Is Running Really That Cheap Anymore?

How much does it cost to run?

After posting on Instagram yesterday about the Boston Marathon, I wondered how much money I would have to spend both financially and time wise to get myself into BQ shape if I had a ‘whatever it takes’ approach. Doing all the PT, training, rehab, eating etc completely by the book, no excuses. I’m intrigued whether I could run a BQ in the spring (not in Tokyo but later) if I adopted a professional athlete’s approach to it.

Anyway, because I was in a boring lecture it got thinking about how much money I’ve spent on this hobby of mine…

Is running really that cheap?I know plenty of people who started running because it was “free”.

I have to include those parenthesis as I have spent thousands of pounds on this free sport. As a student, and someone who is self admittedly terrible with money (my Scottish banker Grandfather and frugal Mother are horrified. How I could possibly be related to them… we all have our faults, right?) my bank account is often dangerously close to the red zone.

And it’s regularly due to this free hobby of mine.

Of course, a lot of that is related to my penchant to travel abroad for races, in particular to take part in the Marathon Majors. The six races are not only spread around the world (I’m completing my sixth and final Major in Tokyo in Feb), but they’re notoriously some of the hardest and most expensive to get into. The New York City Marathon, to which I throw my hat into the ring each year, is a pricey $295 for international runners.

Race Entry 

It seems that race fees in general are getting more expensive, its not uncommon for 10Ks in London to be £50! Of course, there are plenty of cheap, local options as well as the amazing free weekly parkruns, but in my opinion you can’t beat the atmosphere of a big race and the feel of a big medal around my neck at the end.

Rock N Roll Las Vegas 10K

Kit

I probably have more pairs of trainers than the average runner, and am very lucky to be sent pairs to trial from different brands, however I do still find myself buying at least one pair per marathon training cycle. Whether that’s a new trail shoe to combat the slick mud near us (had to upgrade my Hoka One One Speedgoats as they couldn’t handle the mudslide on our local parkrun) or a new version of my marathon fave Adidas Ultra Boost. Understandably PRs want to promote the latest shoe, however often that doesn’t actually do the job I need it to, and so I find myself forking out between £100-150 a couple of times a year to keep my feet happy, and giving willing friends/charities the ones I don’t wear. I remember when you could get a great pair of trainers for £60!

Is running really that cheap?

I’ve finally found the bra brand that works for me and has NEVER caused any chafing. I’ve run three marathons and have zero complaints about the Triumph Triaction bras, and happily they retail for about £36 (you can often find them on sale for less too). I’ve spent £60+ in the past for bras, and considering they need to be replaced every year or so, the price can add up.

boobydoo sports bras - therunnerbeans

Whilst trainers and bras are my two key investment pieces that I’d recommend to all runners, I am drawn to the more expensive end for the rest of my running kit. Hello Lululemon, Sweaty Betty and New Balance x J Crew. My excuse is that I run long distance and can’t have kit chafing or not performing, which is part of the way I justify spending up to £100 on leggings. Plus I think the quality is incredible, I’ve had leggings that I wear on a near weekly basis for 5 years.

Also I have a thing for the Lululemon pockets

Coaching 

My fastest marathon time is still from Berlin 2014 when my friend Kerry coached me (in exchange for a couple of post run brunches/dinners I seem to remember, what a bargain!). I then worked with Mary Johnson last year in the lead up to Boston and London, who was lovely and kept me injury free despite insisting on running 2 marathons within 6 days of each other, and helped me run two half marathon PBs during our 7 months. Sadly, I just cannot afford the $160 a month for her coaching, although I love that she has complementary strength plans for $65 per 6 week block, plus a dietitian to chat through fueling strategy and training nutrition! When I’m a millionaire, or working a full-time job then perhaps I’ll be able to re-invest!

There are of course, cheaper options out there with online coaching from awesome coaches like the team at Running with Us from £65, or less. However, I would be careful about who you give your money to when it comes to coaching, and don’t just go for the cheapest option.

I’ve also written a whole post about free marathon training plans and how to write your own training plan.

Rehab 

Lets face it, as runners, most of us will at some point get injured or at least feel a niggle somewhere. Even if you’re best friends with your foam roller, a trip to the physio/sports massage clinic every now and then is important to make sure things are in tip top shape. And with the average sports massage costing about a pound a minute, regular sessions during a marathon training cycle can build up.

Personally, I think they make all the difference, (whether that’s physically or just psychological), and are a key addition into my training but I have spent hundreds, if not thousands of pounds over the years having my muscles pummelled.  Whatever they tell you, a sports massage is not like a deep tissue massage!

