:)).
Anyhow, in a meantime, Bret below said it well for me too.
Don’t really care either way as a runner. I also do not think about where the money from my entry fee goes. This is a race/run not a charity event. If I want money to go to a certain charity I will donate it myself. Not to say things like “Race for the Cure” etc are not a good thing. But I do want most of my entry fee to pay for the things we as runners will want during and after the race.
For how much work I put into our race I could take the entire entry fee of all the runners and it still wouldn’t pay me for how much time I put in. For me it is just my way of giving back to a sport I knew nothing about 10 years ago. I think many RD’s including myself ending paying for quite a few things that we never get reimbursed for, such as mileage, items we buy and lose the receipt, etc. Now that is my fault but it is just how I what to do it. As long as the race is about the runners I don’t care whether it is for profit or not.
For me there’s probably two different takes. I would hope on the local level that a person would be inclined to do an event in their area if the proceeds were known to go to a worthwhile local cause vs going somewhere else to a similar type race (paid RD, charitable or no). Somewhat self-serving since French Kiss and I put on some small local events that raise money for college scholarships for ag studies, and most recently, a local K-9 program. For the most part we try to reimburse ourselves for actual expenses prior to making the donation, but in the early days some events did end in the red so we could make a substantial donation. There’s always the tax write-off to fall back on.
On the other hand, if I have my mind set on a certain event, I typically don’t worry about where the money goes provided it’s a good event. Not sure I’d be inclined to buy into Leadville though. As you know LB, I have been known to make substantial $30 donations ABOVE the entry fee, just because.
But now that you mention it, it really pisses me off that I paid $1.60 and a pair of dress socks and $20 for a shirt to get into Barkley and there was no aid and the RD pocketed the cash and the socks! To make up for it I mailed a donation to the state park so I could feel better. No offense LB, but it was more than $30! 😉
White Trash, there is no way we’ll ever forget your generous donation of $30 to the willamette pass ski patrol way back in 2005. We were able to buy two boxes of 4x4s with it 🙂
As for Barkley, doesn’t Laz also collect license plates from you guys? He’s making a killing off that torture fest.
For a person with time on their hands- make up a two column “game” with event name in one column, and another column with charitable organizations that receive part or all of the proceeds (or for profit only). Jumble up the two columns, publish it, and see who can correctly match the race with the cause.
I’m all for RD’s making a bit of cash, BUT I expect the race to be well run. This includes quality items at aid stations, i.e., salt, some brand of gels AND a high quality drink mix (not Gatorade). Yes, this stuff can be expensive, but I want my money go towards that rather than in the pocket of the RD.
Why is this so difficult? This is a question for RD’s. Why is it that a lot aid stations at races (50k to 100 miles) have a ton of crappy food and nothing I actually want? I don’t want cookies, candy or Doritos. I know aid stations are run by volunteers and they are often the ones buying food, but RD’s should insist on certain items being available. I ran a number of races this year and only one had a consistent supply of gels and a drink mix – The Bear. The Bear is a low key race and has one of the lower entry fees around. Why can’t higher profile races (which charge a lot more) do this as well?
It seems simple to me, but maybe that’s why I’m not a RD.
Jim, my advice to you is to provide feedback to the specific RDs of the races in question. Tell him/her what you would have liked at the aid stations and what you didn’t like. Many of us (not all) do actually listen to the feedback from runners.
As for the food choices, there are a couple of different models for getting aid station food. One extreme is for the RD to give money to each aid station captain and let them buy the food. That is going to be less work for the RD but could result in inconsistent food options at aid stations. If a race has aid station captains with little or no experience or who aren’t endurance athletes, this could result in less than desirable food choices. The other extreme is for the RD to buy everything and then give the captains those supplies. That is more work for the RD but results in consistent, and hopefully useful, food options at the aid stations. And, of course, an RD could use some hybrid of the two models.
As to your question specifically about gels and drink mixes, many races have gel or drink sponsors and they put out whatever is provided by the sponsor. Not making excuses for any RDs, but if that is insufficient then buying gatorade at Costco is pretty darn simple. Never seen GuBrew or Hammer products at Costco or my local grocery store.
Thanks for the response!
