Running on the cheap

by Kim on June 5, 2013

First of all, happy National Running Day!


I know there are a lot of group runs happening today in honor of NRD. Personally, I’ll be celebrating from my treadmill the minute the little dude goes down for a nap—hope that counts! (Here are 10 other ways to celebrate.)

So I’ve been meaning to tackle today’s topic for awhile (as a follow-up to this post), but I saved it for today for a very specific reason. National Running Day = DISCOUNTS!! The biggest one is probably for the Rock n’ Roll marathon series—they’re offering $20 off most of their race entries today only!


For other NRD discounts, check out the National Running Day homepage, and keep an eye on their Facebook page today. Also, check out the websites/Facebook pages of any races you’re considering running—I know a few of our local races are posting special discounts today only!


Now, let’s talk dinero.

Running is one of those things that seems cheap at first. All you need is shoes! …Right?

But then, inevitably, you’ll think, “Hey, I should run a half marathon.” Which will lead you to think, “I better get the BEST shoes on the market, and probably a bunch of new running clothes. (You know, for motivation.)”

A few long training runs into the game, you’ll be like, “I NEED a Garmin!! How will I make sure I run 10 miles and not a step further? And more importantly, how will I Instagram my results??”

Next, you’ll be all, “Well, I’m gonna need a water belt to get me through all these long runs” and “I read that you’re supposed to fuel every hour, so I better buy those fancy little gels.”

Then, one day, you’ll read someone’s blog and find yourself filled with lust over their new Lululemon tops, Mizuno shorts, and compression socks. And your wallet will silently implode.

When I first posted about this (you can read my full rant here), some of you had great ideas for running on the cheap. Others were more like me: helpless against the Tidal Wave of Running Gear Obsessiveness and desperate for ideas to keep the bills under control.

So I grabbed the ideas you shared, did some of my own research and brainstorming, and came up with the following list.

Running on the Cheap

Race Entries

This is the biggest problem for most runners. Race entries can be so dang expensive these days. The NYC marathon is $255 this year! (And possibly not more than that only because of last year’s cancellation.)

Here are some ways you might be able to catch discounts:

–Go to race expos. There are generally tons of booths marketing other races, besides the one happening that weekend, and often they’ll even have special expo-only discounts available. (I’m on the marketing team for a local race, and we almost always offer at least $10 off at expos!)

–Follow races’ Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. I’ve seen lots of random discount codes posted this way, especially around holidays (like—TODAY).

–Follow running blogs. Especially local ones! Race directors will often reach out to bloggers to help market their races, offering them special discount codes and free entries to raffle off.

–Google “discount code.” In case you’re having trouble following all eleventy-billion running blogs out there, you might have luck Googling your way to a discount code instead. Type in the name of the race you want + discount code, and see what you get. You can also browse promo code sites like this one.

–Plan your race schedule asap to get early bird rates. Most people know this one, but they insist on waiting until the last minute because they’re afraid they might be injured. If this is your concern, check with the race director—sometimes, you can ask for a referral to the next year with a doctor’s note if you end up being injured on race day.

–Get on races’ mailing lists. Assuming it’s a pretty established race, such a list usually exists, and you can usually get on it through the race website. I don’t get too many discount codes through mailing lists, but I do get warnings about upcoming price increases.

–Watch Groupon and Living Social. I’ve seen massively discounted (like 50%-70%) race entries on both of these sites. They haven’t been for the biggest, most mainstream races around, but this is a great way to sneak in a mud run or a smaller mid-training 10K for cheap. (You might also be able to snag an entry into a “fake race"…I’m really, really confused about this…)

–Join Active Advantage. In exchange for a small membership fee, you can get access to tons of discounts on races, travel, and gear. (I haven’t done this personally, but wanted to throw it out there as an option.)

–Race local, race small. Naturally, this is the cheapest way to go. You already knew that. But if you do need to travel for a race, make sure you read the race website carefully and poke around for associated discounts—often, local hotels will have special room rates for runners.

–Run for charity. I don’t know a lot about this one, but I’ve heard that you can get race entries—and even race travel—covered (or at least heavily discounted) by participating in certain fundraising programs like Team in Training.

–Join a local training program. Lots of athletic stores and organizations run training programs for local races and are able to offer special discounts on the race entry to their participants. (Of course, you’ll likely have to pay for the training program too, so this might not ultimately be a discount…)

–Be a pacer. If you’re able to keep a steady pace (and probably carry a bulky, annoying sign for an entire race…) you could email the race director and ask if they’re looking for pacers.

Running Gear

–Clothes. Check out discount hot spots like Marshalls, TJ Maxx, Nordstrom Rack, Macy’s clearance rack, outlet stores, and even Target. (Did you see the goods I just got at TJ Maxx over the weekend?) Even Lululemon has a “we made too much” collection, and you can shop Under Armour’s outlet or Brooks’ sale rack online. If you’re willing to shop off season and be patient (wait for sales!), you can save some serious cash here.

–Shoes. You can find great shoe deals online at places like Sierra Trading Post, Running Warehouse, RoadRunnerSports, Eastbay, and Amazon. When possible, go for a previous year’s model. (I have the same shoe size as 90% of the world, so I always have trouble finding anything I like that’s both older and available in my size, but I do check.)

–Garmins/iPods. You can get electronics cheap(er) by buying them used or refurbished from eBay or Amazon.

–When shopping online, combine sales with coupon codes. Here’s a great list of coupon codes from Moms Run This Town to get you started. (And you can easily Google your way to dozens more!)

–Buy things like gels in bulk on Amazon. I used to have a subscription for Shot Bloks, so a new box would arrive on my doorstep every month and I’d save 5%. Now, we also have Amazon Prime, which saves us additional $$ on shipping.

–Take care of your clothes. I’ve heard that putting clothes in the dryer cuts their lifespan in half. Recently, I’ve started air-drying more delicate items like yoga pants/leggings, and it makes a huge difference. I don’t bother with things like nylon shorts and moisture-wicking shirts, which seem to do fine, but the second something starts looking fuzzy or pilly, its dryer days are done.

What $$-saving tricks did I miss?

What’s the last running-related thing you got an amazing deal on?

What’s the most money you’ve spent on a race entry?


{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

galassi August 5, 2013 at 10:42 pm

I agree


Nicole @ Work in Sweats Mama June 5, 2013 at 6:58 pm

Great tips for finding deals! Nike usually does an extra 25% off clearance + free shipping between Thanksgiving & Christmas. I’ll double up with my Sky Miles program to get the most bang for my buck. If you sign up for Sierra Trading Post emails, they do $0.99 shipping + 30% off about once a month. I’ve bought my husband running shoes this way several times (sadly, they never have my style/size, but I do get great deals on lap suits for the pool & flip flops!). I’ve also found great deals on Nike & Patagonia, Prana, & Lole on No free return shipping, so best if you know your size. Ironically, I just did a review on a pricey pair of outdoor pants today!
Nicole @ Work in Sweats Mama recently posted…Mountain Born – Kuhl Aktiv Pant ReviewMy Profile


Heidi June 5, 2013 at 1:00 pm

I love this post! Especially the tips for finding discounted races and gear!
Heidi recently posted…National Running DayMy Profile


Katie @ running4cupcakes June 5, 2013 at 8:00 am

Great post! And of course putting in a few miles on the treadmill while the little man naps totally counts!!


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