Has anyone ever told you running is a low-cost sport? I agree and disagree with this statement. Running starts as a frugal sport but most runners eventually find themselves wanting a challenge. This challenge often takes the form of running their first 5K race and figuring out a racing budget.
I was there myself, back in 2008. Completing your first race is an exhilarating experience. Some runners decide they don’t like racing, others however, finish wanting more. This is why a racing budget is important.
Cost of Racing
In the past I have mentioned opting to run fewer distance races due to expense. In fact I first talked about this in 2011 when I was living in Fort Wayne, Indiana – which looking back – was an incredibly affordable location and time for races. Of course, we have also had a little bit of inflation since then.
Back then I ran anywhere from a 5K to a half-marathon. The most I would pay for a 5K or 10K race was $18. If the fee was $20 or $25 or even $30 – forget it.
Not much has changed for me in that area, except that finding a 5K for that price is next to impossible these days. Today, my unscientific analysis would say the average price of a 5K in a large metro area like Cleveland, Ohio is $25 to $35.
I found a 2011 report by Runner’s World in which a race director was quoted saying entry into her race was $20 and that ten years prior in 2001 that entry fee was $15. The Pittsburg Post-Gazette reports race fees are escalating due to runner demand – as long as runners continue to pay the fees will increase.
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• Running on a Treadmill with Vibram FiveFingers
Racing on a Budget
As the distance increases, so often does price. In addition, what you “get” with the race can impact race entry fees. Today I’m seeing more and more races that offer technical t-shirts instead of cotton, or even long-sleeve shirts or hoodies. I’m also seeing races that offer a vast array of foods post-race, from a full breakfast, to post-race beers.
I have to be honest, when I started racing back in 2008 and 2009 – I knew of no races offering post-race beer. Back then there were the huge national races of course, such as the New York City Marathon, The Boston Marathon and the Marine Corps Marathon.
The only “party” race I remember runners talking about was the Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon. If you were running large or themed races in 2008 please feel free to include your experience in the comments.
In addition to a rise in races featuring “perks,” there are now countless “themed” races including The Color Run, Electric Run, Pretty Muddy, The Warrior Dash, Cupid’s Undie Run, The Santa Hustle – and so many others. There are in all a lot of 5ks in Cleveland.
These races are popular, I believe, because they help appeal to newer runners, those who simply want to walk a race or those who want to be active without pressure to win.
While it’s wonderful to have so many race options today, and to see so many running, I’m really a “give me the basics” kind of runner. If you can find me a 5K race in the Greater Cleveland area with a $12 registration fee, a cotton T-shirt and bagels and bananas post-race for food – I’m there.
Regardless of what type of race you prefer, it’s necessary to have a racing budget. At one point my husband and I were each running two to three races every month during the summer. I tallied up the race entry fees and we easily spent $1,000 per year on racing without really planning for the expense.
Today we race less for many reasons – a shift in priorities, having a little one who keeps us busy and financial impact. Racing becomes crazy expensive if you are racing that frequently. I like racing, but I also like keeping sticking to our budget so we can reach future financial goals.
Other Racing Costs
Spending $1,000 per year on race entry fees is fine if you budget for it, but if you don’t have a racing budget, this could be a huge shock to your pocketbook. In addition to race entry fees, running costs typically include:
• High-quality running shoes (which need replacing regularly)
• Running clothing (socks, of various types, shorts, tops, visors, headbands)
• Running gels, drinks and fuel (especially for longer distances)
• Travel time, gasoline for miles driven and lodging for out-of-town races
• Other smaller items like BodyGlide anti-chafe balm, a Road ID for safety and more
Today the racing budget includes our top two expenses: new running shoes and race entry fees. While we typically do not race during the winter, we save for these expenses year-round to off-set cost. By putting aside as little as $10 or $20 per month, you can easily save for and cover the items in your racing budget.
More Ways to Save Money While Running Races
In addition to having a racing budget, if you are trying to save on running costs, try the following tactics to reduce how much money you spend on running each year:
• Select races with lower entry fees (most often a race with a smaller field, in a small town)
• Select races with fewer perks
• Register early to take advantage of reduced entry fees
• If credit card fees apply, it might be cheaper to pay via mail with a check and a stamp
• Instead of buying race fuel and drinks, make or pack your own ala Scott Jurek.
When it comes to larger races such as a half-marathon or marathon, I completely understand the fee should be and is higher. But, even for these larger races, by registering early you get the most best bang for your buck. When I ran the Fort-4-Fitness Half-Marathon, I registered early and paid $40. When I registered early for the Toledo Glass City Half-Marathon, I paid only $35.
Now we kept a race budget and this is what we spend. Having a personal budget may seem like it takes the fun out of running, but it really does provide freedom to spend on races as you please – as long as you planned for the expense. At the end of the day, I prefer to keep my hobby/sport more frugal. The last thing I need is for my hobby to become a financial stressor.
Do you have a cap for how much you will pay for a race?
11 thoughts on “Racing Budget Use it Help Save Money”
The reason I don't run a lot of races is strictly due to cost. I've only done 4 races in the last 2 years… I paid just over $100 for my full this weekend and that was the early fee (w/tax & online fee). My husband's entry was $25 more. Unfortunately when you live in a big city the choices are all pretty expensive. There aren't a lot of small community races like in the states either, but I think that's due to safety and insurance costs for organizers – it's just a different system. I'd love to find a $5 (or even $15) race!
There are no 5Ks near me less than $25… I wish there were! Most of my triathlons average 60-90 so its tough on my wallet too!
@Crystal. Sounds kinda like the Dave Ramsey plan 🙂
Glad to know I am not the only who who tries to stick to a racing budget.
Seems this topic brought the comments –
I prefer $15 or less for 5K's (though if it's a special event with a special meal or special activities I don't mind paying $20 – $25 for a 5K . . . well, that would require something super special!).
I don't have a half marathon limit – I'll do the race if it sounds like fun or has something special.
I create an annual racing budget (and transfer money monthly into the account) which includes all aspects of racing (fuel, gear, travel, food if traveling, shoes, etc). It's the bottom line – I can do whichever races I want to as long as the money is in the account.
Oh sure, I'm certain everyone has been disappointed by a race (or two or ten).
Have fun on your group run tonight! Can't wait to hear how you felt about running with a group!
we have an "envelope" for our racing money. We put in $100 each month. Some month we dont use it all but some months we will use it plus the surplus due to signing up for halfs. there is a 5k race pretty much every weekend in the summer. last year we did almost all of them, this year we will only do the ones we really liked, but we are adding in more half's, or at least my hubby is. 🙂 it depends on what the charity is too. if it's going towards something i really like i'm willing to pay more!.
WOW…i thin that a $15 5k is very reasonable!
ive paid $30-$40 for some larger races…
I'm with you! There's a marathon near me that costs $35… I refuse to pay $30-$40 for a 5K when I could get 26.2 for the same price!
There was a Turkey Trot I wanted to do last year…but $25 for a 5k is ridiculous. And there is a half marathon by me that is $90. $90?! No way!
I do have a cap – I will NOT pay more than $25 for a 5k. That's just crazy. I can go buy a cute tech t for that much!
Well there are some are just absurd. There was 9 mile race on 9.11 this year that was like 65 or more and you didn't even get a medal I think. But here in IL, I would be hard pressed to find 5k's for $15. Minimum here I think is 22-25 so that can include a t shirt.
I really don't have a cap for races. The 5k and 10k races I do on base are 5 dollars or are free so I guess that makes up for spending more money on other distances. I paid 40 for my last half marathon which I thought was fine. Some of the prices for full marathons are ridiculous!