Marathon entry fees rise with sport’s popularity

02/21/2013 6:24 PM

03/14/2013 3:06 PM

Thoughts of running a marathon raced through the mind lately?

You’ll have to pay a hefty price before placing a 26.2 sticker on your car. Ten years ago, the Cowtown Marathon cost $45. Today registration is $110, up 144 percent.

As running grows in popularity (the number of marathon finishers has grown from 353,000 in 2000 to 518,000 in 2011, according to Running USA), runners expect more out of their experience, said Cowtown director Heidi Swartz.

This year, 25,500 runners signed up for the Cowtown’s races before online registration closed Thursday, eclipsing the registration mark on race day last year. This year’s totals also set records for the ultra marathon, the full marathon and the Cook Children’s 5K, Swartz said.

Download a map of Sunday’s marathon course

The 5Ks and 10K are Saturday at Will Rogers Center. The half, full and ultra marathons are Sunday. The expo is open from 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. today.

The registration fee covers everything from the safety pins on bibs to the police officers along the course. There are also water cups, electrolyte drinks and energy gels. To add to the big-time race experience, the Cowtown provides finisher shirts and medals in addition to the T-shirt runners usually get for signing up.

The 200,000 safety pins — which volunteers spend months grouping together in sets of four — cost $1,500 to $2,000.

Download a map of Saturday’s 10K/5K

“Our race is so large now companies can’t donate to us all of our product,” Swartz said. “If it was a smaller race, they can donate because it’s in smaller quantities, but because we are so large we do have to purchase a lot of our fluids and some of the food.”

In 2002, 12,200 runners competed in the Cowtown’s 5K, 10K and marathon races. After adding a half and ultra, the race swelled in popularity, and topped 25,000 runners over two days in 2012.

That increase has required extra security. Fifteen years ago, the Cowtown employed 150 officers; this weekend the Cowtown will use 350 officers to patrol the routes.

The police are a big thing,” runner and Fort Worth resident Doug Newell said. “Every time you see police at the intersections, they are being paid by Cowtown.”

The race has also paid the city to use the parking lots around Will Rogers Coliseum. That will allow the participants to park for free.

Cowtown organizers try to minimize expenses so proceeds can be used to fund the race’s Children’s Activities for Life and Fitness program, which provides grants to children to run in the race and provides them with new New Balance running shoes at little cost. This year, 2,100 children will receive grants.

“What better way can we support the children of the area than by trying to get them healthy?” Cowtown runner and volunteer Bette McDowell said.

In the end, the Cowtown aims to be one of the most affordable races in the area. Compared to the Dallas Marathon and the Rock’n’Roll Marathon in San Antonio, the Cowtown is about $30 cheaper.

“I think the runners understand that and the Cowtown is still one of the least expensive ones still around,” Swartz said. “There are others that are so much more expensive than us and we try to keep our cost way down because we want everyone to be able to participate in it regardless of the cost. So we pride ourselves in the fact that we are one of the least expensive marathons in the state.”

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