How Much Does It Cost To Run A Marathon?

Natalie Cecconi
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Race Entry

Fees, Training Costs & More.

Many casual runners sign up for a marathon just because it’s there.

They hear about it being a light at the end of a tunnel called training, they want to raise money for charity or they think they’re up for the challenge and a long distance sounds interesting enough.

But what these runners don’t realize is that running a marathon is a financial decision and you could spend more than triple the amount of money that it takes to run one on races, training and other expenses.

Let’s see how much you can expect to spend when training and running a marathon.

Race Weekend Expenses

Need to consider more than just entry fee. Add these race weekend costs to your budget…

The cost of running a marathon really has two aspects, one that appears on paper the other that you might not see.

Travel/Lodging

Post-Race Recovery

The recovery process starts even before you finish running your last mile. I used to burn the candle at both ends. After a race, I’d have a huge burger and fries, take a nap, and then go out for a nice dinner with my family.

Sometimes, this would be followed by some post-race beers. I’d then wake up the next day with soreness throughout my body and feeling tired from the late night.

After shifting to healthier eating in college, I started to see a huge difference in how my body felt after races.

I stopped getting runner’s high for a while, but I knew that my body needed time to repair and recover after hard running. So I wasn’t surprised that recovery nutrition can help with the healing process.

A lot of runners don’t think about post-race nutrition during the race. They head straight to the post-race food area after the race and eat pretty much anything that’s available.

This is the wrong approach and your recovery will take longer and you might even get sick. I definitely did.

What happened to me was that I’d go out and get something to eat. The next morning, I’d wake up with a sore neck and upper back.

Training

In addition to spending money for food, transportation, and clothing, runners spend money on training. And no, it’s not necessarily on the most expensive running shoes.

The most significant training costs are on sports massages, deep tissue massages, physiotherapy appointments, racquet sports subscriptions, personal training fees, and weight training equipment expenses. These costs can vary depending on location and experience.

Equipment: Sometimes, you can get away with not spending anything on equipment but that’s not always the case.

A pair of running shoes should last at least half a year and you will have to replace them once a year. If you opt not to spend on the best running shoes that’s fine but you do need to spend on decent running shoes.

A weight training bar and weight plates are also a must if you plan to hit the gym.

If you plan on running outside, you will have to spend on some good running shoes.

Race entry fees are a one-time expense.

Training: Aside from your weekly massages or access to a gym, training for races does not require any special techniques. Just follow the training plan, which describes the distance and intensity of the workout, and execute.

Training Plan

A marathon training plan is the best way to structure your training program. I intended to walk the first 1,000 miles, but I found I could run them, too. (c) William James

Apart from good enough shoes, and a pair of socks that prevent blisters, there are many other requirements needed to prepare for a marathon. You will need a target marathon goal, a good base level of fitness and an outline on what physical and particular mental training do you need to reach that goal.

Written below is one of the many marathon training plans that can be found online. It has worked for many.

I am actually using plan B. It took a lot of time to prepare all things, and I was surprised how much I have to think about daily when I ran into a big marathon.

So, if you decide to follow this plan, you have to have a chunk of free time and be serious about it.

I am not a professional runner, and I am not a certified trainer ….

I am just a passionate person who wants to do something very hard. As I said, I am not a runner, so you definitely have to double check this plan with a professional or skip some steps.

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 also-ran 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 distances. 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 there may be a need to recalibrate your training regimen based on all of the miles that you cover.

For example, if you run a few 10k races and then run a marathon, you might realize that you can run longer distances than you expected. This might result in you changing your training regimen so that you can work up to the marathon distance.

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 right for a longer distance.

Time Costs

The time cost for a marathon 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. But once you’re finished with a training cycle, be it a 4-month marathon training schedule or a 6-week half-marathon cycle, it’s easy to talk yourself out of continuing.

Instead of time, you focus on the training miles and the training days gone by; that soreness that never really goes away; the money spent on new running shoes; etc. It’s easy to get discouraged and tired of the whole process.

Running Shoes and Gear

There aren’t too many runners who are able to run a marathon while wearing old shoes and a 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.

If you’re looking for a pair of running shoes, you have 5 main factors to consider:

  • Gender – are you a women or a man?
  • The length of your foot
  • The cushioning that you prefer
  • The heel height
  • The pricing

You’ll also also need to ensure that the shoe fits properly since a shoe that’s too tight or too big can cause problems. Things like blisters, bunions, or achy feet can ruin your running experience.

Once you have your shoes, you have to select the right clothes and gear. Most people just wear old sweatpants or shorts, old t-shirts, and old running shoes. But if you’re seriously getting ready for a marathon, you should get dedicated sports clothing made for running.

Running Shoes

The first expense, and one most runners have in common, is the purchase of running shoes. The most obvious ways to economize here are to buy used and 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.

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. Bonus: 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 really great idea. Also, it gives you the chance to change things up a bit.

Personally, I love to have one set of workout outfits in black and one set of workout outfits in bright colors like pink, purple, green, yellow, or blue. It’s fun to switch back and forth and will help you to get in your zone before working out.

Nutrition

Athletes especially those just beginning this physically rigorous sport have all sorts of questions when it comes to the costs associated with running. Questions range from how much one can expect to spend on equipment to how much one can take home in prize money.

It should come as no surprise that even in a single race, winners receive trophies and medals while losers go home with nothing other than their heavy disappointment.

With so many races to choose from and a wide range of events, the cost of running can vary greatly. Ideally, you should allow yourself an additional couple of dollars per month over your actual running costs for race registration fees.

Most runners rely on their own two paws to help them complete their race. They might also turn to friends, family, and colleagues to help out. Still, some runners prefer to enlist professional help to guide and facilitate their run and take care of everything from transportation to race day maintenance.

Others on the other hand prefer to put their running race fees into a savings account to earn interest over a period of time.

While these money-saving techniques are all well and good, runners need to be willing to shell out some cash every now and then.

Accessories

In order to start your long-distance running journey, you may need some clothing and gear to help you stay prepared for every possible situation.

Here’s a little rundown of items you’ll probably need to complete your wardrobe of running attire:

Compression gear: Compression gear helps you remain comfortable throughout your run. It helps wick sweat away from the skin and keeps your muscles supported as you work.

Gels and energy bars: Gels and energy bars contain valuable nutrients that will keep your energy levels high throughout your run.

Shoes: The proper shoes are crucial to your long-distance running success. Having the right shoe should be the first thing you consider before you sign up for that race.

Clothing: You’ll need a few important pieces of clothing to get you through your runs – shoes, clothes, and accessories.

APod: Stay focused on your run with the assistance of an MP3 player.

Sports watch: A sports watch can help you monitor your progress, speed, and mileage throughout your run.

Headphones: Keep in touch with your environment and still hear notifications with a nice set of headphones.

Conclusion

Over the years, I slowly improved my pace, reaching a finish-line time I was happy with. 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.

But going fast isn’t everything. I still had a lot of fun running the first two as plodders.

The marathon did a lot of things for me that I never imagined. It gave me a lot of energy, it showed me how much I loved running and how much joy it gave me. It taught me something about who I am as a person.

The marathon also reinforced to me just how seriously ill I was. Running a marathon takes a lot of physical energy and mental effort. I was in the best shape of my life at the time, but it still knocked the hell out of me. It reminded me of how sick I had been and how much was involved in my recovery.

What it also showed me was that anything is possible, as long as you are willing to work for it. It gave me a lot of confidence and self-esteem, and helped me make a dramatic change in my life. The hurdles you overcome and the effort you put in all correlate to how far and how long you can run in life.