If you are deciding to run a marathon it is a pretty significant decision. It’s not just about training for running 26.2 miles. There also can be substantial expenses associated with it. If you’ve never run a marathon before and want to know what you’re signing up for, this article is for you.
We’ll cover all the costs of a marathon from the entry fee to gear requirements to travel and lodging. Once you know the costs, you’ll be in a better position to start preparing financially in addition to physically for your race.
Let’s see how much you can expect to spend when training and running a marathon.
Races are not free. Paying for entering the marathon is an understandable expense when you’re thinking about running a marathon. However, the price tag might shock you. Prestigious marathons are not like running smaller races of 5ks where it’s typically 20 bucks, give or take, to enter.
Marathon entry fees vary widely depending on size and popularity. Generally, it’s between $100 and $300. This fee covers various expenses for the marathon, including race swag, insurance, police and medical team charges, post-race food, port-a-potties, and so forth.
More prestigious and popular races (often in big cities) tend to have a much higher entry fee. Sometimes, you can run on a charity team like Boston, and New York City allows you to fundraise to receive an entry. In such a case, your entry fee is covered, but then you might have to fundraise anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000, and they will charge your credit card $3,000 to $4,000, and you’ll have to raise money to pay yourself back.
Race Weekend Expenses
There is more than just the entry fee. Add race weekend costs to your budget if the race is not in your hometown or nearby, where you can drive by yourself. Otherwise, you will have to bear the race weekend expenses.
If the race is in another city or a destination race, you need to include the traveling cost. Factor in gas or airfare, the cost of staying at a hotel or Airbnb, getting food out, and so forth. All this can cost you anywhere from a couple of hundred dollars to thousands of dollars.
You can consider sharing accommodation with a friend who is coming to cheer for you in your marathon or anyone participating in the same race, but it's a rare thing to happen.
The recovery process starts even before you finish running your last mile. It's something to celebrate, a personal closing ceremony. After a race, you can have a huge burger and fries, take a nap, and then go out for a nice dinner with family. Include the cost of this celebration too in your marathon budget.
Your body needs time to repair and recover after hard running, and recovery nutrition can help with the healing process. Don't just head straight to the post-race food area after the race and eat pretty much anything available. Plan your post-race diet and recovery nutrition.
In addition to spending money on food, transportation, and clothing, runners spend money on training.
A marathon training plan is the best way to structure your training program.
It's not like a 5k race. You have to follow a properly designed training plan. You will need a target marathon goal, a good base level of fitness, and an outline of what physical and thorough mental training you need to reach that goal.
Get an organized training plan written by a knowledgeable coach. Depending on your needs and goals, a training plan can cost you anywhere from $10 to $100.
Fitness apps like Garmin Connect, MapMyRun, and Strava offer training plans. Most running books also contain detailed plans and plenty of pacing information. One can purchase training plans from coaching services as well. With just a plan, it’s up to you to follow it. If you are disciplined and dedicated, this might be a good option.
If you want someone else to do the butt-kicking during your training cycle, you might want to hire a running coach. This is the most expensive option. However, you’ll get a significant benefit from having someone working with you directly.
Qualifying and Tune-Up Races
Many marathoners prepare for a life-changing race by first signing on for a few qualifying and tune-up races.
These tune-up races are every bit as important as the marathon itself and are the best way to test your training in a race environment and make sure that you are in tip-top shape for the big day.
Your qualifying and tune-up races can vary in distance. Typically, 5k’s are used to test speed, 10k’s are used to test endurance, and half marathons are used to test your overall health.
Most runners will run a few races before attempting a marathon simply because you may need to recalibrate your training regimen based on all of the miles you cover.
There is also a psychological benefit to running in a race where you can measure your performance against other people and get an idea if your pace is suitable for a longer distance.
These qualifying and tune-up races are not free so remember to include their cost in the marathon budget.
The time cost can be the most significant, especially for time-constrained people such as parents and others who do freelance work or work flexible schedules. Marathons can easily take up to a year before you toe the line.
For marathon maniacs, it’s two or three months of 5-7 hour runs and day-long runs. Even for what is supposed to be a fun run, it’s months of slogging. And finally, even your race day can take up a good deal of time, not to mention the time spent on travel and recovery.
It’s easy to forget how much time you’ve invested in training when you’re swimming in the pool, racing that long run, or logging your miles.
Running Shoes and Gear
There aren’t too many runners who can run a marathon while wearing old shoes and an old pair of sweatpants. Most people anticipate running a marathon and treat it like any other competitive sporting event.
Running a marathon requires specific gear. This includes a proper pair of running shoes, sports clothing, and running accessories (like fuel belts, heart rate monitors, and GPS watches). Runners can get most of these items at local running stores, or they can also buy them online if they prefer.
The first expense, and one most runners have in common, is the purchase of running shoes. The most obvious way to economize here is to adapt running shoes you already own for the marathon distance. Running shoes have a built-in expiration date of about 400 miles, but their performance can continue to decline with use, and physically they rapidly lose elasticity and support.
A pair of good running shoes tend to cost around $120-$130/pair.
One way to squeeze out more marathon mileage is to purchase a set of non-marathon shoes for every 400 miles, alternating with other pairs you’ve already worn. The good news is most running shoes purchased at the end of a season will be at their lowest price.
Several Sets of Running Outfits
While this may seem a little excessive, having several sets of running outfits is a great idea. Also, it gives you the chance to change things up a bit.
I love to have one set of workout outfits in black and one set in bright colors like pink, purple, green, yellow, or blue. It’s fun to switch back and forth and will help you get in your zone before working out. You’ll probably want to estimate roughly $50-$75 per outfit, although this can vary greatly depending on what brands you like and what items you need to purchase.
Athletes, especially those just beginning this physically rigorous sport, have all sorts of questions about nutrition they must take along with training. You can expect to spend around $50 for your total training duration on GUs, chews, or other types of running fuel that you will need for long runs. Sports drink mix also adds to the cost. Essential products like Gatorade are economical and work well, while higher-end products like Maurten and Skratch labs offer additional benefits but are much more expensive.
In addition to most mandatory things like clothing, shoes, and nutrition, you may consider spending some bucks on helpful accessories, but only if your budget allows.
A good GPS watch is one of the best tools to help you succeed as a runner. It can cost you around $100-$300, depending on the brand. A $25 running hat can save you from the sun and even rain. A hydration belt can also be a game-changer for you in the marathon, and it will cost you no more than $50. Running glasses also can be helpful but will add another $25-$75 to your budget.
It’s pretty cool when you’re running a marathon with a couple of people you’ve been training with and passing them on your way to the finish line. Now that you know, marathon running isn’t exactly cheap, so it’s important to prepare financially.