On my price elasticity for race registration

First, don’t listen to anyone who tells you that a basic course in economics is useless. Without it, I wouldn’t be writing a post on price elasticity. It may have taken 15 years to make use of the concept, but I always say better late than never.

Second, this all started with a trip to my new physiotherapist (who, in just one treatment, surpassed my previous physiotherapist in the coveted status of “best physiotherapist ever”).  As he was trying to sort out my plethora of minor issues and injuries, he was telling me about his trail running and giving me little nuggets of trail-running wisdom.

Then he asked me: have you run any of the coast mountain trail races?

Not only had I not run one, I had never even heard of them. Having given up trail running years ago and having only trail run in Alberta, I haven’t kept abreast of what’s what in the BC trail running community.  Thank goodness for Google.  Less than a half an hour after my appointment, there I was signing up for the 13km Survival of the Fittest race in Squamish at the end of May.

As I reflected on the speed with which I registered, and my shockingly minimal second-guessing, I realized that there is a strong inverse correlation between my willingness to commit to a race and the registration fee.  This correlation looks something like this:

Screen Shot 2016-03-29 at 9.24.09 PM

Note the sharp drop in commitment roughly around $75.

The Survival of the Fittest race comes in juuuuust shy of that “under $50” category where corresponding likelihood of registering is off the charts. There is a simple reason for this:  price elasticity.  My demand is higher when the price is lower.  Mostly, this is because I will walk away from a low registration fee for pretty much any reason.  These reasons could include, but are not limited to: too much wine the night before, sore ankle/knee/sacroiliac, reading a terrifying course description, feeling unprepared, willfully not even bothering to train, simply changing my mind, or the sudden emergence of ever-so-slightly better plans on race day. It’s the ultimate in low-stakes commitment. To date, I have cancelled/not shown up for the following races under $75:

  • 2013 Mount Robson Marathon
  • 2014 Mount Robson Marathon*
  • 2013 BMO Okanagan Half Marathon

Once I get to $75 dollars, however, my price elasticity kicks in and I’m no longer willing to risk losing out on my registration fee investment.  To date, I have not signed up for the following races because their race fees exceed $100:

  • 2016 Disneyland Tinkerbell Half Marathon (which, I have to note, takes the cake for ludicrous registration fees)
  • BMO Vancouver Marathon (any year)
  • 2012 BMO Okanagan Marathon
  • 2015 SeaWheeze Half Marathon (“free” lululemon shorts or not, no one should pay $100+ for a half marathon!!!!)

Yes, I realize that I could sign up for these races and just hold myself accountable for following through but, let’s be honest, I don’t love running that much–especially road runs.  Also, it would greatly impact my financial investment in other frivolous ventures like wine drinking, sushi eating, and subscribing to every streaming service known to man. So instead, I will bow to the power of price elasticity and stick to my cheap races and easy outs.

Survival of the Fittest, here I come…at least, until something better comes up.

* Yes, I fully realize the irony of running the Mount Robson marathon in 2012, then bailing on two consecutive years only to turn around and sign up for an ultra after a one-year registration hiatus. What can I say? I am a conundrum.


One thought on “On my price elasticity for race registration”

  1. Thanks for this blog post regarding price elasticity on applying to races; I really enjoyed it and am definitely recommending this blog to my friends and family. I’m a 15 year old with a blog on finance and economics at shreysfinanceblog.com, and would really appreciate it if you could read and comment on some of my articles, and perhaps follow, reblog and share some of my posts on social media. Thanks again for this fantastic post.


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