Personal Finance

How Much Does It Cost To Run A Marathon

By David Krug David Krug is the CEO & President of Bankovia. He's a lifelong expat who has lived in the Philippines, Mexico, Thailand, and Colombia. When he's not reading about cryptocurrencies, he's researching the latest personal finance software. 15 minute read

Due to its low entrance barrier and numerous health advantages, running has quickly become one of the most popular forms of physical activity. This inexpensive activity may become rather dear when you consider the many costly extras, training programs, and high-dollar fitness challenges that have emerged in recent years. With running gear ranging in price from $600 for a GPS watch to $175 for a track jacket, the activity may easily appear to be out of reach of the average person. So, what’s a cheapskate health nut to do?

Fortunately, you may enjoy the health benefits of jogging without draining your monetary account. If you use your imagination and stick to these guidelines, you can keep your operating costs low.

How to Reduce Your Operating Expenses

  1. Avoid Expensive Gadgets

No longer do runners have to estimate their distance covered or rely on a stopwatch and mental arithmetic to determine their pace. If a high-priced watch is out of your financial range but you still want to monitor your speed and distance, there are plenty of different technological options available to you.

Your smartphone can replace your expensive GPS watch in nearly every way these days. There are both free and commercial versions of popular fitness tracking apps like Runkeeper, Strava, and Endomondo. The “challenges” on Strava are extremely well-liked since they provide users the opportunity to win prizes. The free edition of Endomondo contains everything you could want, including the ability to track your friends who also use the app and encourage them when you see them working out.

Like luxury watches, most of these GPS applications keep track of your speed, distance traveled, and other vital data. You may determine the number of calories you expended while exercising with the help of some of these apps, which allow you to establish a profile with your height and weight.

These applications not only support tracking your activity while running, but also when biking, hiking, walking, and even kayaking, thanks to the wide variety of distance-based workout modes they offer. Several of them allow you to track your fitness routine and see how you’re doing on a monthly basis. For instance, if you just ran a 5K in your fastest time of the year, or if you just finished your longest exercise of the month, both of these accomplishments will be highlighted in Endomondo.

  1. Avoid joining a gym membership

As an alternative to shelling out hundreds of dollars a year for a gym membership, you might save money and time by joining a local running club if you enjoy the notion of running for its social component.

Steel City Road Runners, the Pittsburgh club I belong to, charges only $50 yearly and provides several benefits to its members, including coached speed sessions at a local track once a week, group training runs held at various locations throughout the city on weekdays, and weekend fun runs. Access to member tents at local races, which typically feature nicer restrooms and refreshments, and additional swag or fuel are common perks of membership in such groups.

If you want to run with others but don’t want to pay to join a club, you may check to see if there’s a local running shoe store that does free group runs. Close by, you’ll find both a Fleet Feet and an Athleta, both of which host monthly neighborhood runs that are free and accessible to the public regardless of whether or not you purchase any of their wares.

Think about forming your own support group in the area if you’d want someone (or more than one) to keep you honest. Post an ad on Nextdoor, a free software that helps verify addresses and introduces you to your neighbors, to see if any other runners are in the area and would want to run with. Sometimes, the simple act of having a workout partner can be more effective than even the most expensive gym membership.

The November Project is a now-famous instance of workplace accountability in which two friends in Boston committed to keeping each other motivated to exercise every day in the month of November. There are currently more than 300 locations worldwide where people may come together for free exercise on the first Thursday of the month.

If you’re looking for a place to run without worrying about being followed, you may save money on a gym membership by working out on the track at your local or public school. The football field and track at the university near where I live are available to the public every night at 6 o’clock; they are well-lit, and there are always a few people there playing pickup soccer, strolling, or running laps. The track is generally clear of snow and ice even in the thick of winter, allowing me to run a few kilometers outside rather than on a treadmill at home.

Finally, if you’re set on joining a gym despite these obstacles, check to see whether the wellness benefits or health insurance coverage at your place of employment would pay for your membership in full or in part. Whether your company’s health insurance doesn’t already cover this sort of payment, you might want to see if it will.

