A blog by runners. For runners.

Running on a budget

All you need to be a runner is yourself and a good pair of running shoes. Right? Some people would argue you don’t even need that, just your own bare feet.

As I became more and more involved in the sport, though, all those 5K registrations, occasional hotel stays, energy bars, and other incidentals started adding up — and fast.

I’ve been much more budget-conscious in recent years. As in, what once was the Wild West of running costs has now been roped into a tidy line item on my family’s spreadsheet of monthly costs. My allotment may be small, but that doesn’t mean I’m doing any less running.

Here are some tips:

  • Join your local running club. By doing so, not only will you be showing support for your hometown running community, you’ll also likely save on club-sponsored races and maybe even earn special discounts at neighborhood running shops.
  • Plan ahead. If you take the time to write out a yearly or seasonal race calendar, you can take advantage of early registration fees. Don’t underestimate: the savings can be significant.
  • Run fewer races. I used to do just about every race I could sign up for, year-round. Focusing on a few key races is beneficial in a number of ways. You’ll save on registration costs, of course. More appealing? You could train to perform better at specific races versus spreading yourself too thin.
  • Run locally, too. If you’re really in a budget crunch, consider sticking to races where travel costs and hotel stays aren’t an issue. Sure, the registration fee might only be $30, but by the time you add up a $150 night stay, a $25 dinner, etc., well, you see where this is going.
  • Shop sales for gear. Most of my running clothing and gear isn’t from this season or even last season. I shop stores like TJ Maxx, Marshalls, and then the end-of-season sales at specialty shops. I might not have the flashiest look at the start line, but that doesn’t take anything away from my real speed.
  • End your gym membership. We’re back-and-forth on this one, but if running is your primary sport, you can do that — as well as various cross-training — at home, on the roads and sidewalks, and at neighborhood tracks.
  • Resist the extras. I know first-hand how difficult it can be to resist, but people have been running for ages without GPS-enabled watches, compression sleeves, and fuel belts. These items and more make running more convenient and, perhaps, more fun, but leaning down to the basics will keep your budget in check.

Notes on shoes: A quality pair of running shoes can set you back over $100. Obviously, this is an area where you shouldn’t skimp, but you can still definitely find smart deals regardless.

  • Keep track of your mileage. That way, you’ll have a better idea of when you’re just having a stiff day or when those puppies have possibly had it. Experts disagree on that magical number of miles, but I’ve most typically encountered the 300 – 500 range.
  • Comb sites like Running Warehouse. Sites like these typically have quality shoes at discounted prices. You can even stock up on last season’s model on the super cheap. Many sites even have loyalty programs garnering additional deals. (Some suggestions: Sierra Trading Post, 6pm.com, Amazon.com, Sports Shoes, and Joe’s New Balance Outlet)
  • Shop around. You may be surprised to discover your favorite pair of sneaks on clearance at your local running store. I always try to look at least three places before committing to a final sale.

These tips aren’t an exhaustive list. We’d like to hear from you! Are you running on a budget? How do you keep costs down while still hitting PRs and enjoying your time out there on the road?

Written by Ashley Marcin.

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