Keepin’ Race Costs Down

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I must say… I love reading the responses to The Shower Curtain Debate.  And although I’m still on Team Closed Curtain, I have to agree with a very valid point from Team Open Curtain – if it’s open, you know for sure that no zombies are hiding behind it!


Lunch was simple and delicious:


I steamed some kale and tossed in sliced carrots and millet (leftover from last night).  Topped everything with a big hunk a hunk of fried beans and goat cheese.


My name is Caitlin, and I’m addicted to goat cheese. 


On a writing break, I came across this little video on Runner’s World.  It details what the cost of a marathon race entry covers.  I thought this was a very interesting breakdown!  It’s easy to get to an event and think, “Now, WHY does this cost so much money?”  Now I know!


I estimate that, over the last four years, I’ve spent probably $2,160 on race entries… or more.  Gulp!  That’s a lot of money!  Recently, someone asked me in the comments section how to fit racing into your budget.  Here are some tips:


  • Sign up early:  By signing up early, you can save $25 or more.  The longer you wait, the higher the price.  Grab those early bird specials – just know you run the risk of getting injured and having to miss the race altogether (and very few races will let you delay entry until the next year).



  • Check out volunteer programs:  Some races will give you a free entry for next year if you volunteer at the race THIS year.  Volunteering is fun!


  • Don’t Buy a New Outfit: I know it’s tempting to buy a ‘special outfit’ for a race (wait, you don’t do this?) but try to resist the urge.  It’s not wise to wear new clothes on race day, anyway.


  • Train Exclusively Outside:  Ditch your $40 a month gym membership and train exclusively outside (weather permitting, of course).  The money you save over just two months would pay for most race entries.



How do you make racing work in your budget?



  • Ashley O. @ The Vegetable Life July 27, 2011, 3:10 pm

    I never thought of the zombie arguement… So maybe I can be convinced to keep the shower curtain open at night so when I go pee at midnight or later I wont be scared! hahaha

  • Holly @ The Runny Egg July 27, 2011, 3:14 pm

    Honestly I just don’t enter too many races — usually 3-4 for the entire year. For me that keeps the cost reasonable.

  • hippierunner July 27, 2011, 3:17 pm

    In high school, there was a marathon training group (students run LA) any student could join for free and you’d get entry into dozens of races including a marathon. I miss that! I do know that adults who want to participate/help/coach can join and run for a small fee. Perhaps other places have this too?

  • Debbie July 27, 2011, 3:19 pm

    If it costs $75 per person to put on a marathon, where is the money for those races that are charging $125-$150 going? And that is early registration these days for races in my So. Cal area. They are putting on a Rock and Roll HALF marathon here in Palm Desert in December. Early registration is $170! And if you dare to wait, it’s going to cost you $190. And being part of a running couple means double the expense.

    I really think it is outrageous, but as long as people keep paying that, it certainly isn’t going to change. Of course, I’ve been running marathons for over 15 years, so maybe my brain is stuck in the 90’s when I complained when the LA Marathon went up to $60 🙂

    • Julia July 27, 2011, 3:53 pm

      I worked for a events management company once…. it’s crazy, but things cost a lot of money these days! City permits, food for the volunteers, food and lodging for the staff, renting uhauls, trucks, scaffolding, renting space for the expo, the announcer, prize money, radios… all these costs add up! though I agree that some of the costs are high, some of the events are just trying to keep up with consumer demands

      • Debbie July 27, 2011, 4:24 pm

        I agree that it is expensive to put on a race. My husband and I put on a Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot every year, so I do know from experience. I also have friends in race management, including a friend who puts on the Palm Springs Half Marathon. That races charges $65 and you are well taken care of. I think that is a fair price for a half marathon. But $190? Not so much.

    • Blair July 27, 2011, 6:32 pm

      I haven’t run a RnR race but I’ve been to the finish line festivities and they were MUCH more intense than anything I’d ever seen. I imagine for that race in particular there is sooo much more spent on entertainment that it comes out to way more than $75/person.

    • Susan July 27, 2011, 7:55 pm

      I also think greed has something to do with it. The companies that are putting on these races are out to make a profit and the prices will keep increasing until people stop paying.

  • Kate (What Kate is Cooking) July 27, 2011, 3:19 pm

    I don’t even want to know how much I’ve spent on races! I have to buy a new top to race in, it just doesn’t feel right otherwise!

