O budget, where art thou?


Race entry fee:

Buying a commemorative T-shirt:

The burn of the air in your lungs as you clear that hill at the 25km mark:

Yes, its difficult to measure, in monetary terms, the value you get out of a running event. Looking back at the past decade, few things have left a deeper impression in my memory than the wonderful, tough and enjoyable races we’ve been fortunate enough to be part of.

I love official running events. Whether its a midweek 7km fun run, a big city marathon or some far-off, exotic trail run, there’s something very special about entering for an event, training and preparing for the big day, arriving at the start with all the other entrants, dealing with the butterflies in your stomach just before the start gun, interacting with the helpers and officials along the route, and finally the thrill of crossing the finish line, preferably with music thumping and the announcer reading out your name and congratulating you on a race well run (even if you finish hours after the elite racers who sprinted across the line earlier in the day).

Yep, running events are great… And whatever you pay for an event, looking back in time you’re probably going to chalk it up as money well spent. Unfortunately, and increasingly, many of these events aren’t cheap. City marathons get more expensive each year, and the big trail running events in particular leave a significant dent in your wallet. Even more so if, like us, you’re a couple who both run. And often there are additional costs, like paying for transport to the start/finish of a point-to-point race, or paying for commemorative clothing (and admit it, you really want to own that official technical Tee from the big off-road ultra that you battled several hours to conquer).

Then there’s the magic of experiencing an international event – who doesn’t fantasize about lining up for the London, New York or Athens marathons, or taking on the Western States 100 Miler in California, or for that matter doing something crazy like the annual Gloucestershire Cheese Rolling event in England. Its a once-in-a-lifetime thing, but one that could have a disastrous impact on your finances.

Spending money on an addiction is not something that can be soberly justified. A smoker is not suddenly going to cut down on cigarettes to free up some grocery money; a coffee aficionado is not going to switch to instant brew to help balance the budget. They’d rather give up something else.

And so it is for us running addicts too. My old work pants are surely still good for another season – I’d rather spend that $50 on next weekend’s half marathon. I don’t really need that new running top and socks to match my running shoes – if I run a couple more races in my faded old running clothes I can invest the money I saved in my Running of the Bulls savings account. And come to think of it, settling for box-wine every now and then is not so bad if that means I can squeeze another marathon into my budget. And if I take up barefoot running I may even save the expense of new trainers every few months!

At least that’s me. How do you manage your running finances? Ever cut corners to free up some money for a special event? Taken out a loan to do that too-good-to-miss multi-day endurance event? Or are you one of the lucky ones who have not succumbed to the temptation of organised events, and who are content with a solitary long run on the weekend on some lovely back-country roads?

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