I’ve always thought of running as a pretty “democratic” sport, both in the sense that it can be pretty affordable, and that buying expensive equipment won’t magically make you a fast runner. That said, running can also be pretty pricey—races, gear, coaching, physical therapy, and travel to races easily add up.
For my post on my running expenses, I asked in an Instagram story how much people think I spend on running in a year. I got numbers from $500-1000+, which I will say is significantly lower than reality (over $3,000 in 2019!).
I’m personally okay with that number, as running is important to my health and overall well-being. Despite my high running costs, I actually don’t spend extravagantly and try to save money where I can. Using many of the tips below, I’ve saved hundreds of dollars on running shoes, race entries, and related travel expenses.
Here are my favorite easy ways to save money on running:
10 Best Ways to Save Money on Running Expenses
1. Buy running shoes on eBay, or wait for sales
Running shoes can easily cost $100. To save money, I buy shoes either during major sale, or on eBay. Some running brands will discount the previous season’s shoes at the beginning of a new year, and that’s a good time to pick up deals. For instance, my favorite running shoes, the Brooks Launch 6 (affiliate link), are currently on sale for $65 instead of the regular $100.
On eBay though, you can almost always find lightly-used or new shoes at a steep discount. I got my current Brooks Launch 6 for $60 a few months ago, while they still were full price on the Brooks website. I’ve also gotten Salomon X-Mission 3s for $60 when they retail at $115.
2. Sign up for cheaper (or even free) timed races
A huge expense is race registration. Marathons easily run $100, oftentimes even more. Even 5ks are often at least $30! If you look around though, there may be cheaper or even free events. Parkrun is a weekly timed 5k with events across the US, and it’s totally free. There are also events like the Cheap Marathon in Massachusetts, which costs $35 (it’s a loop course to save money).
3. Stay local for races, or combine them with a vacation (destination races)
Another big race cost is traveling to the event. Almost 30% of my overall running expenses in 2019 were actually associated travel costs, like transportation and housing. I actually spent almost $200 more on traveling to races than I spent on registration fees.
To reduce this expense, consider racing locally—that way, you won’t have to pay extra for housing or transportation. If you still want to race in new locations, another way to lower travel costs is to race in cities where you have friends or family to stay with. You might not save on transportation, but you’ll save on housing, and you can spend time with those connections (maybe they’ll even cheer you on!).
If you’re planning to travel for fun anyways, you might also consider combining your vacation with a race in the same city. That way, you cut down on having to travel somewhere else for your race.
After the Barcelona Half Marathon in 2019, which was my first destination race!
4. Race with a group of friends
Speaking of races, some events will give you a discount if you sign up with a friend or two. For instance, the Paris Marathon often has a 30 euro holiday discount on any 2 race entries purchased together. Other races also may give you a $10-15 refund on your entry if someone signs up through your referral code.
Going into a race with friends can also help you reduce travel costs—you can carpool there together or split an Airbnb. Beyond the financial benefits, it’s also a big morale booster to share the experience with a friend.
5. Take advantage of company health discounts
If you have a full-time office job, some companies will reimburse you a couple hundred dollars for health & wellness costs, like a gym membership. Check with HR if you’re not sure whether your company offers this perk.
If your company has a gym or fitness classes, also give them a shot! These resources can cost a pretty penny if you’re paying for them yourself, and it can be a nice way to get to know your coworkers in a more casual setting. (Though I do admit it could be awkward haha, but a little awkwardness to save money is a trade I’d made!)
6. Volunteer at a race
If you volunteer at a race, you often get a discounted or even comped entry to a future race. For instance, volunteering at a Hartford Marathon Foundation event gets you $5 off a future race. For the Boston Road Runners, volunteering will get you free entry into a future event. It might not give you amazing value for your time (I got a $5 discount for volunteering 4 hours at a half marathon haha), but volunteering is a great way to give back to the running community, and I see the small discount as a little bonus.
There are also multiple ways to volunteer—you can hand out water, check runners in, take photos, help with timing, or even do behind-the-scenes promotion, like on social media.
7. Pace a race
Leading a pace group is another way to give back to the running community, and save on race costs. Most events let pacers run for free, and also give them free race swag like a t-shirt or medal. Of course, you wouldn’t be running your own race; you’d have to run the time you agreed to pace. That said, pacing a race can be a fun way to get in a training run and experience the excitement of a race—all while helping other runners reach their timing goals.
8. Join a club or ambassador group
Running clubs often are connected to race directors and fitness companies. By joining a club, you might get the occasional free or discounted race entry, plus discounts on running gear. And while joining a club can’t replace personalized coaching, club workouts are another way to challenge yourself, and to do a predetermined workout without spending mental energy on putting one together yourself.
Ambassador groups offer similar perks—I’m part of the Honey Stinger Ambassador Hive, where members are given 40% off Honey Stinger products (running fuel and gear) in exchange for promoting Honey Stinger products on social media (it’s pretty casual—there’s no quota or anything, and I tend to just mention Honey Stinger in my race recaps). In the Facebook group, we’ll also sometimes see posts offering a handful of free race entries.
Check the website of your favorite running products to see if they have similar programs. Other than Honey Stinger, some popular ambassador programs are Nuun and Pro Compression.
9. Weigh gym costs vs. the cost of buying home equipment
If you pay for a gym membership and have a more permanent living situation (not renting), consider buying home equipment instead of paying for a gym. Monthly membership fees can easily add up over a year—personally, I pay nearly $600/year for the gym! Of course, buying home equipment might not be cost-effective if you use a lot of different machines, and it can’t substitute for group classes. But if you only use the treadmill or bike, it can be way cheaper over time just to buy your own.
10. Buy only the fitness gear you need and will use for a long time (or try FB resale groups)
Fitness gear lasts FOREVER. I literally have sports bras and shorts from early high school, and I’m a college grad. I’ve noticed that it’s become increasingly popular to have “cute” and trendy fitness clothes. If you want to save money (and cut down on consumerism + help the environment), ask yourself if you really need those leaf-patterned leggings or that Sherpa quarter-zip. This is especially true for running tops, as you likely get a ton of new t-shirts from races.
I’m not trying to police anyone’s purchases, but I do want to encourage you to just be more mindful of your fitness clothing consumption—both for the environment, and your wallet! There’s nothing wrong with treating yourself every now and then to something you want, but it does become problematic if you never use what you got, or it’s only to follow fleeting trends. If you’re interested in learning more about sustainable fashion, check out my post on 7 Common Misconceptions About Sustainable Fashion.
If you do need to shop for fitness clothing, consider trying one of the many resale FB groups (aka BST or “Buy, Sell, Trade”). In these groups, people post items for sale that are lightly worn or sometimes even new, and it’s often significantly cheaper than the original price. There’s one for Lululemon, New Balance, Senita, Patagonia, and many others. Just search “[name of brand] bst” or “[name of brand] resale” on Facebook.
I hope this post gives you some new ideas of how you can save up to hundreds of dollars on running expenses! If you have any personal tips and tricks that I didn’t mention, I’d love to hear from you in the comments 🙂
Happy running & saving money,