Registration. Web Hosting. Event Manager.

Budgeting for Your Race: Common Expenses


If you are in the planning stages of a first year event, then this article on planning and budgeting for common race expenses may be useful. At RaceDirector we want to help you build the foundation for a great event. This is not an exhaustive list, but it should help get all the right wheels turning in your head.

Budgeting for Your Race:  Common Expenses

Race Insurance: We put this one first for a reason. Do not even bother with the rest of this list if you are not willing to get the proper insurance for your event. 99.9% of the time it is unnecessary, but the one time it is, you will be glad you have it. Plus, a good general liability policy is relatively inexpensive. Tip: A membership to the Road Runners Club of America gives you great access to these policies at competitive prices.

Permits: Special use permits can vary greatly. Do your homework early in the process on this part of your budget. You may need to get permits from more than one governing authority as well. If your start/finish venue is in a city park and you are running on city streets, it may require multiple permits from different issuing authorities. Reach out to all parties that have jurisdiction for all the places your event takes place. Sometimes the cost could be a simple flat rate, a fee per participant, or a percentage of your registration revenue.

Race Timing: Is your event going to be timed or un-timed? If it is going to be a timed event will you offer chip timing or will it be done manually? The nature of your event and the expectations of your participants will dictate which direction you go here. Obviously chip timing is more expensive than manual timing/results, but if you will have a crowded finish line with many people finishing in dense groups, it may be very difficult to get accurate results manually. You know your crowd. Be sure to meet or exceed their expectations.

Shirts/Swag/Awards: Participants love good event swag, but it does not have to break the bank. Be creative and find unique designs/items. Utilize local artisans or choose something that is representative of the community or your event. The important thing is to get a detailed quote so there will not be any surprises. Sometimes less is more in this area. Also, do not forget about your volunteers. Get them a unique shirt they can wear on race day. It will make the entire production look professional and well-planned.

Advertising: There are many great avenues to promote your race for free. Be sure to do as many of these before you start spending money on advertising. That being said, advertising dollars that are well-targeted can yield a solid return on that investment. Facebook and other social media outlets can allow you to tap into the local community. "Boosting" a post on Facebook, or doing a targeted ad to all the people in XX and YY demographics within a ZZ-mile radius of your event can be very effective.

Finish Line/Aid Stations: Do not cut corners on this one. If aid stations are inadequately stocked or run out of essentials like ice, it can affect the reputation of your event for years to come. Always err on the side of having a bit too much. Shop at the warehouse stores to get the best deal on bulk items. Have a plan to donate unused perishables to a local food pantry or other organization that can put them to good use. Save unused non-perishables for next year.

Police/ EMS: Your various permits may require that you utilize off-duty police officers to be in charge of traffic control at parts of the course that have the potential for participants to come in close contact to vehicle traffic. Having an ambulance or EMT's on standby is a precautionary measure you hope you do not need on race day, but could save a life. Many races have a medical tent at the finish line as well. You may be able to get volunteers that have professional medical training to help out here. The size of your event as well as the intensity will dictate what measures should be taken. Costs in this category can vary widely. Make sure you do what your permits require.

Porta-Potties: The best rule of thumb we have seen is one per 50 participants. You need to assume that each person will have to go at least once prior to the start and it takes about two minutes per person. Following this rule would mean 10 units for an event with 500 entries. When you gotta go...you gotta go!

Signage: There are two ways to look at your signage at the start/finish and out on the course, and they both benefit you. The number one reason is to make sure that no one makes a wrong turn. A poorly marked course will ruffle a lot of feathers. The other reason is that all those signs and markers are advertising for your event out in the community. It may be a bit of an investment the first year, but you should be able to use these for many years. Use a professional sign company. Tip: Get sponsors for the signage to help offset the cost.

Announcer/Sound System/DJ: Creating a festive scene at the start/finish ads to the energetic vibe you want to create. At the start you can be assured that all runners will be able to hear any last minute instructions about the course, you can publicly recognize sponsors, thank volunteers, and promote that great cause you are supporting. Music will add to the already buzzing environment of nervous runners. As people finish your event they can hear the announcer say their name to the crowd and help keep the party going! This does not have to be as expensive as it sounds.

Clean-up Supplies/Services: If you want the permit issuing authorities to grant your event permits next year, be sure to leave everything better and cleaner than you found it. Have plenty of trash bins, plastic bags, etc. Be sure to give detailed instructions to aid station captains and other volunteers on how clean-up should be completed. Your permit may require you to have city workers complete part of the job at some expense. Read the fine print and over deliver on this one!

Sponsors: This is not an expense, but can greatly improve your bottom line. Some may be able to offer cash for recognition and exposure during your event. Others can offer products or in-kind services. Example: Get GU or Clif to be a sponsor and donate all the gels or sports drink to be used at the aid stations. These companies have large budgets for getting involved in local events.

Taking these common expense items into consideration from the beginning will allow you to build a solid framework for your budget. Things do not always go exactly as planned, but having a proper budget in place will put your mind at ease that there will not be massive red ink when you reconcile after your event. At RaceDirector we have many tools to help you set timelines and budgets to make your event more profitable and efficient year after year. Sign up now for a free RaceDirector account and make your next race or event a success.


See for yourself how RaceDirector can help you save money on race registration fees while maximizing your time with robust race management features.

Sign Up Now - It's Free or Take A Tour