Monday, July 15, 2013

Supply and Demand

If you've been living under a rock, let me tell you, the triathlon world is about to explode. Boulder, the mecca of all things endurance, was added to the list of Ironman host cities for 2014. That's right, folks, a full distance, 140.6 mile sufferfest around Boulder and the surrounding Colorado countryside. Registration opens up on Wednesday, and is priced at $675.

Wait, what?

Six-hundred and seventy five dollars is going to be written on the line of my check?

Apparently, it is. As a member of the NoCo Tri forum pointed out, as long as there is a demand for Ironman races, WTC (World Triathlon Corporation, a for-profit company) can charge whatever they like. The sad truth, as another member pointed out, is that triathlon is a rich person's sport, and the astronomical price related to racing inhibits many athletes from competing. Athletes who could be the next Macca or Chrissie are left out simply because it's an expensive sport.

You don't have to tell me that twice. I've bankrupted myself leading up to my freshman year of college for the sport. I've spent an estimated 5k in the last two years. I've given up my job to train in pursuit of a dream of doing this full time. But as long as there are the well-off willing to pay a massive entry fee, the price will do nothing but go up. Never mind the professionals, M-dot pros are given free entry. Their presence is enough to satisfy WTC. It brings media, draws crowds.

The discussion on NoCo Tri was centered around the brand. Certainly the M-dot brand is the most recognized brand in triathlon today. And the big sell is not only the Ironman name, but the quality. As one member pointed out, people race Ironman for the same reason you buy Coke or Starbucks, the quality control. A wonderful option mentioned was to include an under-30 pricing system, so younger athletes who don't have quite the established socio-economic status could still compete without the massive price. But there isn't a good alternative. There are certainly smaller events, sprint and Olympic distance races, but there isn't a well established, full distance company aside from the Challenge family, who are gradually being taken over by WTC.

The unfortunate truth is that triathlon will remain a rich person's sport until there can be some low cost alternative. Where does the cost come from? Certainly road closures, safety personnel, and other necessities add to the cost. But would it kill WTC to take a little cut, in a tough economy, and give us a break? The inhibition of sport is something we should all be concerned with.

Think about it...

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