Olympic Marathon Trials Entry Fee Reimbursement: What We Learned

Written by: Jenny DeSouchet / Posted: February 25, 2016

One afternoon a couple weeks before the 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials, we were gathered in the office chatting about our expectations for the race. We, like all other running fans, were excited to see the outcomes and we were pumped for our friends and family in the race. Ultimately we were extremely ready to show our support for all racers (many of which are ROLL Recovery ambassadors). But while speaking about our friends and family entered in the race, we all agreed that one thing seemed a little off: each of the athletes competing in the race were required to submit a $30.00 entry fee to compete in the trials.

Jeremy’s wife, Adriana Nelson, spent the 2015 year away from home living and training with Mammoth Track Club to prepare for the race. She was disappointed with her 12th place finish after having ambitions to make the Olympic team, but she toughed it out on the hot day that she had so long prepared for. Brianne Nelson, Jeremy’s sister-in-law, ran to an impressive 35th place finish. Leading up to the trials, we were inspired by the hard work put in by these women to have the opportunity to contend for the 2016 Olympic team. Asking them, and all entrants into the race, to pay an entry fee seems to devalue the great achievement it is to compete at this level.

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THE BATTLE between eventual winner, Galen Rupp and Meb Keflezighi. Photo by Matt Trappe.

We won’t say $30.00 is an enormous amount of money (it buys a few post-race beers and a burger), but the principle of requiring athletes that are competing to represent the U.S. at the Olympic Games in Rio this fall seemed silly, for lack of a better word.

Why, with so much money being generated by the event (NBC broadcasting, sponsorship, USATF isn’t exactly running low on money with their new Nike contract), are athletes required such an arbitrary amount of money to enter? When we asked what the money raised from the entry fees (around $12,000) would go to, they responded by saying that the money would be used for costs of putting on the event, without much specification for what that meant (and why that wouldn’t be covered by the money generated from broadcasting, sponsors, etc.).

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Amy Cragg ran away from Desi Linden and Shalane Flanagan with a strong last mile, winning the trials in 4:28:20. Photo via Zimbio.

Well, although we are a small company with limited funds for marketing (we have never run a formal marketing campaign or paid for advertisements), we knew we could afford to cover this entry fee cost. We would do it if only to show that companies in the community still have support for the runners that inspire them on a daily basis.

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The women’s race remained in a large pack before Amy Cragg and Shalane Flanagan broke away to run much of the race by themselves. Photo by Matt Trappe.

After all, without runners, there would be no need for races and for the development of recovery tools for runners! We posted our press release and were immediately met with an immense amount of support; from professional runners, Olympic Trials Qualifiers, running magazines in and outside of the United States.

The support from press and so many runners was simply overwhelming. We received encouraging emails, tweets and phone calls from so many members of the running community. This taught us something about the runners and supports of these athletes. These people are humble and so appreciative of any support they get, regardless of the amount. With so much encouragement for other runners that came with a relatively small gesture, it begs the question— what else can be done to rally support for the sport? Obviously, runners are more than willing to work towards better opportunities and treatment of participants. Picky Bars just launched a campaign to provide 100 Olympic Trials Qualifiers a free membership to the Picky Club. Run Gum supports runners by sponsoring with their products and constant support. What else can we all do?

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Fist pump. Second place for Desi Linden! Photo by Matt Trappe.

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Galen Rupp, Meb Keflezighi and Jared Ward captured top 3 spots to earn a trip to Rio. Photo by Sports Illustrated.

As far as the reimbursement, many runners emailed us thanking us for what we did. Each showed just how much this meant to them. Many runners emailed us asking to donate their $30.00 to other athletes that might need it more. These donations piled up to pay for Boulder Track Club runner, Lauren Fog’s plane ticket. Lauren also shared her amazing story with us, and how she came to be the last qualifier on the list a big lifestyle change to make the race.

In addition to these donations, one running store co-owned by an Olympic Trials qualifier and competitor is making a generous donation to 10 other runners from the trials. Raquel Stucky is the Co-Founder of First Gear Running Company in Wichita, Kansas. She approached us with the idea of purchasing 10 R8’s to donate to a random selection of runners from the trials to show their support. This generous donation will provide free R8’s to 10 deserving athletes, another show of support from a runner to other runners.

Again, thank you to everyone for shared the press release and thank you to all athletes who shared and helped to get even more excitement surrounding the event. We’re truly happy to be a part of a community that can support each other.

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A HUGE thank you to Competitor Magazine, Women’s Running Magazine, Outside Magazine, RunGum, Picky Bars, Canadian Running Magazine, Run2Run.com, Boulder Running, and others that helped to share.

Photos via: USATF, Zimbio, San Diego Tribune, Sports Illustrated, Competitor Magazine, LA Trials 2016.