Triathlon Entry Fees: Method to the Madness?

triathlon entry fee
Alemu Gemechu has just won the Dublin City Marathon (2:14:01) and Nataliya Lehonkova took the women’s race (2:30). Well, at least I’m exercising my fingers…

To distract myself from the fact that I am sitting at my kitchen table instead of nursing gratifyingly sore muscles and a well-earned sense of smugness after the Skyline Mourne Mountain run, I’ve been browsing through triathlons. Not all are created even slightly equal. And I’m not talking about locations or distances or elevations; if you take the full-distance triathlon as your baseline, triathlon entry fees vary enormously.

Oscillating Wildly

Let’s start with the daddy of them all: Ironman Kona. As if it wasn’t bad enough that you have to prove to them you are a worthy entrant by qualifying for the event, you have to stump up a juicy $850 (about €770) for the privilege. Staying within the Ironman family, the 2016 Australia event will set you back Au$775 (about €511).

Then there’s Challenge: If you had entered Challenge Bahrain (commiserations  it’s just been cancelled) it would have cost you between $280 and $350 (€254 to €318), whereas the Challenge Galway full triathlon entry fee is between €414 and €444.

I know it costs  money to close down sections of roadway for biking and running, to cordon off a safe swim area, to have ambulances and medical staff on standby, to provide abundant food and water stops, to shuttle people and equipment between transition areas, to pay and feed staff (though many are volunteers), and to give prizes.

triathlon entry feeSmaller full-distance triathlons have to do those things too, yet they seem to be able to run highly professional and enjoyable events without massive financial outlay. Last year’s Arran Man in Scotland had 35 competitors, who paid £225 (€313) for the full distance. Norseman is limited to 250 participants, who enter a lottery to pay NOK 3000 (€326).

Triathlon Ireland’s Long Distance National Championship event for 2016 is the Hardman in Killarney. The swim takes place in the Lakes of Killarney, the bike route circles the Ring of Kerry, and the marathon is set in Killarney National Park, so you can’t really fault the surroundings. Yet the entry fee for this race is between €150 to €225, half the price of Challenge Galway or any of the Ironman events.

The New Golf

I understand that international corporations can charge a premium for the cachet of a logo that people will tattoo on their calves, but that aside, even within the big tri companies themselves, there does not appear to be any consistency in the entry fees being charged. Even if you accept that Kona is the peak of triathlon achievement and thus justified in charging any entry fee it likes, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the big triathlon companies are just rubbing their hands in glee at the public’s willingness to fling credit cards at them. Given the lack of any consistency in the entry fees charged (apart from the fact that they are ridiculously high), triathlons at the corporate end really are the new golf, where the higher the price, the better the course is perceived to be.

Could it possibly be that these corporations just charge as much as they think they’ll get away with? Surely not.




3 thoughts on “Triathlon Entry Fees: Method to the Madness?

  1. Surely yes! You’re right to challenge the prices, though it would seem for now we are our own worst enemies when it comes to fees. I would have liked to have done Galway, but then for that money I could buy a new bike (albeit one from Halfords… though that would still be a lighter bike than the one I’m on presently 🙂 ). No doubt the current market price and the simple rules of supply and demand will see these fees remain as they are or increase over the years. Sticking the word ‘triathlon’ on to a pair of anything (goggles, shorts, wheels) adds a good 25% onto the price. Caveat emptor…
    Fair play to Hardman for keeping the prices realistic. People get giddy about the small stuff, like what’s in your goodie bag. Who cares? You’ve paid for it! Chances are you haven’t rocked up to the race without water bottles and gels (or magazines you probably won’t read anyway). So do you need yet more of this stuff? Not really. I’m happy with a T shirt to commemorate the event, if there’s one going. Stick the money into local groups, marshals and making sure the event returns the following year.
    Great article.


    1. Thanks! You’d be surprised how many people get upset if there’s no chocolate milk at the post-event refreshments… I do think you’re right – the problem is somewhat self-inflicted, with participants equating quality with massively inflated prices. Then there’s the whole boys-and-their-toys element: Yes, I’m being sexist, but the tension I’ve seen at bike registration before triathlons is exclusively male, with lads torn between poorly-concealed envy and pride in their own equipment. It was ever thus!


      1. I wasn’t even going to get into the whole ‘bike envy’ thing. Nor tattoos. But I suspect that event organisers know that folks who are willing to shell out ten grand on an all-carbon frame tri-bike are also willing to fork out 500 notes to partake in a heavily-branded event. In fact, it rather follows that you would want to do so… but I’ll stop now, as I’m sailing close to wind in sounding like an inverted snob!


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