Running on the Cheap

Now I know what you’re thinking: running on the cheap?  But, running’s the least expensive there is!  Yes, I know, running is a very inexpensive sport, that is, if you’re not a road warrior, regular racer or ultrarunner.  I don’t claim to be an expert by any means, but I have run around the block a few times and have a few tips to share on how you can save some cash on your running expenses.


I think this is one of the biggest hits for runners – especially those that rotate their running shoes as often as they should.  Personally, I have a shoe problem, but it’s not what you think.  You see, I have 2 solid shoe types that I wear: road shoes (New Balance W890v2) and trail shoes (Inov-8’s or Salomon’s, whatever’s on sale!), and I tend to purchase multiple pairs if I find them at a good price.  Stop just going to shoe stores and paying full price – find a shoe you like and start searching for good deals!  I’ve found my road shoes at half price online, as well as my pair of Salomon’s at 75% off.  Check out some great sites below for shoe deals.

***Additional Tip: Check out outdoor and mountain stores – many of them have annual discounts on shoes, such as the Mountain Sports Outlet in Dillon, CO where I paid $50 for $175 pair of Salomon’s.


Is it just me, or have race prices been increasing lately?  Especially the really well-known races, such as the Rock ‘n Rolls and destination marathons like Chicago and New York.  Whether you enjoy shorter distances or longer races, there are a couple of tips that can save you some cash:

  • Register early!!  Quit procrastinating and paying more than you have to and register at the lowest price.
  • Volunteer.  Many races – mostly series events, such as the Colorado Runner Winter Distance Series – will provide a complimentary entry to one of the races if you volunteer at another.  Inquire with the volunteer coordinator or race director.
  • Support the smaller races.  There are a TON of smaller races around the country that are much less expensive than the highly-popular and marketed races.  If you want to do a 5K or 10K to augment your training schedule, sign up for a small race in your neighborhood for $15-$20 that probably supports a great cause.
  • Find a training group/club.  There are a BUNCH of training groups and clubs out there that can not only give you the race feel and group camaraderie, but some actually hold sanctioned races as part of your group fee.  Runners Edge of the Rockies is a wonderful training group that allows you to run with runners of your ability multiple times throughout the week.  It provides you with a running community and may decrease the number of supplementary races you pay for throughout the year.  Rocky Mountain Road Runners actually hold sanctioned, timed races throughout the year that are part of your group fee.

***Additional Tip: Set up your race schedule early on in the year, so that you not only get base registration prices, but you can make an agreement with your pocketbook that you won’t sign up for anymore :).

Destination Races

This is a tough one for me, because I like to treat destination races like a “vacation” of sorts, so I don’t necessarily always pay attention to my expenses outside of the race registration fee.

  • Plan ahead.  Once you sign up, get everything else into place with cost in mind – this will help in avoiding last-minute purchases and higher prices.
  • Find a friend.  The towns that host destination races typically jack up their prices knowing that their guests will have to pay that price.  When signing up for a destination race, think about who you know in the area that could help out with accommodations.  Also – beware of small print that requires a minimum 2-night stay.
  • Rough it.  Those that are staying in luxury accommodations have their own itinerary, but for those looking to save a dime when traveling to a race, try roughing it.  Camping and even shacking up in your car are not bad options. Camping and “car camping” are inexpensive options that require more responsibility on your part, but can actually be even more fun than staying at a hotel.  Take my last race at the Silver Rush 50 – I shacked up in the back of the Jeep parked in the race parking lot.  I had everything I needed, including port-a-loos and a 50-foot walk to the start line.
  • Pack your meals.  Pending how far the destination is, try to pack what you’ll eat -especially snacks – so that you not only pay more at restaurants, but you also know what you’re eating before a race.
  • Find some friends.  If you’re part of a running group, you may be able to coordinate a group trip that will reduce cost.  If not, head to the social circles to check out good deals and “underground” places to stay (like hostels or couch surfers).


  • Buy in bulk.  Places like REI offer a percentage discount to orders of 10 items or more.
  • Purchase tabs or mixes.  Instead of buying one-offs of drinks or single-use packets, purchase the whole kit and kaboodle, whether it be electrolyte tabs, large jugs of protein powder, or boxes of gu’s and bars.
  • Make it yourself!  Instead of buying a plethora of energy or protein bars, try making them yourself!  There are a bunch of healthy and nutritional recipes out there that can fit your nutritional needs while nixing the “bad stuff” and lowering the cost at the same time.


I won’t say much about this topic, because if you’re anything like me, you care about how your shorts fit and the way your shirt feels after a two hour run.  My biggest tip here is to look for coupons and discounts in-store, as well as check out outlet stores like Under Armour and Nike, that have the good stuff on sale.

***Additional Tip: Invest in quality detergent!  My running clothes last much longer since I’ve started purchasing sports-specific detergent.  It may cost a bit more, but it’s much more cost-effective than having to toss smelling clothes and buy more.

Gadgets and New Gear

This is a sensitive topic, but I have to say it: the best new shoes, the most innovative gadgets and the cutting-edge gear surrounding the running community will NOT make you run faster, or longer, or stronger.  Yes, they may aid in tracking your training or encourage you to run more, but a pair of shoes or a new running pack will not make paradigm changes to your running advances.  It’s within you to determine the success of your running.  Don’t let the hype make you think differently.

I’m always looking for a good deal, sale, or way to save, so if you have any additional tips on being a frugal runner, please let me know!

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