Running don’t come cheap

by Kim on February 21, 2013

Running is expensive. Have you noticed that?

We’re talking about a sport that involves using your legs to propel yourself forward. And—that’s it. That’s the sport. But, of course, the more you get into it, the harder it is on your wallet.

I’m starting to get a little depressed about it.

Where is this coming from? Well, I’ve been working on planning my race schedule for the year (more on that soon, but here’s a teaser: there’s a full marathon involved). I love that “13 in 2013” challenge people are doing, where they’re running 13 races throughout the course of this year. And I’d love to participate in it, but do you know how much it COSTS to sign up for 13 races?? Even if half of them are 5Ks, we’re talking at least several hundred dollars, and possibly even over a grand, in registration fees alone. Plus much more if the races involve travel/hotel stays.

I wish there was a “will provide own water/doesn’t need a race shirt or medal, or a banana at the finish line” option.

Er…actually, I hate carrying water, so scratch that part.

But even if all the registration fees weren’t completely traumatizing (or you were a runner who somehow didn’t care about running races), there would still be plenty of other ways to jack up your running bill.

The shoes: $100+


If you’re serious about this running thing, not just any old shoe will do. Get ready to fork up.

The clothes: $200+



This ONE outfit from lulu is over $100.

But even if you shop at Old Navy/Target with me, it’s shockingly easy to hit $200 on a couple new pieces of running gear. And if you’re training for a race, you’re gonna need a lot of this stuff.

Not to mention that you’ll need different stuff for different seasons. Pants/zip-ups/arm warmers/gloves for colder temps, shorts and tanks for summer, capris and light long-sleeved shirts for those weird in-between times…

And now we’re talking several hundred bucks.

The watch: $100-$400


I don’t have one, and I’ve been trying to get around it for years (mapping my runs in advance, using phone apps), but I just don’t know how much longer I can make it without the real thing.

I want to work on improving my speed this year, and the only way to do that is to pace myself.

Of course, a helpful way to pace yourself is to KNOW WHAT YOUR PACE IS at any given time.

Some people are into heart rate training too, which involves—that’s right—knowing your heart rate.

The shades: $10-$150


I know, we don’t all need Oakleys. That’s why I kept the low end at $10, so you couldn’t be mad at me.

But just-for-running sunglasses are a must in the summer. My gold-trimmed, non-UV-blocking Jessica Simpson aviators just aren’t going to cut it.

The belt: $20-$40

There are fuel belts…

belt (I have this one and it’s awesome)

And “stuff” belts…


The special socks: $20-$60


Compression socks are hot right now.

I think they also work. Unfortunately.

The fancy headphones: $30


A lot of people swear by these yurbud thingamajigs for the ultimate ear-sticking-in experience.

I’ve never had luck with buds of any kind, so I still have the loop-over-the-ear phones.

The cute headbands: $15


I know, at this point you’re like, “Unnecessary! No! Take that off the list! You’re blowing this thing out of proportion!”

But, like I said, the longer you do this, the more you hear that irritating little voice in your head piping up with things like, “Hm, that WOULD be kind of nice…”

The fuel: $30+


I used to have these babies scheduled for regular delivery through Amazon, so a box would show up on my doorstep every month. I kept them in the fridge, and would grab a few now and then when I wasn’t even working out. (They’re just that good.)

The Cran-Razz flavor is the best, btw.

Total: $525-$1025!

…Not including race entry fees!

And I didn’t even mention the at-home treadmill, music devices (I assume everyone has some kind of iPod at this point already), foam rollers, KT tape, protein powders and supplements, yadda yadda yadda…I could really go on all day.

But you’re already depressed enough, and so am I.

This article even goes so far as to factor in the extra WATER for SHOWERS. (I mean, I guess…)

So please, please tell me.

What are your tips for running on the cheap??

Stay tuned for a follow-up post on this, once I figure it out. (Which might include your ideas if you leave them below!)

How many of these things do you use?