We are finding that more and more parks that we use are including a clause in their permits banning the RD(s) from giving out gels due to littering issues. We always have Clif Bloks and Clif Shot Electrolyte Drink at our aid stations, but for this reason we now only have Clif Shots on occasion. We advise on our website and in the pre-race instructions that runners who REQUIRE certain items such as gels to carry them or put them a drop bag.
And while we have fresh fruit, boiled potatoes and salt, pumpkin pie (seasonally) and jerky, we also have cookies, candy, and tortilla chips, as many runners do want those items.
This is disturbing, Sarah. I know the occasional inadvertent drop of a single gel packet may occur, but if parks are now banning their use the volume must be significant. Are runners littering deliberately? I remember a couple years ago at Javelina the race warned that anybody caught littering would be disqualified. The “police officer” was hiding, caught somebody throwing a banana peel, and then DQ’ed him. Caused a big stink on the ultralist and at the race. I’d hate to think we’d need to take that sort of drastic measure to get people to realize that littering does have negative consequences other than just the fact that it looks bad. And, I sure hope runners don’t feel more inclined to litter if the race is for-profit.
From my experience, littering seems to be most common among the non-ultra distance runners who come from a road racing background, where it’s acceptable or at least common at many races to toss cups and orange peels on the ground after passing through the aid stations.
The Golden Gate National Rec Area, who permits trails in the Headlands and a few in Woodside, as well as Crissy Field and other venues, has banned gels, as have some other agencies.
And I was at JJ100 that year, too. (I think that may have been our green nail polish year.) For what it’s worth, that runner tossed the peel inside the aid station, not “out on the course”. While I don’t believe in posting ‘officials’ on the course or DQ’ing people who drop litter at an aid station, we do ask people to let us know if they witness their fellow runners intentionally littering on the course itself.
Ugh. The GGNRA, WHICH permits…
I have been sweep/trash collector for a few races on both coasts over the past few years (Javelina Jundred 100, Rocky Raccoon 50/100 and Bull Run Run 50). Each year the dropped trash situation seems to be getting worse. Back 5+ years ago the sweep would gather the ribbon’s or trail markings and perhaps a few gel wrappers that had been likely unintentionally dropped.
This past year at RR100/50 and JJ100 a small grocery store bag was not sufficient to collect all the trash (cups, gels, tissues, bottles, wrappers…).
Having been a competitor at JJ100 and Rocky Racoon I was a bit miffed about having to bend down and pick up trash pretty frequently considering my quads were already burning.
I have seen runners toss out trash and it does make me angry. Unfortunately although I take lots of pictures along the run, I have not had the opportunity to have my camera on when this has occured (and describing a person to the RD is a bit pointless even if I do remember at the next aid station or the finish).
“What’s the cause for your race?” A question I’d get fairly often when I put on events but mostly for shorter road races. 5ks used to be synonymous for “charity”. My answer was always, “Rent”.
When people tell me they’re thinking about putting on a running race to raise money for something I tell them to have a bake sale. It’ll raise more money.
Race directing, as Craig can attest, is a ton of work. 98% of event participants have no idea of how much goes into each event. It’s a job you have to love because when you figure out the per hour pay, it’s depressing (if you don’t love the job).
There is absolutely nothing wrong with RDs earning a living developing races. Do you ask the movie theater how much of your ticket price is donated to charity? Do you prod the cashier at the grocery store, “What percentage of this $4.00 gallon of milk is going towards cancer?” Give to charities on your own. It’s not mandatory for RDs to do it. If the entry fee is fair and the race is done well, then zip it and enjoy it, or go run your local Race for the Cure 5k.
Now, races that overcharge and provide a cheap race, well that’s a different story.
I have similar feelings about, and I know this is off-topic, runners getting upset about not getting a full refund or transferring their entire entry to another event put on by the same RD when they miss a race for personal reasons. If they missed an A’s or 49’ers game because their car broke down or they had to work, would they expect a free ticket to another game? Or if they missed the ballet or a track meet because they were sick or couldn’t get child care, do they thing they could attend a later performace or meet without paying again?
We do give partial credit to those who cannot/do not attend (10% – 75% of the entry fee, depending on the amount of notice given), but people still complain.
