Running a Marathon On the Cheap

by Andy Hough on August 6, 2008

Over at My Money Blog, Jonathan did a post about an Affordable Bucket List.  One item on his list was running a marathon which he listed the cost of as being from free to $$$.  Many commenters replied that running a marathon was very expensive and couldn’t be done cheaply much less for free.  As I stated before in my post Keeping Hobbies Inexpensive people are taking something simple and making it more complicated and expensive than necessary.

I’ve run four marathons and haven’t spent a fortune to run them. Registration fees are usually the item I spend the most money on.  You can easily save money on these by running in smaller races.  An example close to me is the Heart of America marathon which has a $25 entry fee.  You can use the Marathon Guide to find inexpensive marathons in your area. You can also often save money on race fees by registering early.

The next big expense is shoes. I usually spend only about $30 on my running shoes.  Many people think you can’t possibly get quality shoes for that price but I disagree.  I’ve run four marathons and have never had any knee, ankle, or feet problems despite being about twenty pounds overweight.  The trick here is to buy shoes that were originally more expensive and have been marked down to about $30.  When I lived in Nevada I bought my shoes at Big 5 Sporting Goods which usually had a good selection.  I bought my last pair of shoes here in Kansas City at Off Broadway shoes.  I try to purchase a brand that I’ve used before and had good results with such as New Balance.  You can find New Balance shoes cheap online here.  They had New Balance running shoes for under $30 when I checked this morning.

The last expense would be running apparel. You don’t really need to spend anything on this.  You can run in an old pair of gym shorts and a t-shirt.  Running shorts will be more comfortable though and help prevent chafing.  My solution for cheap running shorts is to buy swim trunks when they go on clearance at the end of the season.  This is what I’m currently using and they work fine and the cost was about $5.

Those are the only things you need to spend any money on to run a marathon.  I’m not counting food since you have to eat anyway.  There is no need to buy any gels or special foods.  Since I’ve always been overweight when training for marathons I didn’t feel a need to buy any extra food at all. The key to running a marathon on the cheap is the same one to doing many things on the cheap-keep it simple.

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