Destination Races and Privilege

key-westAs we got ready for the Key West Half Marathon last weekend, Rebecca and I had a chat about the unquestionable privilege involved in seeking out “destination” races. We stumbled upon the Key West Half Marathon when exploring the possibility of meeting up somewhere to do a race together.

Since Rebecca lived in DC and Anita and I live in London, Ontario, someone has to travel if we’re going to do an event together. We have had our eye on Las Vegas in November, where you get to run down the famous strip. So that’s where we came up with the idea of looking for races in places that would be cool to travel to anyway.

Now, it’s no question that this is not a race plan that can work for everyone. Clearly, doing it this way requires means that we are privileged to have. Just last week I wrote about luxury gyms and whether there is something wrong with them. So it’s not as if I’m completely unconflicted about the class implications of fitness culture.

The destination event is not the only thing that challenges the sensibility of those who care about access and the way it can turn on many things including financial means. Even on a more local level, most events costs money to participate in. A simple running event in London, Ontario can cost upwards of $80 if you miss the early registration and want the t-shirt. Triathlons are even more expensive, and the equipment makes it prohibitive for many people. As someone who ventured into that world for a few years and is now backing out of it, I have a bunch of pricey equipment that I need to unload. So I’m acutely aware of the cost and even the investment. Triathlon isn’t really an activity you can just dabble in.

But running is different. You don’t need to invest a bunch of money into it. Yes, you need more than a pair of shoes, but you can get away with not much more than a pair of shoes. Entering races is the next step for most runners. And the destination races are an added luxury. Key West wasn’t outrageously expensive as a race, but getting to and staying in Key West is not a cheap prospect. Disney races are even more indulgent. The registration fee itself for most Disney events is at least $200 and can be much more than that if you do the Goofy. And a weekend at Disney is likely to cost about $1000 on top of that.

A different way of looking at it is that many of us travel anyway and are not going to give up travel any time soon. Since we travel anyway, why not throw an event into the mix or even let events determine to some degree where we might end up going for a weekend with friends? In that respect, we thought of Key West as a weekend away with friends, a January escape from the cold, with a half marathon added into it. In some ways, the half marathon justified with trip, but in other ways the trip justified the half marathon.

I don’t have a clear view about this issue and I confess that it sometimes makes me uncomfortable, as does any reflection on one’s privilege and whether exercising it perpetuates unjust social and political practices, attitudes, and structures. I understand well that I and many of the people I know live privileged lives and that some of the choices we make and opportunities we are able to access are not available to everyone. Does that mean there is something wrong with taking these opportunities?

In the scheme of things, these are higher end but not the highest. Today when we dropped Rebecca and Dan off on shore we docked in front of a brand new 200 (or more) foot super yacht. The dock hand told me the owner had paid $100,000,000 for it and that it was privately owned by an individual. I don’t even know what to say about that level of wealth other than “OMG.”

Some might say that yes, when we consider that systemic privilege often has unjust social structures as its source, there is an important social and political sense in which there is something wrong with luxurious opportunities that are not available to all. Others might say that acting on privilege is not wrong if it’s not directly at someone else’s expense. In response to luxury gyms, for example, some said that as long as there are also affordable gyms and activities available as well, then the luxury gyms aren’t depriving people of opportunities so much as creating “higher end” opportunities for those who wish to indulge in them.

Is there or is there not something unseemly about that kind of inequality of opportunity? I think it’s a difficult set of questions that are more complicated than I can tackle in this one post. But I’m happy to hear from others as to what they think. Let us know.



5 thoughts on “Destination Races and Privilege

  1. The other issue is segregation. I went to a college where all dorms cost the same, and it bothers me that at most colleges today different dorms have different room charges, creating a system where students are segregated by income. Luxury gyms further isolate the upper middle class from the rest of society.

  2. It’s complicated in so many ways. I try not to look at million dollar yachts (or the equivalent in my life) because they make me feel less wealthy than I am. It’s all about perspective. My salary puts me in the top 5% of income earners in Canada yet I often think of myself as kind of in the middle. But I’m not. I’m nowhere near the middle. “Based on 2013 income data and our 10 per cent added factor, the top 10 per cent make $97,000 or more per year, the top five per cent make $137,000 or more and the top one per cent make $245,000 or more.” That’s from the Financial Post.

    The averages in Canada are pretty low. “According to StatsCan, the median income (plus our 10 per cent factor) in Canada in 2013 was $35,200. This means that half of Canadian tax filers have incomes over that number and half are under that number.Dec 4, 2015.”

    There are some fitness venues in my life where I am aware of that (Aikido is a great example, lots of city workers and retail sales people there) and other kinds of activities where I’m more the norm (cycling events).

    None of this speaks to “do it or don’t do it.” It’s in part about keeping a grip on what’s normal and what’s a thing rich people do. Riding carbon road bikes and traveling to run half marathons are rich people activities. For me, that doesn’t mean I don’t do it but like you I try to be clear about privilege and gratitude, I feel awfully lucky a lot of the time,

  3. The way how I look at it with respect to travel: If only, a person travels within their budgetary means and when they’re healthy, then travel.

    Later in life, a person won’t be able to fully enjoy it….we all become weak and frail near end of life.

    As for privilege, I have a sister in her 50’s who struggles to pay her own house mortgage solo. She’s a hospital receptionist.. thankfully she travelled abit before house purchase. She can no longer do this and hasn’t for the past decade. Thankfully she lives in Toronto, so her world isn’t too “closed” off from diversity and exposure to new ideas and debate in person.

    One of the reasons why I do blog but not exclusively on cycling, is I want to share a broader audience about I’ve seen. It prevents me from talking so much about what I’ve seen which can sound abit self-centred.

    The most important thing for those who have some time and money to participate in certain fitness activities and travel, is what things we do naturally to encourage others in a cost-effective way in our daily lives? How to learn to enjoy / rediscover near local areas by combining it with exercise. It’s not meant to be a guilt trip but there is a point “regulars” like ourselves have acquired a lot of experience and are in a position to mentor if needed.

    There’s enough non-cyclists who haven’t figured out the math: In the past 30-35 years, I’ve calculated about $300,000 normally spent on car ownership, gas, insurance and maintenance, that’s saved by cycling 4-7 times daily with perhaps 2-3 months of transit or walking. Calculator:

    Bike maintenance of my one 10 yr. old bike is about $30.00 per yr., or less, for tires, replacement of parts, etc. Even a stolen seat. Remember it’s at least 2,500 to 7,000 km. on bike /annually. Commuting….can be a lot of mileage plus longer vacation trips.

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