5 Strategies to Save Money on Your Next Race Registration


- Brandon Cullum

One of the most common questions we get at the races we produce: "Is there a discount?"  We get it, we ask the same things on the races we enter.  I recently had a conversation with a friend about what races we wanted to do in the fall.  Want to know what the biggest hindrance was?  It wasn't training, mileage or even time of year... it was cost.

Stride Nation put out a great piece in 2012 on the increase of race price in the US.  At that point the 5 largest races in the country had increased in price by 65%.  As runner's we pride ourselves on telling our monthly-fee-paying-premium-gym-membership friends that our gym is the great outdoors and it's free!

That's until you drop $150 for the next Rock-n-Roll Marathon, before travel and housing.  

So we want to help, here are 5 ways we have found that can save you money.

1. Ask for a Discount

Discounts exist, especially for larger races.  In the checkout registration area you've seen the area for a promo code, that's because they are out there, sometimes you just have to ask.  So how do you ask?

  • Google it: You would be surprised how much you could save and what is out there online, there are several sites that will come up that are dedicated to just this.
  • Check the races social media and webpage: Often they will run a discount and promote it through different channels.  A great time to look is around the holiday's, a lot of races will leverage the fact that you are off from work and online more to hit you with limited time discounts. 
  • Contact the race directly:  This one seems like the most obvious, but for all the introverts out there (like me), the idea of calling someone up on the phone and asking is no fun.  You would be surprised what you can find out, often there is a blanket discount (5-10%) that a race will offer just by asking.  Try and get into touch with the marketing or customer service department for the best luck. 

2. Run without a Shirt

It's not want you might think, although during the summer this could be a great idea, just wear sunscreen.  Many races, especially local, will have a no-shirt option.  Maybe you just want to be in the race from a training perspective, you don't need another dri-fit, moisture wicking, breathable, lime green, a little too small to wear shirt.  If that's the case, see if there is a no-shirt option, if not ask.  In the smaller events the shirt can account from 25-75% of the total runner cost.  You should be able to save at least $5-$10 if this option is available.

3. Group Discount

All great negotiators know that they have to bring bargaining chips to the table.  Your biggest bargaining chip is going to be how many other runners you can get to the race that might have not run it beforehand.  In many races, race directors want this to happen so they provide a group discount rate.  The way this rate works varies between race to race.  Just like with Tip #1, often your best bet is contacting the race directly and seeing if they offer a group discount.  Let them know how many you believe you can bring and see if they can work with you.

4. Leverage your Platform

Leveraging your platform plays off using same principle as Tip #3.  Instead of using how many people you plan on bringing to the race, think through your skills, platform and what services you could offer to the race.  Maybe you're a graphic designer and would love to trade designing some marketing for a few race registrations.  Or you have a great blog where you would love to write a race preview in exchange for a registration.  This is all about what you can offer the race to get a registration in return.  In some of the larger races we have found that when people volunteer in key roles leading up to a race they can also earn a race.

5. Run for a Charity

There are tons of charity programs out there that help raise awareness and money by forming groups of people who train for a race.  One of the most popular is Team in Training.  Unlike Tip #4 where you offer your services to the race directly, in this one you offer your services (ability to fundraise for the charity) in exchange for discounted race entries or even free entries. Not only do you get to run in the race, but you also get to help an incredible cause!

 [BONUS] - Register Early

This one isn't so much of a tip since everyone who looks at website sees it.  Most large events have price breaks meaning the registration price increases the closer you get to the race date.  So why do races do this?  People register late, every single time.  You can take the registration rate of nearly any event and find that it grows at the same rate pretty much across the board.  

A little insight into our races we have found that 50% of our race registration come within the last 2-3 weeks, and often 25% comes within the last few days.    Race director's leverage this with price breaks.  Now you might be cursing the evil race directors, but one of the most difficult parts in producing road racing events is the high overhead costs in the face of a pretty fuzzy outlook on final income.  Since people register so late, especially for a first year event that it is hard to know how much of an event you can afford. As a result many race directors would love you to register early so they have a better idea how many porta-potties to book, police to hire and runner supplies to buy in bulk.

To use the Rock-n-Roll Las Vegas 2014 Marathon as an example, if you registered at their lowest rate ($125 before April 8th) you would save $70 off the maximum price ($195 at the expo).  So why doesn't everyone register early?  The biggest reason is we are afraid of getting hurt.   So our recommendation is to check the races refund policy and bib transfer policy.  If you get hurt but can still get a refund or sell the bib through a transfer then your best bet could be registering at the earliest date.

What about you, ready to save some money?
Win a free registration to the Chick-fil-A Race Series by leaving us a comment below on the best ways you have found to save money on race registration fees.

Brandon likes to look intense in pictures but really isn't.  He has served with Connect as the team leader for the race experience of 100+ events including the Chick-fil-A Race Series and Chick-fil-A Half Marathon.  He has a love/hate relationship with running and is a competitive age grouper in the female 70-74 old division.  Follow Brandon on Twitter and Instagram