"The spectator has access to everything the runner has access to," says Troy Schooley, the event's sponsorship director. "They are really able to share in the whole day, from start to finish, and they get a special place at the finish to watch their runner."
VIP runners and their cheering squads get breakfast and lunch on race day, as well as access to indoor restrooms and free massages. This year, they're also invited to an exclusive, pre-race dinner with race organizers, sponsors and elite runners.
One Runner's Take
Even with all the perks, are VIP packages really worth the extra money? The answer depends on an individual runner's experience and preferences.
Veteran marathoner Karen Murray, 49, of Mamaroneck, New York, says some VIP programs don't live up to the hype. Concerned about the possibility of cold weather, Murray signed up as a VIP for the Rock 'n' Roll marathons in New Orleans and Arizona this year.
"I didn’t feel like I got my money’s worth at all," she says, adding that she paid $79 for entry upgrades in each race.
For example, the so-called VIP restrooms turned out to not be so exclusive.
"Some of my friends who didn’t pay were able to access the same bathrooms," she says.
Murray, who's a vegetarian, was also disappointed with the food. Race-day breakfast had bagels but no oatmeal, a staple food for many runners.
The lesson? If you want to try a specific VIP program, make sure to talk to runners who have signed up for it before so you can get their honest reviews before doling out your own cash.
Living the life of luxury might be worth the extra money at a special race, like your very first marathon. Just make sure your running buddies are in on it, too.
"Unless you have friends with you doing it, you feel very divided," Murray warns.
Find your next race.