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The costs of being a runner can really add up. From registration fees, to new running shoes every three to four months and the latest accessories, credit card bills become painful to look at.
Running doesn’t require a gym membership—unless we keep having winters like this one—but the sport itself does require other purchases. And it seems the more miles I run, the more money I have to spend.
It’s actually kind of embarrassing how much money I spent on completing four marathons last year. Not including travel and accommodation costs, I spent more than $400 in registration fees alone.
But registration fees aren’t even the biggest expense. When I got to thinking about how much I actually spent on running in 2013, I quickly realized where all my money went:
-$150 GPS Watch
-$19.95 KT tape
-$5.95 Body Glide
-$18 Foam Roller
-$24.99 The Stick
-$160 Long Run Fuel to Last Eight Months (2 marathon training cycles)
-$90 Running Tights
-$100 Running Shorts
-$119.88/year Jamming out to Spotify on Long Runs
-$476/year Running Shoes
-$440.25 Four Marathon Registration Fees
You get the idea. Expenses can really add up if you’re not careful. I spent $1,600 in just one year to enjoy this hobby of mine—not including the cost of traveling for two marathons. I know I can't be the only young, under-paid staffer in the District paying too much on running supplies and rent.
But as I continue to train and complete more marathons, I’ve gotten wiser. There's a way to have an enjoyable running experience without emptying your checkbook—if you’re smart about it.
Quality Over Quantity
I was hesitant to spend a large amount of money on my first pair of running tights. But the store employees convinced me that the product would last. And they were right. They’re the only pair of running tights I own and they’ve gotten me through nearly three winters of running. By investing in one quality pair of tights, I don’t have to go out and spend more money to replace them. This is true for most of my running clothes and products. I have high-quality products but don’t have to buy many of them because they last.
Join a Team
Aside from the several other benefits a team membership has, paying a minimal fee to a club can save you money. Several of them offer free entries into low-key races they host and also offer discounts at many local running stores. This really is a no-brainer: you make new friends, receive great discounts and get into races for free.
This suggestion may seem counter productive because you have to spend more money to save more money. But running shoes are a necessity anyway, so why not get rewarded for it? Nearly all of the local running stores in the Washington metropolitan area offer rewards programs. I bought my running shoes from one store last year that gave me $20 for every $200 I spent, and I ended up saving $40.
I spent hundreds of dollars on expenses last year traveling for two marathons. Take advantage of the fact that you live in an area where there’s hundreds of local races in the Washington metropolitan area ever year. Check out RunWashington’s race calendar for a full list of races in the area.
If you do want to spend money on traveling for a race, be strategic about where you go. Pick a destination where your friends or family (with an extra room in their home, of course) live. Or find a race in a city you already planned on going to for vacation. London marathon, anyone?
Think Birthdays and Holidays-Santa has quite the reputation to be extra nice to runners. Add that foam roller you’ve always wanted to your wish list next year.
Nothing—and I mean nothing—is worse than a wasted race entry. Don't just sign up for a race on a whim. Be absolutely sure you are going to compete in the race and don’t skimp on the training.
The Early Bird Catches the Worm
The earlier you sign up for a race, the cheaper it is. Aside from the marathons that have lottery systems with one flat registration fee, signing up several months in advance for a race can you save you tons of money. And booking travel arrangements early on can also save you money. Several hotels team up with races to offer athletes special deals right after registration opens up. This usually means you have to shell out lots of money nine months before the race, but you could save hundreds of dollars doing it this way.
Find Some Friends
Find a running buddy who will compete in the same race as you. You can split travel and accommodation costs with him or her and also have someone to keep you company. If taking public transportation is too tough on your legs after a marathon, pick a meeting spot with another friend who competed and share a cab ride home with him or her.
Don’t Get Caught Up in the Newest and Latest Technology
Save the money you were planning on spending on the latest GPS watch because the best technology in the world can’t buy you a Boston Marathon qualifying time. Treating your body well (eating healthier and training smarter and harder) will. It’s all up to you to be the best runner that you can be.