Costs to Consider Before Signing Up for a Marathon

Expenses to consider before running a marathon

people running a marathon
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If you are thinking of running a marathon, you're probably wondering about the cost. After all, we are so often told to weigh the risks and benefits when it comes to medicine or the profits and losses of business. How expensive is it to take part in a marathon?

There are many factors to take into account ranging from the location of the marathon to the potential of injury. Let's take a look at these costs.

The Cost of Running a Marathon

Running is a fairly inexpensive sport, compared with pricey pursuits such as golfing or skiing. All you need to run are some comfortable clothes and a good pair of running shoes, right? Well, that may be true for the casual, recreational runner but, as any marathoner will tell you, marathon running can become an expensive hobby.

There isn't really an "average" cost of expenses for running a marathon as there are so many variables. Expenses may depend on where you live, what marathon you choose, and how seriously you wish to train. For example, are you going to hire a personal running coach?

That said, let's look at a breakdown of typical expenses associated with a marathon to give you an idea of what you might expect.

Race Day Expenses

Race day expenses will include both the cost of race entry and the cost of getting there. If you live in Australia and the race is in Boston, your expenses will be much higher than a marathon in your city. Costs to consider include:

  • Race Entry: The race entry cost may be $20 for a community marathon, less than $100 for smaller marathons, and as high as $150 to $300 for big city marathons. In addition to traditional marathons, there are often half marathons which are done to raise money for a non-profit organization such as a cancer benefit. If this is the case your entry fee may be tax deductible.
  • Travel: Travel expenses may be as little as a few dollars for gas and parking, and upwards of a thousand dollars plus for distant marathons requiring air travel to the destination.
  • Lodging and Meals: For destination marathons, most runners assume they will spend one to three nights at a hotel. This expense may be higher if you choose to vacation as well at your destination. The cost of a hotel or other form of lodging can vary widely depending on the type of lodging (hostel vs 5-star resort), the amenities, and whether you share a room with other runners or friends. You will also need to add in the cost of meals throughout your stay.

    Basically, the farther away the race is, the more days you'll want to stay before and after the race. If you're going to a different time zone, you may want to get to the race destination at least two days before the race to try to adjust and overcome any jet lag. Keep in mind that most marathons don't offer race bib pick-up the morning of the race, so you'll need to be close to the race destination the day before the marathon to pick up your race bib and timing device.

    Costs of Marathon Running Clothes and Gear

    Though you can run in just about anything, serious runners often wish to invest in clothing which will provide the greatest comfort.

    Running Shoes

    Perhaps your most important monetary investment for running is a good pair of running shoes. Running shoes usually run slightly higher than $100, and should be replaced every 3 months or so during marathon training. A few pairs of good running socks will add on another $25 to $50.

    Running Outfits

    Plan to have at least three favorite go-to running outfits to get you through training. This may cost you from $100 to $500 depending on season and stores. Synthetic fabrics are often better and allow for wicking, whereas 100 percent cotton can remain wet and leave you feeling clammy (and later on, cold) during your run.

    For women, a few good quality sports bras can tack on another $50 to $100. A 2016 study found that wearing compression clothing may not only improve performance, but reduce muscle pain, damage, and inflammation related to running.

    Running Accessories

    A number of accessories can protect you from your run. Essentials include a running hat, which runs around $20, running sunglasses, which can run from $20 to $300 depending on the brand, and a running watch which also varies considerably in cost from a $50 basic running watch to a $350 fancy-schmancy GPS-enabled watch.

    Water and Nutrition Expenses

    You will need water for the race, and options can vary from $15 to $40 for a water bottle or fuel belt depending on the model you choose. If you add in sports drinks, add on another $30 to $60. You will also want to plan on another $30 to $60 to cover the cost of sports gels, chews, and bars.

    Recovery Tools and First Aid

    After your marathon, you may be sore, and recovery expenses should be included in your total. You may wish to use a foam roller, massage stick, or another massage tool which can run from $15 to $40. Compression socks also run from $15 to $40. If you want to splurge a little and have a professional massage, costs begin at around $75 to $100 but can run higher for longer massages and any other additions such as hot stone therapy or aromatherapy.

    And don't forget about blisters. You may want to estimate another $20 to $30 to cover the cost of BodyGlide, band-aids, and moleskin.

    Optional Marathon Items

    These are some other expenses that marathoners don’t necessarily always incur but often find themselves buying. These may include race photos for $20 to $100 depending on how many you want, and of course, $25 to $50 for a souvenir race shirt.

    Potential Medical Costs of Running a Marathon

    The cost of a physician visit or physical therapy appointments related to your participation in a marathon may vary widely depending on your insurance coverage and your location. Before traveling you may wish to check into your out-of-state or out-of-country coverage to see what will be covered. You may wish to purchase travel insurance to make up the difference.

    If you will be running in a large marathon, have any cardiac risk factors, or are older, take a moment to consider your wish to compete. A 2017 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that Medicare beneficiaries who had a heart attack or cardiac arrest on marathon dates (in larger marathons in major cities) had significantly longer ambulance transport times and were more likely to die in the 30 days following the event.

    A Word From Verywell

    As noted above, there are a number of different costs to consider when estimating the expense of participating in a marathon. If you are on a budget, there are a number of money-saving tips for runners, but make sure to cut costs on the right things. Good running shoes are a must, but you don't necessarily need the latest keep-up-with-the-Joneses watch or shades.

    Finally, a discussion of costs wouldn't be complete without mentioning the benefits. We often lay out large sums for TVs and gaming computers, expenses that promote sedentary behavior. In calculating the cost of your marathon be sure to balance out the expenses with the benefits to your health and well-being that running can provide.

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