Perhaps we get those questions more than many RDs because PCTR is a for-profit company and we host ~30 events a year, but I do know of many RDs of single or a few annual events receive these types of requests/complaints, too.
I do pay attention what charity or non-profit organization the race supports (high-school cross-country club, local e-responders, some charity etc …) and it sort of forms my attitude toward the race. I do occasionally run races which are for profit, but I really try to avoid big mega events which pay elites just to show up (i.e. large road marathons, not such thing in ultra yet). I think that subconsciously I am building some critical mass to avoid “for profit” events completely and I feel less and less attracted to events which offer cash prizes … but that’s another and quite long story. On the other hand, I think that it is totally OK that RD’s get somewhat compensated for their work. What means “somewhat” ? … I am not sure … they probably should not make living out of it. … in my mind that would sort of make the cut between “sport” and “entertainment” – such as movies.
Hard to sell that to the family.
“Honey, kids, I’m quitting my steady job and I’m going to work in the area I love: running. Especially trail running!”
“Can you make a living at that?”
I believe every major successful “charity race” does in fact have a fairly well-paid race director, even if that person is a once-a-year RD who is an employee of the non-profit. Whether his fee/salary is paid out of funds from the charities sponsors or by the funds collected through entry fees, but the money comes from somewhere, And if the work is done for free by a volunteer, it’s really out of the RD’s pocket — not that there’s anything wrong with that.
I have to agree with Footfeathers. Some people clearly have VERY exaggerated ideas of the profit versus actual time/expense for a quality race. It’s also a little cold to limit your charity donations to only when a race gets involved. “I’d totally support charity X if only they had a race I could do.”
Some think that RD’s should never be paid. Most think they should be paid. Some (like Vlad) think they should be paid, but there should be a limit.
So my question is: If an RD works full-time, year-round and puts on races that runners like and keep coming back to, what is an acceptable amount for him/her to make?
As much as a cashier at the grocery store? As much as a cop? Dentist? Doctor? Big-time car dealership owner? If he puts on 40 races a year, is it cool if he makes 4 times what the RD who puts on 4 a year makes? Or is that just greedy? What if he also only puts on 4 races a year, but has 10 times the participants?
I doubt any RD will ever join the “1%”, and I really don’t take any offense at it, but I am still fascinated by the “it’s cool if you make some money, just not too much” idea when it comes to a race.
Is that because you don’t think RD’ing is a “real” job? Do you feel the same about your own profession? Is that idea universal (for all professions) or specific only to running? I know a lot of RDs that I am pretty sure work much harder than a lot movie stars, but I don’t particularly begrudge Brad Pitt getting 20 million for a role, even when I don’t think he was worth it.
well … i was sorted out among others … so I probably should elaborate more on what I meant. Maybe my thinking is too fundamentalist, perhaps it will help to illustrate it a bit. If I see guys playing ice hockey on our local ice-ring it’s a sport. If I watch NHL – it is not a sport anymore. It’s a show. When I run ultra (being a mid-packer) it’s a sport. The guy who gets tens of thousands of dollars to show up at NYC marathon – it is not a sport anymore, its again just a show. No doubt he is really good at it, but it is not about sport anymore (in my opinion).
I admit I know very little about what RD’s daily life looks like. I can imagine it is a lot of work. I certainly do not think that any RD should pay for any part of my race, in other words every race should at least brake even no matter what. But if you make business from racing of the regular guys, you remove a good deal of “sport spirit” from it in my mind. Maybe RD’s devote a lot of time to one event (or perhaps two or three .. that is not the point), but hundreds of other volunteers and runners themselves devote a lot of time too – they just split it among multitude of events (couple hours at a time) or simply take care of the trails, and they never ask for anything (at least that is my experience).
If you think you are really good at RDing, and you would love to do it as your full time job …good luck to you, nothing against you, absolutely not. I am not sure what should be your yearly salary then … perhaps 40K ? … maybe 60K? or more ? … and I do not know how many events would you need to do to make living out of it. But I may not show up on your races as often as I would on some others. I know the ultra scene is changing, and I may be too naive, but I simply like the idea that races are organized for runners by the runners for the love of the sport. Sometimes you race, sometimes you fill water bottles. Sometimes you end up as RD.
