The Penniless of the Long Distance Runner

With apologies to Tom Courtenay.

I signed up this week for my second half marathon, I will be running on December 9th in the Holiday Half along the river in North West Portland. I have got back into longer training and will be doing 10 mile runs at least once a week for the next month, along with the normal 5 mile runs. So around 20 miles a week.

I have found that I don’t need to train out to the full 13 miles for these events, as if I can run 10 miles at a decent speed (10 minute miles) then I can do the 13 miles just fine at a slightly slower pace say 10:10 miles in a group.

The thing is though these events are expensive. This half marathon after taxes cost me $90; if I had signed up earlier it would have been about $10 less, but still. Even the 5k event is $40, and here in Portland if I wanted to I could run a 5K every weekend.

Now for my $90 I do get a nice medal, plus a performance shirt. Also I appreciate they have to organize the event and close roads, these things are also not just being done altruistically. However running can be an expensive hobby, even if the barrier to entry is quite low.

Aside from the smaller races there are special events such as Ragnars and relays. Here in Oregon a big event is the annual Hood to Coast relay which is a two day event which sells out all it’s spots on registration day. If you get on, – and it’s a big if – the team entry fee is almost $2000 (split among the 12 team members).

Once you are in a race, or even just running for fun, you need some kit. The big item is probably shoes. A reasonable pair of running shoes will set you back around $150 and depending on wear and tear you will probably need to replace these on an annual basis. I probably need a new pair soon, but will wait and look around Black Friday sales, however I probably don’t want to use a new pair of shoes straight away on a half marathon event.

The group I train with on Tuesdays is out of a local running store, and every couple of months we will have a shoe sales rep come in and we get to try out new shoes. It’s nice way of seeing what is new and trying out different “rides” (I still don’t know exactly how spongy I like my shoes). They usually bring us treats too which tends to offset the calories burnt on the run !

To be honest other than shoes, the rest of the kit is pretty cheap. This time of year you will need a headlamp and reflective vest of some kind, but these can be got relatively inexpensively (though of course you can pay a lot for them). Shirt’s you will collect as you participate in races, socks and shorts you don’t have to pay through the nose for. You might need a light weight rain jacket, but I often find running with them uncomfortable.

Like almost any hobby you can spend what you want, but I have found that the barrier to entry is lower than a lot of pastimes, which helps to make it a very utilitarian hobby. However it isn’t always the most social and running on your own on training runs can be a little lonely sometime, but it’s a great way to catch up with podcasts and music.


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