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Staying In the Black: 10 Tricks for Racing on a Budget

Instagrammed screen capture of race registration forms.

As I was plotting my fall races and training calendar yesterday, I made some hard decisions about the races I was going to run and the races I was going to give up. Training (or lack thereof) was the biggest factor in those choices, but so was money. Like it or not, it costs money to race.

I am a community college instructor and my husband is also on staff at a university, so we’re not rolling in the dough. And from what I hear, the rest of America is not either. But it’s still possible to race frequently without sending your checking account into negative double digits every month. Here are my tricks for saving money on your racing budget:

  1. Have a plan. Sit down with your significant other, review your family budget, and agree to how much you can spend per month on racing. To differentiate between races and other running-related expenses, put shoes, gear, and clothes on another budget line.
  2. Pick out your most important races. I like to have my races on my calendar a year in advance, but I review my choices about every quarter in case changes need to made. Try to evenly spread out your races — by the calendar and by the numbers — over the year.
  3. Pick races that are within driving distance of your home. By driving to your races on race morning, you’ll save money on transportation and overnight travel expenses.
  4. Register for races early. Got that list of races you’re doing for the year? In addition to adding the race dates on the calendar, jot down their early registration deadlines, too. These early dates often correlate with the race’s deadlines to order t-shirts and other swag, and the registration fee often jumps after this deadline.
  5. Stay healthy and injury free. Since you’re planning your races a year in advance and registering early for races, you need to stay in tip-top shape so you can make it to your starting lines. If you need help creating a training calendar, contact a professional running coach to help you.
  6. Choose smaller races for less expensive racing fees. If you have a half marathon or full marathon on your calendar, look for a race with fewer participants. The bigger these long distance races are, the greater the expense to hold the event. And of course, those expenses are passed on to the runner. Choose an event with a good reputation to make sure you’re getting your money’s worth; is a good place to find reviews.
  7. Register by mail or in person. I love online race registration as much as the next runner, but sometimes it pays to mail in your registration forms (or drop them off in person, if the race is local). (by my count, the most popular online race registration company) charges upwards of $3.00 per race, and if you run 10-12 races a year, that adds up to another race registration! Buy a book of stamps and mail in your forms instead. * Note: Read your race’s registration form carefully. One local race charges extra for registering by mail.
  8. Pull double duty. If you already have a family vacation or work trip on the calendar, check your destination for races in the area while you are there. You’ll get in a workout while away from home, break up your trip, and get to know the city you’re in.
  9. Run a relay. If you want to experience a big city race but don’t want to fork over the moolah, check to see if it offers a marathon relay. If it does, recruit a few buddies to split the registration fee, then travel and room together.
  10. Network. If your running buddies punk out and can’t go with you to your big city marathon, run the event solo. But use your social networking skills to find other runners who are interested in splitting hotel costs. Heck, local runners may even be up for letting you crash on their couches!

As you can see, stretching your race dollar is not difficult. The most important part is to plan ahead. That, along with a reasonable training plan to keep you healthy, plus a few like-minded running buddies, will keep your running budget in the black!

What about you? Are you on a racing budget? How do you make every penny count for the races you run?



4 thoughts on “Staying In the Black: 10 Tricks for Racing on a Budget

  1. A few other tips:

    1. is the best for rental cars. I don’t know how the travel industry puts up with them, but you can get insane deals on cars through them (as low as $10 a day with unlimited mileage in most big cities).

    2. Bring your own food and snacks for out-of-state races. This can save you a lot of money if you’re doing lots of traveling for racing.

    3. — I’ve only used it once, but it was an excellent experience. This might be an option only for younger runners, but it’s a very effective way to cut out hotel costs (and if you’re lucky, food costs as well).

    4. Loyalty Programs. Join them and use them. If possible, stick to one hotel chain or airline to maximize their perks.

    • Wow! Love these tips that you’ve added! I don’t travel very much, so they’ll help me out when I do bite the bullet to travel for a race!

  2. Thanks for the link! We have a running on a budget post coming up tomorrow and I’m going to go add a link to this post in that one 🙂 All great tips and love your blog! It’s fun and informative 🙂

  3. Pingback: Running on a Budget When Running Ain't Cheap! - Salty Running

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