Thanks for the answer, Vlad! Sorry to be so verbose. A little fuzzy on the basis for the reasoning, but I do get that it’s somewhat just a gut feeling and I’m not at all saying it’s a bad one.
Oddly, we are almost opposite on the whole sport/show part. I think of races where everyone is there for the purpose of winning (paid or otherwise), or at least beating as many people as possible as pretty much pure sport. I guess the Olympics or World Championships would be the ultimate pure sport event.
On the other hand, if all or a majority of runners are there for the company, the support, the schwag (to whatever degree, including shirt, medal/buckle, pictures, etc.), the convenience of letting someone else tell them where to run and for how long, the food and water, the post-race socializing, etc., I consider that a show. As a race director, I feel like a big part of my job is to put on that show and make it fun and memorable. And to that degree, I feel like I’m competing with other forms of entertainment activities, like movies, TV, video games, theme parks, golf courses, bumpers cars and even lots of restaurant experiences.
While I can empathize with the feeling that this amounts to an over-commercialization of running, it might also be what it takes to a) get enough people involved to support a quality event, b) get more of the general population active, healthy and supportive of efforts to protect and preserve parks and open spaces. And it isn’t as though there is no free/low-cost alternative to running in a race.
I’d say most races are really a combo of sport/show, the New York or Boston Marathon being extreme examples, but your typical 200-500 person trail race probably being better examples. At something like the North Face Championship or UROC, you’re probably going to get 30-40 elite-type guys out there for the cash and satisfaction of competing against other top athletes, but most runners are there for the show.
So I guess a lot of it boils down to taste and personal preferences and while I’m generally of the opinion that the masses have terrible taste (how more than 3 people in the US actually enjoy American Idol and Transformer movies is pretty baffling to me), if you are going to make a living selling/producing races, you can’t completely ignore what it will take to get people to the start line (hence the emphasis on the “show”).
None of this would ever excuse any RD putting on an inferior race where the customer (runner) feels as though they are getting less value back than what they paid in.
As a mid-packer, I’m not particularly concerned with who profits as much as the value of the race for what I get. I’ve run race for $20 that I enjoyed immensely. I’ve done lots for 5-10X that amount that I’ve also liked and been satisfied with. I’ve done one Rock and Roll race and it was sort of gun, and certainly the organization was exceptional, but I’m just not that much into flat, asphalt courses that are only occasionally scenic. Look at their numbers and you can tell I’m in the minority there for sure.
I think there’s a wide variety of races and I think that’s great. I know there’s an effort to “standardize” trail runs, and I think that’s coming from a good place, but I just hope it doesn’t lessen the feel of each race’s personality. From the local Fat Ass to Plain 100 to Barkley to WS and the North Face runs and all the smaller ones in between, I think runners find part of the fun is seeing/experiencing how each race presents itself. Some focus on/promote being “old school”, which usually means minimal support, no schwag and low prices and that’s cool, especially when it comes with a lower entry fee. Some races go out of their way to coddle you and load you up with schwag and aid stations every 2-3 miles and other such luxuries. That’s okay too. I often sleep at Motel 6 when on the road, but once in a while it’s kind of fun to stay at the Ritz if I can swing it.
If there is a greedy RD who is outright ripping runners off and just plain running a lousy race, I’d think/hope that eventually his races would get smaller and disappear.
If there are RDs who are in it because they love the sport, produce wildly popular events and make their runners, volunteers and community very happy, while being responsible and caring for the land, I don’t care if they make millions. I don’t know how they could (I’m sure not), but it wouldn’t bother me. And actually, they’d need a large staff at that point, so it would really be more about a race company (and its owners/shareholders) making a profit than a lone wolf RD simply cashing in his $20,000 paycheck each week!
I really appreciate your reply. I find it very interesting how opposite is your view of what is sport and what is show. I will need some time to digest this. My perception of the sport of ultra running, the community, various races and people+organizations involved in this is constantly evolving. This means my view may change. But honestly, pretty major thing which ruled me into ultra was how altruistic the sport seems to be. It is somewhat of a surprise to see how money works behind the scenes, although it still is way less than in regular road-running. On the other hand, it is clear that organizing a 5K race to support local X-country club is different story than staging a 50 miler.