{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Theresa February 25, 2013 at 6:43 am

Ugh I can’t stand how expensive races are! I keep things on the cheap side with sneakers from ebay and running clothes from tj maxx! But, alas, I do feel like compression socks and high quality running clothes and all those nice things would make my running a little nicer and more efficient. What’s a broke girl to do?
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Laura@ Fit Running Mama February 23, 2013 at 9:41 am

YES running is SOOO pricey!! I know I Know– race entries are a fortune. I was shocked when the Chicago Marathon came out at $175– that’s INSANE!
I just found a 1/2 in early April for $40! I’m so excited!! Running is pricey but it beats heart disease and all those other bad things you get when you don’t exercise so in the long run I say it’s worth it!
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Debbie @ Healthy Running Mom February 21, 2013 at 7:36 pm

I use everything except for a fuel belt. I run along a path where there are enough fountains for me & I prefer that to having to wear a belt.
But, as cheap as I believe the sport of running to be, you’re right, all these things add up. I hope someone finds a solution.
I love to run races in the spring/summer/fall & it’s insane how much the entries are now. They used to be cheap/affordable, but now a marathon is $175. It’s crazy, but we’re still doing it!
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Kim February 21, 2013 at 7:51 pm

You got my point exactly. :) There are cheaper versions of all of these things, but it still adds up–especially when you have it in your head that, as far as sports/hobbies go, running should be cheap!

Wow, that’s really nice to have a path with fountains like that! I’d much rather not wear a belt if I could help it. I seem to always run into the problem where there IS a fountain, but the city hasn’t turned it on (especially at this time of year!).


Nicole @ Fruit 'N' Fitness February 21, 2013 at 6:07 pm

I have good running shoes, I always buy last years model on sale. I use an app on my phone to keep track of distances or just run the track at the gym. I LOVE TJMAXX for awesome running cloths at less than 1/2 price. I probably haven’t run into the real high costs yet as i’m still really new to running.
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Kloe @ Running Shoes &Chocolate Mousse February 21, 2013 at 4:13 pm

running is deceivingly expensive, you really don’t bargain for it!
I’ve just ordered a foam roller, and got new expensive shoes a few moths ago.

and can I add, I’m injured at the moment and won’t be running for at least 8 weeks; but then you’ve got all the sports doc bills, the physio bills.. it’s insane!
and then you spend more money taking up other exercises whole you’re out f action!
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Caroline February 21, 2013 at 2:30 pm

I buy shoes when they are buy one get one half off. I don’t have a ton of different work out clothes. A few shirts, 2 shorts, 1 skirt (which I won- didn’t pay for it), have 9 dollar headphones that work just fine. I have only 2 pairs of socks. I get one race entry a year as a Christmas gift from my family, and that helps.

As someone who is doing 13 race in 2013, at least half of mine will be virtual so they don’t cost money.
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Kim February 21, 2013 at 2:35 pm

That’s a really cool Christmas gift idea! I like it!

2 pairs of socks?? You must do laundry more than I do. :)

I thought virtual races usually cost money, too, since you sometimes get a medal/shirt, and you’re sometimes donating money to a cause (maybe that doesn’t count)…

I have super cheap headphones too. :) Not sure what all the fuss is over the fancy ones…but with this kind of thing, ignorance is usually bliss!

Thanks for stopping by, Caroline!


PickyRunner February 21, 2013 at 11:18 am

Running IS expensive. Most of my clothes come from Target or TJmaxx and while I invest in a good pair of shoes every 3 months, I also know the model I wear so I buy last season’s colors online for a little cheaper. I think there’s a difference between running as a “sport” being expensive and running as exercise. The sport can cost a lot of money but if you’re just going out for a jog, it’s not that bad.
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Kim February 21, 2013 at 2:38 pm

Great point. I probably should have mentioned I was talking more from the running as sport perspective. Oops!


amyhagerup February 21, 2013 at 11:12 am

Kim, This is GREAT! So glad I found you. I go to the gym on M, W, F, but I still need to do something today (Thursday). So after reading your post, I’m going to get up to do my T-Tapp.


