If you have started researching multi day events, you will quickly discover that they are much more expensive than your local single day event. Ranging from 1500 euro for the Oman Desert Marathon to US$3800 for a 4 Deserts Event, these seem steep for a week long adventure. But what do you get for this?
Well first of all you get safety. While it is possible to travel solo on foot across wild and remote places, there is an element of danger in doing so alone. With a quality event you know you are supported. The course has been checked for hazards, your progress is monitored and evacuation is pre-arranged if you were to have a serious unexpected accident. For example, in the Mongol 100 (Mongolia) the team had checked the ice depth, followed behind the last person, and were on the lookout for hypothermia. Helicopter evacuation was pre-coordinated, just in case of a slip on the ice and broken bones. At Oman Desert Marathon the team was constantly checking for heat stress and ensuring everyone stayed on course. When I unfortunately became heat affected after hours in 50 degrees celsius (122F), they doused me with water and had help to me quickly.
Second you get support. This varies from event to event but may include airport pickup and drop off, water stations, food provisions, transport of bags from point to point, a tent to sleep in, event showers and even mail from home! Typically events have checkpoints every 10kms or so, where you can refill water and sometimes food, have any injuries checked and strapped and rest for a short time. At the end of a stage you can expect a minimum of a shelter to sleep in, but at some events there are hot showers, internet connectivity and evening entertainment, such as video compilations from the day. Doctors are at hand for consultations and other health services may include foot clinics and massages.
Many events are closely linked to local tourism and include local experiences either before or after the event such as music performances, local feasts or unique sightseeing opportunities. Some have add on options for group touring for those who have more time. Photos and/or video is usually an option, but is sometimes included.
Of course it goes without saying that you receive a quality event: a marked course, usually a very cool medal and often qualifying points towards other events, such as UTMB.
But for me the extra element I receive at these events, that really has no monetary value, or an equivalent, is the friendships. These events attract a certain kind of people. Tough, brave, humble people. People who are there to challenge themselves, and most of whom have little interest in putting others down, even if they aim to win. Once you live in the close confines of tents with a group of people for a week, sharing pain and joy, lifelong friendships are created. And not just with other competitors. Most events have volunteers and staff who are not there for money. They participate because they love sharing this unique experience with a group of people from around the world. To cheer them, to get them across the finish line.
Of course you need to work out what this kind of unique format is worth to you. But hopefully this has given you some insight into what that entry fee really means.