  • Angela @ Eat Spin Run Repeat July 27, 2011, 3:22 pm

    LOL on the last point! I agree that signing up early is key. There are also races that give you free entry for the next year if you win/place in the top x finishers- but I guess you have to be really good for that! I also find that smaller-town races are much cheaper than really big ones, so if you’re a nervous runner or are just looking to complete a race for practice, those might be cheaper options.

  • Lindsey July 27, 2011, 3:26 pm

    I like to keep it local for sure, and then splurge on one (maybe two) races a year. This year my splurge is Disneyland!I also run, a couple local charity races each year where if you collect x amount of money your fee is waived.

    Oh and those early bird fees are a must for me too 🙂

  • Johanna B July 27, 2011, 3:40 pm

    That article in RW on the cost breakdown of races was an eye-opener. You just don’t think about the costs of a lot of the things they provide. I’m glad I read it. I subscribe in print. Thanks for spreading the word.

  • Chelsea July 27, 2011, 3:42 pm

    I have a treadmill at home =D It’s so nice! So even when the weather isn’t right or I decide to sleep in a little I can stil do my training haha. They’re worth the investment! Well it wasn’t really an investment for $70 off craigslist haha.
    That was a cool video though! Thanks for posting it!

  • Baking N Books July 27, 2011, 3:46 pm

    I don’t race anymore – but the costs are phenomenal.

    Hey – maybe you can “write it off” somehow?! …I don’t know – your using it for book material maybe….you never know 🙂

  • Julia July 27, 2011, 3:56 pm

    I find that a lot of races give discounts for large groups. If you can get a whole bunch of your friends, or if you are a part of a running group, discounts may be available there. And definitely the local races are cheaper; sometimes more fun too, because its more low key and not that stressful. Also, a greater chance you’ll place in your AG! 🙂

  • Maggie July 27, 2011, 3:58 pm

    I wish my gym membership was $40/month! It’s almost double, stupid NY!

    I agree about smaller races, they’re definitely cheaper and with fewer people you have a better chance of getting a medal which is always fun.

  • Evan Thomas July 27, 2011, 4:05 pm

    I only sign up for 2 or 3 races a year and make them ones I really want to run so they’re worth the money. Sometimes races give out discount codes so I look for those, too. And if I have to travel I try to stay with someone in the city I know rather than get a hotel.

  • June July 27, 2011, 4:07 pm

    I generally plan a year out to be honest. I usually pick only one BIG race, like a i have to travel to race, and then revolve around that, choosing either local or at the very least within a reasonable driving distance. This helps keep me on target not only with the race entry costs, but also keeps the other various travel expenses down. I am going to pimp my blog here and link to this post that I wrote about saving money on big city races/traveling:

    I hope thats ok!

  • AmandaonMaui July 27, 2011, 4:21 pm

    Mmm. I love goat cheese too. My boyfriend’s parents are homesteaders and have their own goats. They drink raw goat milk, and they make raw milk goat cheeses. Last night we had some chevre in our salad. Yum!

  • Susan July 27, 2011, 4:26 pm

    Some races will do a buy x, get 1 free deal and I’ve done that with friends a couple of times. Also, one of the local marathon/half marathons has a deal where they’ll give you 10% off if you were in a running store’s training group.

    I don’t really budget for races. If the BF and I are doing the same event, it comes out of the household account. If I do something solo, I just know I need to pack more lunches/shop less that month. However, I mentally have a hard time paying more than $100 for a race. But a lot of people don’t, which is why companies can charge what they charge.

  • Susan July 27, 2011, 4:27 pm

    I got the running bug this year – with a plan to enter 11 races. I am very lucky in that my job pays me well enough that I rarely have to pause to really think about expenses below a certain threshold. Next year I’m probably going to run half as much as this year, just to be a little more frugal.

  • Jillian July 27, 2011, 5:03 pm

    I proudly share your addiction to goat cheese. Had it on a restaurant salad once and just like that, hook, line, and sinker, I was in love!

  • Megan @ On the Road Again July 27, 2011, 5:04 pm

    Oh, the zombie argument is so true for the Shower Curtain debate! Ha!

    As for race costs: if there’s a big race I know I want to do (ex: Chicago, which was $150 this year), I’ll skip out on some of the smaller $25-$30 races that I could do and just head out for a fast 5 or 10K on my own or with my husband. Sometimes, those little races can really add up!

  • Jessi @ Quirky Cookery July 27, 2011, 5:09 pm

    I know you said you were addicted to goat cheese and I love it, too, but it was actually the beans that stuck out to me this time. Yum!