Working with Function 360 physiotherapy

I feel so incredibly lucky to be supported by Function 360 Physiotherapy for my marathon training. They are also upping their discount to 20% off all treatments with the code #F360CW in December so get booking if you live in London. The team there are lovely, and it’s a great one stop shop for all of your running rehab needs; physio, sports massage, injury rehab, S&C…

Cross-Training 

Whether you have a gym membership, go to boutique fitness classes or have bought equipment to workout in your own house/garden, you can find yourself opening your purse/wallet more often than you’d like. But personally, I’ve found that I can’t run more than 4-5 a week without injury and therefore cross training really is key to staying healthy and getting fitter/faster!

Having worked with a PT this Summer before my wedding, I’ve definitely noticed a change back to my old physique and fitness, and I’m seriously considering investing fortnightly in a PT again in the New Year to help with the running and strength.

Is running really that cheap?

Food 

A little bit of a joke, but I eat a lot more when I’m marathon training, not to mention the gels, protein, hydration sachets etc that many of us utilise to try to help enhance our performance. Think about all those supermarket bills, post workout snacks, and expo purchases!

So that’s where my money has been going for the last 5 years…

How much do you think you spend on running annually? Or is it too much to even compute? LOL. 

My friend Leah wrote a great post about how much her training for and running the Paris Marathon cost a few years ago here. 

21 Comments

  1. Jon
    30th November 2017 / 2:19 pm

    First, let me say I always enjoy reading your blogs, they go into my ‘pot of inspiration’. As I still count myself as relatively new to running – in reality been running about a year but just not as frequent as I would like! (Remember your post about being an imposter…that!!)

    Having low mileage and only 1x5k and 1x10k race to my name (so far) and having a happy target of being mid-field my spend isn’t too bad. After initial outlay to get good shoes and kit I think it’s possible to not worry about paying much after that, but where’s the fun in that??

    I’m expecting my spend to increase next year…I have already booked my fortnightly PT sessions with a local trainer (£150 for 6 x1hr sessions). I’m looking for new shoes next year so chuck in another £100+, I’m definitely looking at more organised races next year, usually around the £15 -£20 fee and I’d love to join a big event in London, so let’s say another £100. Add in some update kit (it’s all must haves of course!) nutrition and some physio/recovery and I’m thinking I’ve topped out around £1000.

    Is it necessary? mostly not: adjustments to my approach, training, self-care etc would reduce the spend and I’d get by just fine. But as I said, where’s the fun in that!? I work to fund my lifestyle and running is as much a part of a lifestyle choice as anything else don’t you think? 🙂

  2. 30th November 2017 / 4:32 pm

    I’m all about the pockets. I can’t run outside in anything but now. I’m totally spoilt! If only other retailers would follow suit, it could save us some cash!

    • charlotte
      30th November 2017 / 5:18 pm

      That’s crazy expensive!!! I hope you get all the freebies at the end! Re-race at the beginning of Feb.. I’d love to if I can find cheap enough flights!

  3. Hannah
    30th November 2017 / 6:31 pm

    If you have the money, then do whatever you like! For me, i think I’m the opposite. Everything has a value to me so spending £100 on leggings 😳, no way! Karrimor ones are great, £20 and lasted me over 5 years. For shoes, I know the make and model I like, then buy them reduced (£30 compared to £100) when the newer ones are released. I have 3 pairs: one clean for road running, one I don’t mind getting dirty, and one pair of trail shoes.

    I probably do 2 races a year where i make a weekend of it and stay overnight. It’s a good way to see a new city.

    People are different, and different things make them happy. So as long as you’re not getting into debt, then spend away 😃

    • charlotte
      1st December 2017 / 6:29 am

      Definitely a great idea with the shoes and race weekends! I’m a bit picky when it comes to my leggings – I’m all about the side pockets which I’ve only ever found on New Balance and Lululemon… might have to give Karrimor a go though given the price!

      • Abigail
        4th December 2017 / 4:32 pm

        The Kalenji (Decathlon) leggings are my most recent discovery – £10-15 and have side and waist pockets. Worth trying out!

    • Hannah
      6th December 2017 / 8:43 am

      I’ve just read your post again and it sounds like you don’t actually have the money (“Bank account is often dangerously close to the red zone”) so I’d be careful about spending all this money. Think what you really need, not what you want!

  4. 30th November 2017 / 6:51 pm

    I usually go on two marathons per year. Nothing more. Nothing less. I do understand how it can get to be very pricey in the end so I’m focusing more on staying fit using my gym membership. But what’s a hobby without spending a little on yourself, right?

    Best,
    The Fitness Bro

    • charlotte
      30th November 2017 / 7:05 pm

      Exactly, I think it’s better spent on running than clubbing/boozing like I used to spend it on!!!