  1. Spend Less on Races

There’s no denying the powerful motivational effects of having a race or fitness goal to prepare for. The cost may also be out of reach for some.

For example, in 2018, the entrance price for the New York City Marathon was $295 for a U.S. resident, and that was assuming you got a spot (which many people didn’t). Even if you locate a marathon for around $100, a few races a year might add up quickly, especially because it is a marathon in a city known for its high costs. The cost might become much higher if you’re participating in a unique event like an obstacle course race. Thankfully, there are a variety of strategies for reducing the financial burden of these entry costs.

Choose a race in a nearby or more affordable city, for instance. Runners from the United States may, of course, also spend a few weeks in Florida or Arizona preparing for one of the winter marathons outlined here, despite the fact that doing so could be more appealing.

The greatest method to cut down on or eliminate race-related travel and lodging expenses is to participate in a local event. Volunteering for a packet pickup shift or other pre-race day commitment in return for a free or discounted entry to a race is a great way to support a local event and get in on the action.

As a Chicago resident, I volunteered at a fuel and water stop for the Chicago Marathon once and received free bagels, a jacket, and admission into a local 5K organized by the same firm on a separate date. A fantastic bunch of runners passed by my flat, and I got to cheer them on.

Do a fast search for race discounts while registering for a race online. You may save money on race registration by searching online for promotional discount coupons, such as those found on sites like Groupon. Enter the name of the race you’re interested in along with the words “coupon” or “discount code” and see what comes up.

Many races give early bird discounts if you sign up on the day they start registration. I, for one, took advantage of the discounted rate of $75 for the full 26.2 kilometers of the Pittsburgh Marathon by signing up on the first day of registration. Check to see whether the race you want to run offers a group rate for people who are participating together. If not, you might always send a request for one to the race’s organizer through email.

Similarly, if you’re interested in running a race but don’t require any of the stuff that usually comes standard (such a t-shirt, mug, or finisher’s medal), you might be able to register for a “race only” discounted cost. If there isn’t one, suggest adding it or let the developer know you’d want to see it included in the future. It may save you anywhere from $5 to $15 on the registration price for a race, plus it ensures that you won’t come home with a load of gear you have no need for.

Finally, inquire as to whether or not your company supports a running club or provides a discount for a local race. Many businesses provide this, especially if a large number of workers are signing up for the race at once or if the event is benefiting a unique cause.

  1. Make use of a Free Training Plan

Almost as many different kinds of runners as there are training regimens. Pricing varies widely across the various programs covering lengths from 5K to 50K. However, you may get a free training plan from a variety of sources, such as applications for your smartphone or a printable timetable you can stick to your fridge.

As an illustration, there is a widely used and well regarded free app to help you prepare for a 5K race that is part of the Couch to 5K program, which is aimed at new runners.

I highly recommend Hal Higdon, a co-founder of the Road Runners Club of America and a runner for far longer than I have been alive, if you are searching for a training regimen for longer distances or more advanced runners. He provides free training regimens for runners of different abilities and goals, from those who just want to finish to those who wish to qualify for the Boston Marathon. There are many high-quality, no-cost alternatives to expensive training programs.

  1. Shoes at a Discount

If you want to start running, one piece of advice I usually provide is to get your feet measured by a professional at least once. Inadequate running footwear can cause a wide range of issues, from mild irritation to serious injuries requiring medical attention. Pay attention to your footwear.

This doesn’t mean you need to drop a ton of cash every year on a fresh new model, either. If you’re just starting out as a runner, it’s a good idea to have your gait and the terrain you’ll be running on assessed by a professional at a running store near you to determine the appropriate shoe for you.

Depending on the runner’s intended mileage and frequency, a stabilizing shoe may be necessary for those who supinate (land on the outside edge of their feet) as they run. A neutral stride gives such runners greater leeway to experiment with different techniques and trends. Runners who are heavier may benefit from a more durable shoe, while those who are more interested in speed may do better in a lighter shoe designed for sprinting.

