Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Price of Ultrarunning

While December is typically a month for runners to reflect on accomplishments, journeys, short-falls, etc...of the year that has passed, the December-to-January transition is also a time for runners to plan the year to come, and for many, that includes setting a racing "budget".  Deciding how much one is willing to fork out on account of race entry fees certainly might include the consideration of other costs associated with running, including necessary equipment (shoes, clothing), nutrition (gels, drinks, supplements), and travel related costs.  Team Pearl Izumi runner Nick Clark's January 3, 2010 post titled "2009 Spending/Miles" provides nice insight into just how expensive the sport of running can really be (focusing on ultrarunning).

Nick breaks his 2009 expenses down to the mile, and estimates his total running-related costs to be $0.85 per mile (3,451 miles run and $2,922.50 in expenses), which he calls "a bargain considering the enjoyment I get from the sport."  Nick does attempt to minimize his costs and reduce unnecessary spending as much as possible.  Here is a snapshot of how and when Nick spent his $2,922.50 on running:

Where'd It All Go?

Race Registrations: $851
Car Miles (gas only): $630
Gear: $398 (Treadmill, sunglasses, watch)
Air miles: $275
Accommodation: $262
Shoes: $216
Travel Food & Beverages (beer and coffee): $260
Misc: $75
Parks Pass: $65
Medical: $60
Run Fuel: $50
Race Winnings: ($200)

When did it all go?

Jan ......... $456
Feb ......... $284
March ...... $30
April ........ $318
May ......... $498
June ........ $366
July ......... $106
August .... $178
Sept ........ $50
Oct .......... $407.50
Nov ......... $11
Dec ......... $218
To date .... $2,922.50

I took a look at the approximate amount of money I shelled out on account of race entry fees in 2009 (exclusive of processing fees) - a whopping $2,230!  That is just entry fees.  The moral of today's post - don't read Nick's post unless you are thoroughly prepared to be shocked at your own expenses.  Maybe it is time to cut out some of the planned 2010 events.
What about everyone else?  Do you set a "racing" budget, and do you stick to it?


  1. I think I need a shoe sponsor like Nick. I haven't tallied up my total from all areas of gear, fuel, etc, but shoes alone have cost me $1,000/year for the past two.

    Anyone need an ultra-runner on their footwear team? Puma? 'Roos? Dr. Martens? Anyone???

  2. I don't even like to think about it...especially figuring in airfare, hotels...shoes...oh no...;-)

  3. I had my epiphany a few years ago when I had to bow out of the Chicago Marathon, which doesn't allow deferments or transfers. Between the registration fee, hotel deposit I had to forfiet and airfare, not to mention shoes, gels, etc. to make it there, I suddenly realized this running ain't cheap.

    I can only imagine the costs for ultrarunning!

  4. 2009 wasn't too bad for me, it was only $1856 (not counting travel). I'm having to worry a lot more about 2010 though because there are more races on the calendar.

    I imagine Brazil is killing your 2010 budget. That race can't be cheap.

  5. I would easily guess my total cost is $5,000 a year all inclusive. I run about 20 marathon or greater events a year. This price (which might be low) includes:

    rental cars
    a pool/gym membership
    race registration
    accessories (I have multiple Garmins b/c they DNF way before I do in ultra's)

    I try to minimize my costs by buying shoes/socks/clothing in bulk (I just got 7 pairs of Gel Kayano's in Dec), flying on Southwest and having multipurpose trips that combine running with vacations or climbing trips for my husband.

    I suspect that I could reduce expenses; however, for 15 years while earning my BS, MS and PhD I lived on a shoestring budget so it is nice to fritter away a bit of money. A tiny townhouse, a few pets and no children keep our other expenses pretty minimal.

    And I like to think the joy I get from running, seeing great friends at races and "seeing the world" is truly priceless and hopefully contributes to increased productivity at work in the public health field.

  6. It is somewhat funny...I don't even think about it much when I buy another pair of shoes, or enter a race I want to run...it isn't until the end of the year when I look back that I say, "holy crap, I spent a lot of $$ on running!"

    Robert, Brazil is certainly an expensive trip. The airfare alone is about $800.

    Tammy, I look at it the same way. I enjoy doing it, learn a lot from it, meet great people, etc...that's how I partially justify the cost as well.

  7. I wonder if there's a tax deduction in there somewhere??:)

  8. Here is one significant factor that affects those of us on the east coast - we are probably more likely to travel 1500+ miles to an ultra than a west-coaster is. The topography and local political situations contribute to the fact that the majority of ultras, especially famous ultras, and all "big-mountain" ultras, are in the western USA - not here. Nick Clark, who lives in Colorado, has much lower travel costs than we do..

  9. Be glad that the Ultrarunning is not yet as popular as the marathons. How do like the difference between the entry fee of Pineland $65 and NYC Marathon $185. Crazy! but it is all good and worth every penny.Natalia

  10. Love your blog...thanks a bunch for the inspiration. Doing my first ultra (50 mile trail run) in April! Blogs like yours are excellent motivators!