Total Costs of Signing Up for a Running Race

people running a marathon
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If you are thinking of running in a race or a fun run, 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 a business. So then, what are the different expenses required to run in a race?

There are many factors to take into account ranging from the location of the race to the potential for injury. Consider all of the potential costs before signing up.

The Cost of Running

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 competitive runner will tell you, running can become an expensive hobby when you start to participate in events.

The price you pay for participation will depend on how serious you plan to train. For example, some runners pay to train with a private coach or with a running group. Expenses may also depend on where you live and whether or not you will need to travel to your event.

The total cost of participating in a running race includes more than just the entry fee. Depending on the location of the race, your level of competition, and how you plan to train, you may need to take other fees into account.

Regardless of the race you choose, there are some fees that apply to all races—regardless of distance.

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 on 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 can vary considerably in cost from $50 for a basic running watch to $350 for a GPS-enabled watch.

Training

As you might expect, the cost of training can vary widely. Of course, training by yourself is a budget-friendly way to go. There are many online training programs available for beginning, intermediate, and advanced runners.

Another inexpensive option is to train with a free running group. Many running stores, community centers, and health clubs have running groups with organized runs.

There are also coached running programs that you can join for a fee. These groups are usually more structured and offer more targeted coaching. But if you are running in races for the first time, you are also likely to learn more in this setting. Depending on the length of the program, fees may start at around $150 and go up from there.

Lastly, you can hire a coach. There are pros and cons to this option. While you'll get personalized advice and a (most likely) schedule that accommodates your needs, you won't get the group motivation that can be helpful when your mojo is lacking. You are also likely to pay $50 to $150 per hour or more for this service.

Optional Items

These are some other expenses that runners don’t necessarily need but may find themselves buying. These may include race photos for $20 to $100 depending on how many you want, and $25 to $50 for a souvenir race shirt, sweatshirt, or jacket. Keep in mind, however, that your race fee usually includes a basic t-shirt with the race logo.

5K and 10K Costs

Shorter races, such as a 5K or a 10K are generally less expensive. These races are not required to provide as many services so race directors can charge less for participation in these events. Also, you are not likely to travel as far for these races so you're not likely to incur airfare or hotel expenses.

Race Day Expenses

You're likely to pay as little as $15 for a local 5K race. Some races may charge up to $50 for a larger 5K or for a 10K race, but in general fees for these races range from about $25-$45.

Fees include water and sports drinks served at aid stations, so it is not likely that you will need to carry additional fluids. In general, gels and other fuels are not needed for races lasting less than an hour.

Post-Race Recovery

Depending on your level of competition, a shorter race is not necessarily an easy race. Some mid- and short distance runners train and compete in these races at a level that leaves their bodies in need of post-race recovery services.

Whether you are new to running or whether you are a seasoned athlete who plans to participate aggressively, consider treating yourself to a post-race massage or sports stretching session to help your body recover from the effort.

Half Marathon and Marathon Costs

The marathon and the half marathon are usually the most costly races to enter. Not only are race fees typically higher, but there are other fees to consider that are not associated with other events.

There isn't really an "average" total cost of expenses for running in these longer races as there are so many variables. But if you consider entering one of these events, take these additional fees into consideration

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, part of 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 events requiring air travel to the destination.

Lodging and Meals

For destination marathons and half 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.

Water and Nutrition Expenses

You will need water for these longer races, 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, or bars to fuel your run.

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.

Potential Medical Costs

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 any race, but especially a marathon or half 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 running watch or fashionable jacket.

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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