Captain’s Corner – How Do You Create a Budget for a Ragnar Relay?

how to create a budget

[ed note: This is the first part of our ongoing blog column, “Captain’s Corner” where we’ll be answering all of your questions relating to captaining a Ragnar Relay team.]

Q: How do you create a budget for a Ragnar Relay team?

A: I’ve been a captain twice for 2 amazing Ragnar Relay teams.  There are many things to consider when you are putting together a team – What do we pack?  Who gets what legs?  How can we attach speakers to the top of our van?  (Not required, but kind of awesome.)  And probably one of the biggest considerations –How do we create a budget for a Ragnar Relay?  In my opinion you can’t put a price tag on this awesome 200 mile overnight running experience. I have learned a few things that make planning for it a little bit easier!

On my first run as Ragnar Captain, we used the divide-and-conquer method of budgeting.  It was kind of like a pot luck, except that only four people brought dishes and the rest of us had to figure out how much we owed them.  I paid the registration fee, but runner three bought food for the van. I didn’t owe her anything, but she owed me her registration fee – minus food.  And then there was the expense of the vans that runner eleven picked up.  And who was paying for gas this time?  Needless to say, it was pretty confusing.  And we realized that, at the end of the race, none of us had any idea what we’d actually paid for this adventure.  My banker husband loves it when I have no idea what I paid for something.

So last year, I decided to create a team budget and give people a set amount for their slice of awesome.  I had everyone pay a $100 deposit in January to cover the immediate cost of the registration fee, and then the balance was due in June to give me enough money to pay for everything else.

There are seven specific pieces to our Ragnar budget:

  1. Registration
  2. Van/Suburbans
  3. Food for the road
  4. Fuel
  5. Volunteers (if you are going to pay for them)
  6. Costumes & Fun Stuff
  7. Safety Equipment

In building our budget, we looked at the cost of each item and then divided it by twelve people – easy math (I use a calculator).

Registration: This varies from year to year, race to race.  For most Ragnar Relay races you’ll save $180 when you sign up in early registration!

Vans/Suburbans: None of us have personal vans or suburbans that are big enough for this event, you need to fit six people plus gear in each one.  So we rent vehicles locally, which ends up being about $400 total. The sooner you book your rental, the better price you’ll get. I recommend that you get creative though, and see if you can borrow a vehicle from an organization or business.  Just remember to wash it down before you return it!

Food: During a Ragnar Relay, you’ll receive free Nuun samples but it’s still smart to stock up on snacks. Since Ragnar Relay Northwest Passage is our local race, we also stop at one of our houses for lunch/dinner after our first leg.  If you don’t have a home to crash in, you might increase this a little or think about hitting a deli along the way.  I budget about $275 for food and go to Costco, where I purchase items on this list of good foods to eat during a Ragnar Relay.

Fuel: I always keep an eye on gas prices.  For now, we’ve been getting by with $200 for the weekend.  Sometimes I use a fuel calculator online that lets me estimate how much we’ll need.  Grocery store gas stations seem to have cheap gas and quick access to clean bathrooms without lines… just sayin’.

Volunteers: Ragnar charges $120 per volunteer and they donate that money to the race’s charity of choice. If you can find boyfriends, girlfriends, family members, co-workers or other awesome people to volunteer for you it will save you $360. I find that promising them beers after the race is helpful.

Costumes & Fun Stuff: This one is completely unmeasurable.  You can skip it completely, but you might find yourself green with jealousy when you see all the amazing costumes and festivities amongst your Ragnar peers.  You may want to go absolutely bananas and dress up like… bananas?  Whatever your team decides, this is the one place I can’t predict a price for.  However, our team will probably budget about $20 per person this year – because costumes and silly string are part of the awesome.


Safety Equipment: Ragnar is serious about safety! This means that every team is required to have 12 reflective vests, 2 headlamps and 2 LED tail-lights. If you don’t already have these pieces of equipment from camping, running or biking at night, you’ll have to pick them up.

So, for a general estimate:

Registration: $1260 – $1620 (Sign up early to receive early registration prices!)

Van/Suburbans: $350 – $600

Food for the road: $120 – $350

Fuel: $175 – $300

Volunteers: $0 – $360 ($120/ volunteer)

Costumes, Van Decorations, Team Tee-Shirts & Fun Stuff: $0 – infinity!

Safety Equipment: $20-$50

Approximate cost: $190 – $320 (before costumes are factored in)

While I can’t guarantee a price for your Ragnar experience, our team usually comes in around $200 per person.  You can certainly do it for less money, especially if you borrow vans and find inexpensive food.  It all depends on the resources you can drum up and how invested you are in your team theme.  For us, we go a little higher end on the food and make sure to budget for silly string and cow bells.  Priorities, people!


How have you found an easy way to create a team budget? Is my budget missing anything you can think of? Feel free to leave me a comment below.

About Rachael Woods

Rachael is a guest blogger for Ragnar Events, and is usually captain for one of the loudest teams at Ragnar Relay - Northwest Passage. She manages a communications department in Northwest Washington, mainly because she likes to make everything pretty. Rachael loves running and Crossfit, and is obsessed with athletic gear. She has more running jackets than there are days in the week. Rachael usually plans her vacations around a destination race - her honeymoon included a 10 mile race with her husband at Disney World.

8 Responses to Captain’s Corner – How Do You Create a Budget for a Ragnar Relay?

  1. Paul says:

    Great info. This will be my third Chicago in 2014. What are your thoughts on getting a hotel room the night before. We are coming about 150 miles to get to the race.

    • Paul- I think it depends on your start time. If you have a 5:30 a.m. start time you might want to get a hotel. If you are a fast team and have a later start time you could probably swing it driving to the start line that morning. My team got a hotel the night after Ragnar (Saturday) and we all went out to dinner and then hung out in Napa on Sunday.

      • Cassie Bradley says:

        Hi Rebecca,

        I know this is a year later! But my team just signed up for Napa Ragnar and was thinking of staying overnight. Which hotel did you end up staying at?

        Very excited for our first Rangar!

        • Hi Cassie,
          We booked late so weren’t able to get a hotel in Calistoga. We found a cheap motel in Santa Rosa and it worked out for us. Every team has different standards, and our priority was keeping the price down. Hope that helps 🙂

  2. Rachael Woods says:

    Hi Paul! One thing to consider: if you can get your hotel near exchange 12 or 24, your team can also use the room as a pit stop after their first or second legs for a shower and/or nap. It would cost you a second night but might be priceless after a long run at 2:00 a.m! Sometimes you can find a vacation house (depending on the area) for the same price as a hotel room. I’ve had good luck with Houses split between 6-12 people, that can be really affordable. Then you could use it as a pit stop part way, and go back there for the post-Ragnar sleep before you head home on Sunday. Happy Ragnar!!

  3. Dan Dean says:

    So, I know this doesn’t apply for everyone, and isn’t really something that is shared, but it is the biggest thing I have to consider for every Ragnar: airfare. If I could do Ragnar for around $200, I would do every one!

  4. Tim R. says:

    I find the biggest factor is the vans. 12 and 15 person vans are expensive (at least in MA)!! If we were to get two large vans, we would have easily exceeded $300 per person. Luckily were borrowing a minivan too. Thanks to this the runner’s in the big van are only around $250 each and those in the minivan are around $175.

Leave a Reply

Please use your real name instead of you company name or keyword spam.