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What does running cost? April 10, 2008

Posted by Joe in thoughts.
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Is running truly inexpensive, or is that a lie we tell non-runners to lure them in? Is it true, “all you need is a pair of shoes?” Not really. Topher argues that we are telling lies. He says that running is very expensive when you start to adding up shoes, clothes, entry fees for races, all the tech gear and more. I can see where he’s coming from, but I want to present an alternative view, arguing that running is in fact relatively inexpensive. At least, in my case it is (and has to be).

When I started running I bought nothing new. I ran in 10 year old cotton shorts, old tee-shirts and my nasty, grass stained, lawn-mowing sneakers. I was only running around the block at first, but then when I was running 1 and 2 miles at a time I bought a pair of running shoes on the cheap; the previous year’s Asics for $50. As time progressed I bought one pair of running shorts (still the only pair I have), some running socks and two running tees. The few other things (gloves, a couple long sleeves and a jacket) came as gifts for my birthday. If they hadn’t, they would have been a part of my winter clothing purchase anyway.  I run with a cheap watch, no Garmin (as much as I’d like one, I can’t afford it). My first year of running cost me about $100, though if I had paid for the gifts: coat, gloves, long sleeve tech shirts – It would have been about $250-300.

The average gym membership is $50 a month – $600 a year. Add clothes and shoes, another $100? Let’s forget sign up costs and personal trainers. So, that’s $700. My first year running cost me personally $100, with total costs (including gifts) maybe $300. That’s under half the cost – which is at least relatively inexpensive. This year I’ve purchased a better pair of shoes (just under $100) and I’ll probably pick up a new pair of socks and a couple shirts. That’s it.

Is running cheap? Kind of. It certainly is affordable. The bottom line is that people spend as much as they want/can. If you are starting out, get what you can when you can. Start with the shoes. If you don’t have a lot of money, don’t stress on all the extras. You don’t need the iPod, the Garmin, or the expensive tech-clothes (try C9 sports wear from target). Focus on running. Whatever you do spend will be worth it.



1. legmaker - April 10, 2008

I agree, Joe. I would also add that running SAVES you money by helping you enjoy a healthier lifestyle and curb your cravings for late night fast-food. If you learned to “brown bag it” instead of eating fast-food for lunch just 4 days a week you could pay for a REALLY NICE pair of running shoes in less than a month!

2. redoakyouth - April 10, 2008

Already had the iPod… got the Nike+iPod as a gift. Bought $40 shoes… Total spent in first 6 months = $40

3. Bryan L. Fordham - April 10, 2008

I think it’s true with most things: you can spend what you want. I’m trying to get back into running, I’ve always used whatever shoes I had. Ditto with going to the gym — more expensive, but not crazy, and not custom stuff.

My wife got me a weight bench for christmas (talk about your subtle hints) and so I don’t have the monthly fees. Again, she didn’t get top of the line, but it’s functional.

So I guess the answer to “Is running expensive?” is “It depends.”

4. david - April 10, 2008

I won’t say I “need” the Garmin, but I went the “cheap” route and got it off ebay for much less. I also buy my running gear from target. My $7.99 (or less) shirts fit nice and I’ve never thrown one away yet. Shoes… well, that’s another story. I look at running as a hobby, and that’s where a lot of my money is going to go … and much of what I had was bought over the course of two years. Eventually, I replaced my underwear and socks with non-cotton gear. Many of my T-shirts I own are racing Ts. Winter gear can get a little pricey, but how much of that do people need? Some people collect comic books; movie freaks buy new DVDs every month or go to the movies every week … I like to run. Last time I checked, movies and other entertainment rarely benefit anything, whereas most races do.

5. Matt - April 10, 2008

this is a great post Joe… I find the temptation of the all of the “running toys” enticing. However, like you I have one pair of running shorts (which I often go a week without washing, shhh!) and a good pair of shoes… my old stained t-shirts work great. Here in Houston we don’t really need the winter gear you guys do.

I think my issue is that I really feel the need to have some type of resistance exercise. I have been thinking about incorporating some type of push-up, etc routine.

6. Topher - April 10, 2008

Since that post of mine, I’ve spent $12 on clearance running gear, some from Wal-Mart and some from Target. Regularly it would have cost me upwards of $45, so I’m definitely a clearance shopper. It still amazes me to go to specialty running store, though, and see how much one stinkin’ shirt costs there. Now if we could only get Walmart to sell my Asics and offer an everyday low price on race registrations…

Here’s to being cheap and still getting in a good, quality run.

7. Joe - April 10, 2008

Yeah, I buy the on sale stuff, and C9 stuff: socks, shirts, shorts, etc. Gotta be frugal, but I don’t skimp on the shoes. In fact, I shop at our local running store to support the community and stay connected to a great team of people.

8. Nick Kennicott - April 10, 2008

Good stuff, Joe. When you start racing and getting competitive in the sport though, I think it is inevitable that the price will rise quickly. Also, I would argue, that the longer the distance you “specialize” in, the more it costs. I think it’s more expensive to be a marathoner than it is to be a 5 or 10ker.

In other news, I found out almost immediately when I started racing triathlon that there’s nothing inexpensive about that sport! It’s a money pit, but well worth it.

I’m glad to hear you’re spending the money on the shoes though — that’s one thing you just can’t compromise if you want to keep your body in tact and enjoy the sport for years and years to come.

9. AndrewE - April 10, 2008

Heresy! What’s the point of running if you can’t buy all the toys that go along with it!

10. david - April 10, 2008

In response to Nick, I think if you mostly do marathons, you’re actually entering fewer races than 5kers. I know doing the only marathon I did, I did fewer races leading up to it and skipped a couple I had hoped to do after. So I think in the end it works out.

11. Jeff - April 12, 2008

Great post. Very accurate. I would say the most expensive part is the shoes. But, since I have started running, I have noticed my fast food and junk food runs have gone way down.

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