Just let me know if I’ve been too brief and you’d like me to expand on any point! Didn’t realize how long that was until I saw it posted up. Holy schnike!
Maybe you should write a guest post, Joe RD 🙂 Thanks for the thoughtful comments.
I agree, Craig – well said, Joe!
I have no problem with a race making a profit, as long as the experience is quality. I do kick myself for paying over $100 for a 50 mile race that does not give the same value back to it’s runners. But the all volunteer races though are the most soulful, I find.
What is a bit irkful however is the 100 mile races that charge $400 because the demand is so high in the sport at the moment. These races have a mega marketing budget and don’t need to disclose their numbers to anyone. At least not-for-profits have to publicly reveal their numbers (correct me if I am wrong).
Dave, you can find many non-profit races’ tax returns here:
Of course, many smaller races don’t actually have non-profit numbers so they wouldn’t have a 990 filed.
Sorry to be late to the party. This is a really interesting issue for me. I would like to bring up something out of the realm of ultra running though….
I ran in the Boise Dirty Dash this summer. This is one of those muddy, obstacle type courses, which have been popping up all over in the last year or so. The dirty dash was a lot like a frat party for runners, complete with PBR in a can at the “aid” station. Runners are encouraged to dress up in wild costumes, and run in teams.
I had little idea of what to expect on race day. What I experienced was nothing short of chaos. They were still registering “runners” the morning of the race. There were so many runners, that they had to start in waves, beginning at 08:30 and going through noon! There were so many runners on the 10K course that you had to wait in line at the mud pits and obstacles. It was not possible to really race the course, and I am not sure that the organizers wanted people to race, as there was no time keeping system provided. At the end of the race, much of the food and water was gone before even half of the runners finished, but there was plenty of beer.
So to give an overall picture, remember that each runner paid $45 ($65 if you waited till the day of) for a 10K. There was somewhere in the neighborhood of 4000 paid entrants, and many many many unregistered runners or “poachers.” Now I am not a math major, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that the people who run the Dirty Dash series made boat load of money that day. I have no way of knowing how much the Dirty Dash people paid in expenses, but it seems reasonable that they made in the neighborhood of $100,000.
The event is held at Bogus Basin ski area, so it is public forest service land, with a special use permit for the ski area. For my registration fee, I got a tshirt, one can of PBR, several chances to flail myself in several mud pits and the biggest slip and slide I have ever seen.
Ski patrol provided medical assistance. The course and aid station were run by volunteers. With all the drinking water gone, it felt as if they were encouraging beer drinking by selling cheap and plentiful microbrew beer. Normally I have no problem with people drinking at running events, but remember that there is 19 miles of winding mountain road and about 3000 vertical feet between Boise and Bogus Basin. Add to that the huge number of visitors to the area that day, combined with the normal amount of recreational and mountain bike traffic on the road that day, and it was a recipe for disaster.
Then the next day, the company that puts on this race, packs up and moves on to the next location in the series, leaving Bogus Basin to rehab all of the mud, water, and garbage. I went for a run the trail a week later and still found lots of trash, and bits of costumes. No wonder the company logo is a pig . . .
I will not be doing another such race ever again. But this for profit experience did remind me that it is my responsibility to be aware of the profit status of a race, and think twice before I choose to participate.
Sounds horrible. As a race consumer, I’m a little leery of the “mud runs”. I’m all for anything that gets people outside and moving, but I just don’t get excited by the man-made mud pits and people mugging for the camera with the attitude of “We’re crazy man! We’ve got mud on our face and we’re drinking beer. It’s i-n-s-a-n-e!!!”
But if you’re going to put on a race like that (and apparently the demand is huge, so I can’t really blame anyone for putting them on), you do have to do it right and that’s true whether there’s a charity involved or not. I don’t think it’s a “for profit” or “not for profit” issue. Whether they work for free or get paid the big bucks, professional race directors and race management companies that care about the environment and their reputation (and their future success) don’t leave messes behind them when they leave a park.