Ouch! Is triathlon becoming an elitist sport?

I just received my annual Triathlon Queensland membership renewal notice today. While I thought (from the organisation’s website) that membership would be due after 1 July 2012, I have now learned that if it isn’t paid by 30 June 2012 it will lapse. Membership renewals don’t open until 9am tomorrow, 27 June 2012 so this is a small window of opportunity to renew memberships. Particularly for those of us racing on Sunday, 1 July 2012.

But the nastiest shock came with the increase in membership fees. They are now $200 per year, up from $160 per year. That’s a $40 or 25% increase. The only explanation offered is that Queensland is moving into line with the other Australian states and territories. That money only buys us race insurance; nothing else. We are still paying between $80 and $200 to actually enter races up to Olympic Distance, and much more for long distance and M-dot races.

So is triathlon becoming an elitist sport? Are the costs going to outstrip the ability of the average person to participate? The fee increase and manner in which the renewal notice has been sent has caused me to go back to the drawing board with my season goals to decide whether I want to make my move to ultra trail running a season earlier. I just don’t have $200 lying around to spend; I already thought the $160 last season was painful.

Yes, I get a $40 discount if I continue to be an active technical official. Or at least technical officials did in the 2011/12 season but there is no mention of the discount in the renewal  notice, so I’m not sure whether or not it still applies. But even with the $40 discount, the increase is still steep (from $120 – $160) and probably more than I want to spend.

I am really keen to move into ultra distance trail running. I  think I have what it takes to be a back-of-the-pack 100kmer and to one day complete a 100-miler. To do this I need to enter long-distance trail events, starting with some 20-30km events, building up to a couple of 50km events and then, hopefully, a metric century. Besides, trail running events are cheaper to enter than triathlons, require less gear and have smaller crowds.

After my personal experiences walking the Oxfam Trailwalker Brisbane 2011 and watching teams running it in 2012, I know it’s the sport for me. There’s something free about trail running. Maybe, instead of paying my annual triathlon licencing fees I can spend the money on a proper pair of trail running shoes so that I don’t have to keep wearing my old worn out pair of $50 joggers. While I am a barefoot runner, I think that trail shoes would be beneficial for ultra-distance events.

I can still race the odd off-road triathlon because day licences are relatively inexpensive. They are currently $10 for sprint distance races and $20 for Olympic Distance races. It actually is cheaper for me to buy a day licence for the few events I would race.

So tonight I will use my sickness-imposed down time to re-consider my 2012-13 race calendar and to identify which events I most want to participate in. There are some fun-looking MTB enduros and trail runs on offer in South East Queensland and Northern NSW …

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7 responses to “Ouch! Is triathlon becoming an elitist sport?

  1. What a pity, but I would also suspect it may be associated with a higher number of injuries and insurance premiums increasing. So frequently those who try to live a healthy lifestyle have to pay extra. Btw, love the new count downs to your races!

    • I wouldn’t be so frustrated by the increase if there was a better explanation than that it was to bring Qld in line with the rest of the country. And the short notice was a bit rude.

      I went through my race schedule last night and am now only doing 2 triathlons. I am going to back myself and do some ultra marathons 🙂 And I’m totally stoked about the challenges ahead. Instead of doing my first 100km in 2014, my goal is now to do it in 2013 🙂

      I’m glad you like the new count downs 🙂 I like them too because they help keep me motivated.

  2. Wow, that’s like £130GBP?! Triathlon Scotland membership is a total bargain in comparison – a mere £34!

    • At 34 GBP I’d have no problem with renewing my membership either. But yeah, it’s expensive to be a triathlete here in Australia … But trail running is super cheap and a lot of fun 🙂

  3. I have come to learn that triathlon is certainly not a cheap sport ! And I definitely see the allure of ultra and trail running…. there is certainly something majestic about its simplicity (equipment wise only of course) !

    • It isn’t is it. I have done it on the cheap (relatively speaking) this past year by using an old bike, wearing old running shoes, buying the cheapest pair of goggles I could find, buying my tri-suit at a clearance sale and swimming sporadically to save on pool entry fees. But even then I think last season cost (10 months) me in the region of $5,000 all told including travel, entry fees, gear, registration fees and the little extras (like gels, sports drinks, post-race lunches). When I sit back and look at it, I know it was worth it for the season, but it’s not worth it moving forward. My whole trail running season (10 months) is likely to set me back about $1,500 for the same list of items. And that’s including a new pair of running shoes (they start at $120 in Australia) and $330 entry fees for the NorthFace 100.

      I also like the simplicity of trail running as a sport. It’s kind of primal … you want to cover the ground from A to B as efficiently as possible. It goes back to our hunter gatherer days when we used to chase prey for hours to wear the prey out before we carried it home to our families to eat.

      • Quite a difference when you actually work out the numbers ! Very interesting. I signed up almost a year ago for my big race this season so I was able to get the discount and cost is also one of the main reason I don’t travel outside of Florida for triathlons.

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