How Much Is A PB Worth To You? Unpacking Meet Entry Fees To Run Fast

By Kyle Merber

November 29, 2023

Hopefully, my willingness to discuss trivial topics that I know nothing about and have little to no experience with can inspire you, my dear reader, to have the courage to speak with similar gusto. The first and only time that I can recall paying for a race entry fee myself was this past spring for the Brooklyn Half Marathon. Apparently, there is an expiration date on when people will stop caring about your 1500m personal best from 2015 – who knew?

It stung having to shell out my own medium-earned money to get a bib number. But that didn’t stop me from showing up late, getting caught behind security lines, and missing the start of the race.

I’d like to think my lone experience paying the ultimate price (a little over $100) helps me empathize with the 479 athletes entered to race a 5000m at Boston University for this weekend’s christening of the indoor track season. The $100 entry fee for each of these athletes has certainly garnered some attention. The price tag has more than tripled since pre-pandemic times, which is outpacing inflation worse than a 400 meter runner rabbiting an 800. If you don’t have the funds for the 25-lapper, then may I suggest hopping in the 3000m for $75?

The reality is that 97% of the athletes competing aren’t paying this (not a real statistic). Their schools or sponsors are. The difference of an extra $50 won’t deter many athletes who willingly spend $200 on shoes for the slightest edge. If this is an opportunity to run fast, then it’s worth the extra cash. Stop buying avocados if you can’t afford to go!

BU Indoor TrackBU Indoor Track

Kevin Morris / @KevMoFoto

But realistically, at a certain price point then a disparity between the haves and have-nots will form, with schools with smaller budgets unable to attend. That said, travel and lodging costs remain a much greater barrier to equity than entry fees. And if geography is not an issue, there are plenty of other 200 meter banked tracks with less bounce and within an hour of Boston to choose from.

This is supply and demand. The best of the best are going to race each as much as they can on the magic boards of BU, and that leaves fewer spots open for the rest of us. In order for the meet to run smoothly and accommodate the couple of thousand competing athletes, there needs to be some sort of limit on total entries before the fire department comes in with their dalmatians and boots everyone outside.

Boston University deserves to fund their entire program based on its track. This is a better business model to support a niche sport than most MBAs could ever come up with. But I bet if you asked any shark worth their salt, they’d say to keep raising those prices – that’s capitalism, baby!

One aspect that is sure to ruffle feathers even more is that the entry fees do not guarantee acceptance into the field, and even if not accepted, or if an athlete scratches, BU keeps the money. I feel bad for the coaches who enter their squads, only for them to all come back from Thanksgiving sick because they were too excited to see their old high school pals on Blackout Wednesday.

BU Indoor TrackBU Indoor Track

Kevin Morris / @KevMoFoto

But as a former meet director of an elite meet that did not have an entry fee, I still occasionally wake up in a cold sweat as I recall apologetic text messages from top athletes scratching a few days before the Long Island Mile. Oh, how badly I wanted to send them a Venmo request for $100 for their transgression!

Putting on a track meet is a huge headache and those who do it deserve to be paid. And $100 is a small price for a university to pay for your new personal best as you finish sixth in the third heat of the Sharon Colyear-Danville Season Opener, the Catalina Winemaker of December track meets!

The meet is on Saturday, December 2nd, and will be streaming on Flotrack. (Schedule and Entries) It makes sense for college kids whose crosscountry season just ended to extend training a couple of weeks to lineup in an attempt to knock out an NCAA qualifier. The field is basically a rerun of Charlottesville but on the track and will include Graham Blanks, Parker Valby, Oklahoma State, Northern Arizona, NC State, and some professionals!


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Kyle Merber

After hanging up his spikes – but never his running shoes – Kyle pivoted to the media side of things, where he shares his enthusiasm, insights, and experiences with subscribers of The Lap Count newsletter, as well as viewers of CITIUS MAG live shows.