If you’re just starting out as a runner, you should probably let the experts figure out your stride and recommend the appropriate shoe for your needs. Many retailers selling running shoes will allow you to try them on and return or exchange them if they don’t feel right after a few runs if you don’t think they’re the right fit for you on the treadmill or the track. Lowa, whose Renegade GTX is a trail walker’s dream, has a 60-day return policy, as do many other online shoe and boot experts. If you’ve never bought running shoes before, it’s advisable to do some research and try on several pairs before settling on a favorite.

If you already know what kind of shoes you prefer, you may save money on your next pair by shopping online at clearance sales or on sites like Amazon or Shoekicker. If you fall in love with a certain model of shoe, chances are the company will “upgrade” it within the next year, breaking your heart in the process. You may ease your heartache and your budget by purchasing a couple of pairs of last year’s styles that are now on sale. Instead of getting the most recent and pricey version as soon as it comes out, I nearly always buy the model from a year or two ago on deep sale — occasionally numerous pairs if they are available at a fantastic price.

Finally, don’t buy new running shoes unless you absolutely have to. This will help you get the most out of your current pair. If you run approximately 15 miles each week, you may expect to get at least five to six months out of a pair of running shoes before you need to replace them (experts recommend replacing shoes every 300 to 500 miles).

You may be able to get a little more mileage out of your shoes if you’re on the lighter side or if you do most of your jogging on a treadmill or track, but if you’re a major pronator or supinator, you may need to change them more frequently. It may be time for a shoe replacement if the tread is looking particularly worn or if you’re experiencing pain in your knees or hips.

Take care of your shoes so they last as long as possible and don’t become worn out prematurely. Don’t use your running sneakers for anything else. You shouldn’t wear your running shoes to the playground or to conduct errands around town; instead, go for a pair of leisure shoes or less expensive, non-specialized sports sneakers. Just walking about the house in them will eventually wear down the insole, the outsole, and the adhesive.

Second, make sure your running shoes have time to air out in a cool, dry environment while you’re not using them. Don’t throw them in the back of your car or store them in a plastic bag in your closet; doing so will cause them to smell and speed up the rate at which their components disintegrate.

One more thing: never wash or dry your shoes. You should wash them by hand carefully and then let them dry in the air if you must. Dryers’ intense, dry heat is extremely damaging to footwear.

  1. Save on Clothing and Activewear

Running clothing, in contrast to running shoes, doesn’t require a professional fit. As long as it doesn’t contain any heavy cotton, which can retain moisture and contribute to chafing, you can run in whatever you choose. The most up-to-date styles aren’t necessary for running because you’ll just be sweating in them anyhow, and well-cared-for running gear may endure for years. My favorite pair of running shorts is approaching a decade old, and I have never dried them.

If you need some new running gear, I recommend searching the discount racks at large sporting goods stores like Dick’s Sporting Goods or Academy Sports for synthetic materials that will drain moisture away from your skin. These are known by several brand names, including Dri-Fit and are sometimes referred to as “tech” fabric.

The off-season is also a good time to shop for clothes. Short-sleeve tech fabric shirts and shorts that stores sold throughout summer will go on discount once they switch to selling fall and winter clothing. Good prices on exercise apparel may also be had at thrift and resale shops, provided you know what you’re doing. It’s a clever strategy for getting your hands on often prohibitively costly luxury products at a price you can stomach.

Take care of your running gear once you’ve acquired it. They shouldn’t be dried in a dryer due to the special synthetic fabric they’re constructed of. To prolong the life of your elastic, wash your socks and sports bras in cold water and dry them on a hanger.

Last but not least, much like running shoes, running clothing will wear out faster if you use them for anything other than running. You may extend the life of your running shoes by not using them for other tasks, such as yard maintenance, vehicle washing, or home cleaning.

  1. Listen to Free Music Online

Most runners enjoy listening to music or podcasts while they exercise; fortunately, the days of having to compile a custom playlist and transfer it to your iPod before you hit the pavement are over.