  5. 30th November 2017 / 11:09 pm

    I dread to think how much I’ve spent on running over the years, but I justify it by seeing it as an investment in myself! Plus Lululemon kit really does last! x

    • charlotte
      1st December 2017 / 6:27 am

      Agreed – it’s most certainly an investment. like some people collect handbags…I collect trainers and medals!

  6. 1st December 2017 / 10:27 am

    I don’t ever add up the money 😀 It’s something fun to do and the running and Crossfit and swimming and sports massages keep me healthy so I figure you can’t put a price tag on that.

  7. jenny gt
    1st December 2017 / 10:09 pm

    I have to say I disagree, it’s as cheap as you want it to be. Getting personalised coaching as a middle of the pack recreational runner is ridiculous; just join a running club, the cost per training session is pennies and you get £2 off each race as an affiliated runner. Most running clubs also free trail/cross country leagues which cost nothing. Parkrun = a free weekly tempo session/race session depending on how you want to pace it. You can get trainers for half the price by buying last seasons colours: exactly the same quality trainer; paying £120-150 for just to get the latest trainer release is just silly. Same applies to getting the latest watch, does anybidy actually use all the features?! Local, low key races are much cheaper and often more enjoyable than doing big city races: you should try them. Each to their own, but you can’t complain about the cost when there’s plenty of better-priced options. It seems the need to jet set around the world to do races is fuelled by social media and trying to impress! It’s well known that the best running is done in times of austerity; by way of example the men’s UK marathon record was set in the 1980s and still stands today, despite advances in technology and trainers etc. It just shows that you can throw as much money as you want at running, but it doesn’t necessarily help you get faster.

    • Laura
      8th December 2017 / 7:47 am

      I agree, running is as cheap/expensive as you want it to be. I personally wouldn’t dream of spending £100 on a pair of leggings or £40 on a 10k race, let alone fly to the US to run a marathon (you didn’t mention the added cost of flights + hotel, Charlie?). I only buy branded kit in the sales and if I need something more expensive, such as shoes, it’s usually a birthday present. If you have the money, then by any means spend it on something that makes you happy, whether that’s running or booze or a designer handbag but I don’t think money (or lack of) should be a barrier to running.

  8. 2nd December 2017 / 4:47 pm

    HEy Charlie,

    You make a good point on this. I’m running my first marathon tomorrow in Mersin, Turkey of all places (from New Zealand) where entrance fee was less than 5 euro. Already looking at the majors like yaself though, crikey, they add up fast!

    Anyway, thanks for keeping it real (only just came across ya blog). Glad to see you improve so much over your first time a few years back, I’m on the ‘just finish’ goal for tomorrow. Keep running!
    Jub

  9. 2nd December 2017 / 6:42 pm

    I’ve only been running a year or so, so I’m only just realising how much I could spend! I have to be careful though as I’m working on pretty much minimum wage whilst studying, so no races abroad for a while. I’m also trying to cut down on the amount of stuff I have, so it doesn’t bother me that I have one pair of running shorts and one longer pair of leggings – I wash them as soon as I’ve worn them anyway and they dry quickly! I’m definitely going to look into your suggested sports bra – I need a new one and have been struggling so will check them out!

  10. 5th December 2017 / 12:50 am

    I agree, running is much more expensive than I originally thought… it’s definitely all about the right approach (do I really need a new pair of running tights? No. Do I want them?? 100x YES :)).

  11. 5th December 2017 / 7:15 pm

    I am brand-new to running and I haven’t even done any races yet, and already I can tell this lifestyle can put a dent in your wallet. New shoes from a running shop, couple pairs of decent running socks, and some cold-weather athletic wear didn’t come cheap!

    I’ve just got to learn what’s worth spending money on… and what isn’t!

  12. Charlotte
    5th December 2017 / 10:52 pm

    I am a fell runner and find most of my local races quite inexpensive. I did the Longmynd Hike for the 4th time this year, it is local so no travel, 50 miles and 8000ft ascent and only £35 one of my favourites. We also have a winter and summer series where races range from 3 miles – 12 miles all STEEP, all under £10. I don’t travel far for races because I am lucky enough to live in a beautiful area of the UK but agree, travel, bigger races and kit can be expensive. My way around helping with the cost is birthdays and Christmas, my list usually contains shorts, leggings, t-shirt and trainers. This year’s Christmas list I’ve added a Sunto GPS watch…… I’m hoping I get a nice surprise Christmas morning.
    I love to run though and it’s clear you do too, so I say what the hell to the cost we are doing something we love and makes us happy 🏃🏃

  13. 8th December 2017 / 4:45 am

    I think like many hobbies it’s as expensive as you want to make it, or not. I’m getting into my second year of running and can see how travel runs would be tempting. I’ve definitely made the decision on some local ones based on cost and course. Two nearly identical ones, weeks apart. Same course, two organizers. One with the medal is cheaper.

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