  • courtney (pancakes and postcards) July 27, 2011, 5:16 pm

    Word to all the above. I think it’s really a choice. You don’t need to race every weekend. If you’re big into racing, choose a few A-races and then supplement with small community or running club events. I spent like $600 on race entry fees this year too. Gulp.

  • Alice July 27, 2011, 5:18 pm

    In my area the first year you join the running club you get a free entry for one of the club sponsored races. Some of the races actually cost more than the cost to join the club so it’s a no brainier. The second year I was a member I won a free entry because I had participated in a the most events of someone in my age group. Being a member you also get discounts on a couple races throughout the year and discounts at businesses around town. So in short look into local running clubs!

    My company has also begun sponsoring a few races as part of a healthy initiative, I believe programs like my company’s make sense because among other things they can be used to lower insurance costs for the company.

    For races out of my area and big races I plan on a couple per year and budget for them. Register early, look for deals for traveling early, ect. I’m addicted to races and even with all of this I spend way too much on running. I’ve already run 16 races this year…

  • Halley (Blunder Construction) July 27, 2011, 5:25 pm

    Went crazy for goat cheese last month! Grilled goat cheese sandwiches are a MUST!

  • Veronica (Run Write Repeat) July 27, 2011, 5:40 pm

    to keep race costs low, i always Google (“name of marathon) code” for promo codes… i usually get $10-$20 off that way!

  • Kaitlin @ Montgomery Minimalist July 27, 2011, 7:18 pm

    Another big part of race costs are the costs of travel to and from the race. That’s one reason that I only run races that I can drive to in a few hours, and don’t do that many of them. As much as I would love to run a race in California or New England, that’s just not a possibility right now. I guess I better get used to the southern heat.

  • Sarah July 27, 2011, 7:29 pm

    I only do 2 (running) races a year for fun cause I’m already a college athlete but the one race I do is cheaper if you and a friend sign up together. Signing up with a friend is more fun anyways!

  • Mary July 27, 2011, 8:07 pm

    Thanks for posting this Caitlin! I’m glad you saw my comment 🙂

  • Chelsea @ One Healthy Munchkin July 27, 2011, 8:52 pm

    I’m addicted to goat cheese too. Is there a help group for us?? 😉

  • Nicole July 27, 2011, 9:44 pm

    I treat races like I would groceries or utilities or other bills. I actually have a “Races” section in my budget. I give myself a certain amount for the year (to cover entry fees and if I need to travel, travel expenses) so that gives me a good idea of how many races I can enter. The tighter my budget (aka the smaller my paycheck), the less races I enter.

    One additional thing I look into are free or tax-deductible races. The large city I live in just had a free 5K (that was a maze!) and another local 5K had the race costs completely covered by sponsors so that the entry fee is tax-deductible. You don’t get your money back on those, but I know my money is going to charity (and hey! I can use my budget for charities instead of races for that one…hee hee).

    Also…goat cheese is a beautiful thing. I can’t say no to a salad with goat cheese on it.

  • Chrissie @ Hills for Breakfast July 27, 2011, 10:13 pm

    Races can be so pricey! I definitely sign up early and plan out those I really, really want to do. Another great tip is to search online for promo codes. A lot of folks will post them on the RW message boards or even the Facebook page of the race. Or you can sometimes get good deals if you are subscribed to the race email newsletter.

  • Caitln July 27, 2011, 11:29 pm

    Races are totally worth budgeting for – gives you something to train for and you are basically investing in your health!
    Also I would like to know where this $40/month gym is. In NYC the cheapest gyms start at $90/month! All the more reason to forgo the membership and run outside! 🙂

    • Caitlin July 28, 2011, 8:22 am

      Awww NYC is so expensive. My gym membership in Orlando was $35!

    • Amber K July 28, 2011, 12:10 pm

      I almost feel guilty that my gym membership is $10 a month. Well technically $30 because my husband and I both go there and we pay for my best friend to go as well. Gotta love Crunch!

  • Britt July 28, 2011, 10:54 am

    I prioritize my races. I ask myself…what am I running for? A memorial? Charity? Just for the heck of it? You can run a 5k for free…or even a half marathon if you do it on your own. But if the money is going towards a good cause…I’m all over it! Recently ran a 5k for a young boy who died of Cerebral Palsey complications. Running in his honor felt great. And to have race money go towards helping out others makes it all worth it 🙂

  • Veronika July 28, 2011, 11:32 am

    Another possibility to safe on race entry fees is to get them as a gift for birthday, christmas, etc. My family usually asks what I’d like, and I’m honest. This way, I know I get only gifts I really enjoy and can cover for some of the costs (:

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