Streaming media has advanced to the point that nearly anything can be accessed quickly and effortlessly from a mobile device. Nowadays, you may get music on your phone from a wide variety of free sources. You may avoid spending money on subscription services like Pandora and Spotify by using their free versions. Ads are a price to pay, but if you’re really saving that much money per month, it could be worthwhile. You can make your own jogging playlist on Amazon Music if you have an Amazon Prime subscription.

Download some podcasts to listen to while you’re out for a run if you don’t like listening to music. Almost all of the most popular choices don’t cost a dime, and many of them are so captivating that you won’t even notice your feet moving as you become lost in the tale.

  1. Avoid Extraneous Expenses

There’s no shortage of products that marketers will insist you need to start a jogging program or prepare for a race. However, all you actually need to get started running is a place to run and running gear.

It may be necessary to gradually include more nourishment into your routine if you’re preparing for a specific event or race, but doing so need not break the bank. If you’re training for a marathon and your runs are getting into the double digits, you might want to bring some sports gels or energy bars with you to consume while you’re out there.

While they might add up quickly if purchased alone, you can save money by purchasing in bulk once you’ve determined which styles and qualities you want. During your training runs, you may save money by experimenting with alternatives to costly gels, such as jelly beans or fruit snacks. Even little amounts of honey or peanut butter might work.

Gatorade and Muscle Milk, and similar “recovery beverages,” fall under the same rationale. You generally don’t need to swallow a sports drink after every workout unless you’re jogging outside in really hot weather and losing a lot of water and electrolytes via perspiration. The sugar content of many sports drinks, in addition to the electrolytes they boast, actually makes them less than ideal for usage during exercise.

Eat something like a bagel with peanut butter, a banana, or a salty meal like soup, and drink lots of water to help restore any electrolytes you may have lost. You may save money and avoid the extra calories by forgoing the sports drinks.

  1. Run Safely to Avoid Injuries

With rising health care expenses, it’s more important than ever to stay injury-free and avoid expensive doctor’s appointments and medical treatments in order to keep running inexpensively.

Be careful not to overuse a muscle by pulling or straining it at the outset of your training program. Even though you may be feeling energized and excited, remember that pushing yourself too hard, too fast might lead to an injury that will force you to miss time from your favorite activities.

The RICE approach (rest, ice, compression, and elevation) is a good way to prevent an injury from getting worse when you first start to experience pain. Because visits to the doctor, X-rays, and physical therapy may rack up a hefty bill, it’s in your best interest to avoid them if at all possible.

Focusing on other forms of exercise in addition to running can help runners avoid injury. A runner’s motions are highly repetitive. As a result, it’s vital to supplement jogging with other types of exercise, as it tends to overwork the same small groups of muscles repeatedly. Any activity except running that makes use of muscles other than those used in running counts. 

Cross-training helps you strengthen different muscle groups while giving your body a break from the monotony of doing the same thing over and over again. Cross-training is especially beneficial for beginner runners since it allows you to keep working on core, back, leg, and foot strength even when you’re not running.

Keep in mind that yoga, stretching, and foam rolling can be quite effective. Tight hamstrings and back muscles are a common cause of running-related ailments. Tight muscles can be relieved and injuries prevented with regular stretching and strength training. Incorporate yoga into your cross-training days and you’ll find that your flexibility and running performance improve.

By rolling over a cylindrical piece of hard foam, you may give yourself a deep-tissue massage, which can help you work out knots and tight regions, improve circulation to tired muscles, and speed up the healing process. Among the many running accessories available online, foam rollers (which can be purchased for less than $10) are highly recommended. By avoiding injuries and minimizing downtime, you can save enough money to cover the one-time investment.

Bottom Line

You don’t need a bunch of pricey devices, clothing, or services, despite the fact that many claim to be needed for running. The man who ran the first mile in under four minutes did so in a white running singlet and self-sharpened track spikes. There was no high-end recovery drink, GPS watch, or even the latest and greatest waterproof running gear awaiting his arrival at the finish line.

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