Subscriber OnlyAthletics

The ‘bonkers’ cost of running the 2024 New York marathon

Dublin runner Siobhán O’Donnell was stopped in her stride when looking at the overseas entry costs

When first dreaming up some new marathon ideas for this year, Siobhán O’Donnell was not alone in thinking New York. Few, if any, big city marathons are more popular and exciting than the Big Apple, but it turns out New York can also be one of the priciest when it comes to securing an overseas entry.

This year’s event, set for November 3rd, will have somewhere over 50,000 runners from around 130 countries crossing all five famous boroughs. Last year there were 51,402 finishers in Central Park, just shy of the record 53,520 that finished in 2019. Demand for entry significantly outnumbers the supply.

For O’Donnell, a 57-year-old from Malahide in north county Dublin, the idea was to run alongside her husband Tony, and with that she started to explore their 2024 entry options. They could align with one of New York’s charity partners (requiring substantial fundraising), chance their luck in next month’s lottery entry (only five per cent are successful), or secure a best-for-age qualifying standard (which are highly competitive).

That left the option of entering via one of New York’s International Tour Operators (ITO), where in Ireland the cheapest available option was €4,576 – excluding-flights, transfers, and “before you put your hand in your pocket for a cup of tea”.


O’Donnell contacted this newspaper to outline the breakdown in that price, and the savings they could have made if booking their own accommodation. As with all ITOs, the guaranteed race entry only comes with a selected hotel package. In Ireland, the only operator available is Sports Tours International, which specialises in running and cycling tours, including to all six major marathons (Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago and New York) and the Tour de France.

Pre-booking of their New York Marathon tour went on sale in November, requiring a deposit of €225 per person, refundable up to January 8th, after their full tour prices were announced in the new year.

“First of all, the race entry per person was €579, so that’s €1,158 for the both of us just to enter,” said O’Donnell. “But for a marathon like New York, you’d expect that price, that didn’t bother me.

“It was only when we looked at the room charges, and for us the cheapest of which was €1,709 per person for the minimum of four nights (from October 31st to November 4th), a double in the Westin Grand Central, Manhattan.

“Because there are two of us in the room, we were each being charged the hotel room price. I’ve never heard of that in the US before, as usually it’s a room price, not a per person price. So when I clicked on race entry by two, and the hotel price by two, the total price came in at an eye-watering €4,576. And no breakfast either.

“That’s before you add in flights of approximately €1,200, for the two of us, bringing the entire package to just under €6k, before you put your hand in your pocket for a cup of tea.

“That just looked bonkers money to me. I knew it was going to expensive, but at that price it just wouldn’t be worth it. Especially when I went and looked on, the price of the room in the same hotel for the same four nights is €1,882 per room [two adults].”

When contacted by The Irish Times, a customer service executive with Sports Tours International confirmed they only offer a per person charge when it comes to hotel packages for the New York Marathon (in this case €1,709 per person for the four nights), or the single occupancy rate, if someone wants to stay in the room on their own (for New York the four-night cost would be €2,624 per person).

According to their website, Sports Tours International also offer “comprehensive logistical support” on arrival in New York, including escort to the marathon expo and race start line, and a pre-race briefing at selected hotels. As an official ITO for the New York Marathon, they have 215 entries available via their Dublin office, 50 per cent of which are already sold.

The now Swords-based office was formerly known as Sports Travel International, before being bought up and merged with their UK-based sister company in 2019, which first started up in 1973. They also have an office in France offering similar running and cycling events.

“It was just cost-prohibitive for us, I told Sports Tours that, and in fairness the refund came through very quickly,” said O’Donnell, who has completed 15 marathons since taking up running in her mid-40s.

“I wouldn’t be breaking any records, but we’ve put it to bed for now. We’ve both got another big round birthday coming up in a few years, and for ordinary runners like us, the New York Marathon has always been number one on the bucket-list. But not at that price.”

  • Sign up for push alerts and have the best news, analysis and comment delivered directly to your phone
  • Find The Irish Times on WhatsApp and stay up to date
  • Our In The News podcast is now published daily – Find the latest episode here
Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan is an Irish Times sports journalist writing on athletics