Time for a little myth busting. Somewhere along the way, someone pushed the idea that running was free. ‘Just lace up your shoes and go!’
I suppose running is cheap in comparison to some other athletic pursuits. Hockey requires a ton a gear, scuba diving gear is seriously expensive (and heavy). A triathlon requires gear for three separate sports.
So maybe running is cheaper, but it is still not cheap- at least if you want to keep your body and your feet happy and healthy (which you do, BTW). But with a little research and planning, you can save a little bit here and there.
A solid pair of running shoes is $150 or more. Even shoes that simulate what it is like to run barefoot (which can be done for free) are over $100.
For us ladies, a quality jog bra can run you upwards of $70, and if you are running regularly, you will need more than one. Tech fabric pants, specialty socks? Definitely not free. Add in a $400 GPS watch and a $120 hydration pack, the impact on the wallet is noticeable.
Now shirts? Shirts are something nearly every runner has more than enough of. So that’s something.
If you choose to race, that takes the expenses to a whole other level. Entry fees for marathons are approaching $200. Depending on location, you may need to travel so you’ll have to budget for airfare, hotel, and rental cars.
It all adds up. Quickly.
Ways to Make Running Cheaper
But have no fear! There are some ways to minimize running expenses! It still may not be the free endeavor that is promised in the old adage, but the saved nickels add up.
Take Care of Your Gear
I detest laundry. Oh how I wish I could just throw my jog bras and tech shirts in the washer and then toss them in the drier. But the heat of the drier drastically shortens the life of the elastic in your jog bra and standard detergents and fabric softeners can wreak havoc on the sweat wicking properties of your tech shirts.
Keeping your existing gear happy and healthy means less new gear to purchase.
Actually read the care instruction tags on your gear before you cut them off and throw them away. Most technical gear wants to be hand washed or machine washed in cold water using a detergent that is designed for technical fabrics. Air dry gear instead of throwing it the drier.
Taking care of your gear will greatly extend its life. The common wisdom is that jog bras should never see their first birthday. My favorite style of jog bra has been discontinued so I take super-duper good care of the ones I have. I think they are old enough to be in elementary school.
Health Insurance/Employer Benefit Plans
Many health insurance and employee wellness plans have perks, discounts, benefits for a variety of healthy pursuits. All or part of your gym membership, fitness trackers, or race entries may be paid for or reimbursed.
If you have an employee wellness plan, it is worth reading the fine print, or contacting your plan administrators, to see if there are any benefits to be had that can be used for running expenses.
Ways to Make Racing Cheaper
Choose Your Races Wisely
There are still inexpensive races to be found. Smaller, local races and trail runs usually have significantly lower entry fees due to their smaller size. Smaller races mean fewer road closures, permits, and traffic detours which keep costs (and entry fees) down.
Also look for races with less, or optional, swag. While I love race swag as much as the next girl (if not more), it can greatly increase entry fees. If you looking to the bottom line, look for races that offer to take $5-$10 of the entry fee if you decline the shirt or other swag.
Most races are cheaper the further in advance you register. If it is a race you know you want to do, sign up early. You get the discount and you don’t need to worry about the race selling out. Double score!
The caveat is that most races don’t allow refunds. So if your race plans change or you get injured, you will be out the registration fee. Be sure to read the fine print before you register.
Some races offer free or discounted races entries to volunteers. Since all runners should volunteer for races anyway, this is a twofer- get free (or discounted) entry and good runner karma!
A little research (and a little more time doing laundry) can save you money and make the hit to your wallet a little less painful.