Tamara February 21, 2013 at 11:04 am

Buy last year’s shoes, find running entries on groupon and buy name brand running clothes at stores like Marshall’s or TJ maxxx. Those are the things I do! :)


Kim February 21, 2013 at 2:40 pm

I think I’ve only seen a running entry on groupon once ever, but I hope I see more! That’s a great idea!

TJ maxxx, triple x, haha!!


Lindsey February 21, 2013 at 10:50 am

My best advice is to get good shoes though of course! But I always get $100-120 Asics for less than $70, almost always last year’s model, I also often go for guys models, since women’s sizes are left over at clearance prices. ;) I recommend Sierra Trading Post, Runner’s Warehouse, and RoadRunnerSports, and ALWAYS combining sale or clearance with a coupon code.


Kim February 21, 2013 at 11:14 am

Oh, I forgot to mention the running stroller! Gaah! :)


Lindsey February 21, 2013 at 11:28 am

I think we all find ways to cut corners! Like everyone said, there are workable options for just about everything. The race entries however, ARE INSANE. I am always wondering why it would cost that much to literally run on a road. LOL


Tara February 21, 2013 at 10:48 am

Yep, its expensive, but I dont really use much of what you have listed above…simply because it is pricey and I dont really need it to run. Races are more important to me then fuel belts and special running sunglasses.

My 9.99 earbuds from WalMart work great!
I got my Garmin, refubursied off eBay for 1/2 the price!
I wear the same shoes and just watch for them to go onsale…I wear Mizuno Waverider 15 and I have never paid more then $80 for a pair (Amazon, eBay, Eastbay…just watch the sales, and order them online. And when I see a good price, I order a backup pair…that way I dont have to suffer sticker shock when Im in crunch time and need a pair asap.
I pair of compression socks, again…eBay…$25.00 vs $39.00 they were retailing for.
I have 1 hand held water bottle I carry for over 7 miles. I HATE carrying stuff with me while I run, so “stuff” belts and fuel belts are a no go. My capris have a pocket in the back perfect for my phone, thats all I take. I have an iPod shuffle, clips on my waist, cost $45 and WalMart.
I had to accept the fact that I will never own a Lulu outfit and really, Im good with that. I have 2 pair of knock off brand capris, forget fancy running shirts, I just wear a cheap tank or knock off brand shirt depending on the weather. I do have alot of Under Armour for cold gear, but that doubles up for my snowmobiling, horseback riding and hunting base layers as well. The price didnt hurt as much when I split it among my outdoor passions :)
Running is as expensive as you want it to be. Some people spend alot of money, others get by with less is more….its personal preference, but I think if you wanted to…you could get by with much MUCH less then $1000.


Kim February 21, 2013 at 11:06 am

It sounds like the only things you don’t use are the belts and glasses… :) I showed pictures of all the nicest stuff because, well, it just looks nice on the page :) but I have all knock-off brands too. It still adds up!


Lindsey February 21, 2013 at 10:47 am

Cue the cheap skate response! bahah! You know I love all you cute runner girls… :) Im still an old schooler with my grubby t-shirt and shorts, or shaggy hoodie and sweats in the winter :) I do love my nano, but definitely get by without any of the other stuff you mentioned. “What would the Kenyans Do?!”


Tara February 21, 2013 at 10:58 am

Thats awesome Lindsey, haha!! My favorite “running” top is a tank top I have had since I was pregnant with my daughter, who is 10!!! Its black, stretchy….fits just right…..eventually its going to come out of the washer in pieces but until then, its my go-to in the summer!


Kim February 21, 2013 at 11:09 am

Haha, I knew you’d be offended Lindsey. :) I’m not saying all this stuff is necessary, just that the more you get into running/racing, the more you start thinking about how nice it would be.


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