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How do I save money at those damned expensive races?

A blog post  doing the rounds – written by the head honcho of Super Hero Scramble asked the question – Why do obstacle course races cost so damn much?


It’s a good question – and in it, he explains a bit about the kind of money they have to front for venues, bling, insurance, obstacle construction and porta potties. You can understand why they cost more than something like a simple road 5k.

Turning the thought on it’s head, what about us racers? How do we *save* money at events? $100+ for a ticket is hard to justify when there are dozens of other events in the area – and to allow you to race as many events as possible you need to save some pennies.

today is not that day

1) Early signup

Most races will open up their registration windows with some of the cheapest prices they can. Some events, like Spartan Race, let you signup at the previous years event too, frequently at nearly 1/2 the cost. This works well for you, because you can pick your preferred running time, and get in at the cheapest rate – win, win! There are drawbacks though – because in some cases you can end up purchasing tickets for an event that moves, or gets rescheduled – or worse, cancelled entirely.

2) Join a group, get a discount code

No brainer, if you’re reading this. As part of the New England Spahten community, you are one of 530+ strong OCR fans. When I talk to Race Directors, those numbers are seriously impressive, and the “buying power” that gives us is immense. Of course, some events are happier to work with such a large team than others. I’ve received codes that provide significant discounts, some that just save a dollar or five, and other companies don’t even respond – but, for the most part, if you support the Spahtens by joining our teams and running with our heats, races will support us with discount codes.

3) Volunteer

The majority of races NEED volunteers. As a volunteer, you’re the life blood of the event, and it wouldn’t happen if you weren’t prepared to give up a significant portion of your day to help make the day run smoother in some way. You may be manning an obstacle, or helping with registration, or passing out cups at a water station – but almost always, you’ll be rewarded with a free run at the course. Some places are flexible, and will let you pick your times, others will run a special heat for volunteers at the end – but  make sure to tell them you are from the New England Spahtens.

4) Groupon, Living Social, Amazon Local etc

Deal websites are a mixed bag. Yes, you can get significant discounts on race entry, but be aware that there are restrictions – usually on the heats, or days you can run. Typically, these are used to pack out an event, or fill up the numbers on a second day – and the race director is almost always taking a loss when they put them out. They are also frequently released at the last minute. Frustratingly, if you are registered early, and have used the discount codes provided to the team, you can still find yourself paying more than the last minute “Sunday only” groupon – something I think Race Directors and events are starting to realize, and limit the amount of these that they put out.

5) Promotional teams 

There are a few of them around, with the Spartan Race Street Team being the most popular by far, but not the only one in the game (Superhero Scramble and Rugged Maniac spring to mind) – the premise is that you have a unique link to hand out, and anyone who signs up using that link earns you a point. Those points can be traded in for schwag, and ultimately, free race entries. From personal experience, it’s a hard slog, and the systems are not fantastic at how they track.

6) Win!

If you hit a certain point level in the Spartan Race series, you won a season pass. If you hit the Ultra Beast in a set time, you won a season pass – while it doesn’t get you into the other events, it saves you big on race entry fees to the Spartan series. Other events are opening this option up too.

7) Bandit

Run the event with no ticket, no chip. This is different to multiple laps on the same day – which many races turn a blind eye to – so … if you show up, walk in as a spectator, then go run the race anyway, you’re a jack ass. Don’t do this.


1 thought on “How do I save money at those damned expensive races?

  1. Other ways to save money are to hook up with others in your area for rideshares (the parking scam at many of these places is just ridic). And also if you travel more than a few hours to your event, try finding a place to crash for the night. helps people find each other for the purposes of apartment swaps and exchanges.

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