Too Many Bucks for the Race Bling?


Janet has written 27 posts on Salty Running.

I'm a fitness fanatic who was born to run. I have two amazing sons, live in Wyoming (but I'm planning my escape), and plan to keep getting older without ever getting old.

lucy tongue out

Our annual “Where does our money go?” talk.

Last year was a great racing year for my husband and me. We raced in Montana, Arizona, Colorado, and California, and collected some free bling in the form of some shiny new medals.

But wait, are those medals really free? Well… no. Consider race entry fees, travel expenses (which can include airfare, gas, accommodations, food), and of course the tech gear and clothing that we all “need” in order to race our best.  Living in Wyoming, we usually have to travel to race, and together we spent about $5,000 on our favorite hobby last year.  Those are some expensive medals!

Having my husband as a running partner has always been an advantage, since he’s always understood the need to fork out money for new shoes or race entries… until now.

The medal for the Missoula Half Marathon is huge!

Was this gorgeous piece of metal worth $800?

They say running is cheap because all you need is a pair of shoes and the open road, but we all know the person who said this didn’t run many races.  I realize there are expenses involved in putting on a quality race: shirts, finish line bling, post-race food and drinks, city permits, medical and police assistance, and there has to be some left over for the race’s charity cause too!  As the costs rise, so do entry fees – I get that. But unless you’ve recently won the lottery, are a sponsored athlete, or have unlimited discretionary income, there comes a time when you have to decide which races are worth the cost.

This year, my husband has decided to complain about everything that costs money in spite of sharing my hobby. When he takes off his running shoes and puts on his Money Police hat, the questions start flying: How many pairs of shoes did you buy this year? Why did you need 3 pairs of the same running shorts? How could we spend $2,000 on one race? (Umm… it was in California, that’s how).

Enter the Year of Racing Cheaply.  I capitalize it because it needs to carry some significance for me, or I’ll be back to chasing shiny objects in far away places.

The Year of Racing Cheaply consists of a plan that should fit in nicely with our (his) goal to save some money this year:

First, we’re only running one out of town race, and we used a couple of Sassafras’s tips on how to make a race fit your budget. It’s just 100 miles from home, and we’ll stay with my son the night before. I registered early to prevent paying those procrastinator’s penalties in entry fees. Minimal travel expenses, reasonable entry fees – score!

Second, we’re going to run the local races we usually skip in favor of bigger, more glamorous events. None of these races costs more than $20 to enter, and they all start within walking distance of our house. No travel expenses, cheap entry fees – double score!

Turkey Trot 1st Place

This medal is my favorite, even though it’s much smaller and not nearly as dazzling as the others.

I have to admit, I’m going to miss the finisher’s medals I’ve become slightly addicted to, but maybe this year’s bling will be even more special.  This medal is my favorite from 2013, even though it’s much smaller and not nearly as dazzling as the others. I won it by placing first in my age group on a cold, windy November morning during our local Turkey Trot 5k.

Maybe the best bling is earned, not bought.

How much do you think is too much so spend on our favorite pastime?  How would you scale back on your running costs?

10 Responses to “Too Many Bucks for the Race Bling?”

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  1. Ariana says:

    The first two races I ever ran (a 5k and a 10K) didn’t give out medals and it’s kind of odd to me that every single race does one now. I don’t deny that a 5k or 10k is a big accomplishment for many (at one time it was for me!), but are medals really necessary for these races? I’d prefer $35 to $75 for a 10K and just get a shirt and some great memories.rather than a shirt & medal and huge expo full of stuff I don’t even need! I especially love races that advertise “free” alcohol at the end.

  2. Robyn says:

    I’m lucky enough to live in Minnesota, which has a vibrant and diverse running community. At, say, the marathon and longer distance, our local races range in price from >>$100 to $35, with a number of free (yes, FREE) options. Want to race 30, 50, or 100k on gravel roads for zero dollars? Wilder Foot Races has you covered.

    However, for all but the most expensive race entries, you’re right on — the greater expense is in all the other “stuff”. I ran a trail ultra this spring where I camped the night before. Should be cheap, right? Yah, but since we only own one car and I was gone for two full days, I rented a car to drive down. $40, plus an hour and a half to pick up and return it to the rental place. Pre-race massage? Feels great, but you’re talking at least $60. New headlamp for a midnight race? Yeah, I’ll use it a lot, but that’s $40 I’m not getting back.

    How do I save money? I race judiciously. If it’s not an “A” race, there’d better be a very good reason for doing it — either it’s something special (marathon with my mom this fall), or it fits *perfectly* into the training schedule and is low impact. I’ll probably do 3-4 “goal” races this year, 2-3 “special/fun” races, and a couple “fit perfectly” ones.

  3. Allspice says:

    Ariana – Most of the 5 and 10k’s in my area don’t give out finisher’s medals either. AG winners usually get them, but not everyone. I’m with you on the lower entry fees and free alcohol. :)

    Robyn – It sounds like you have some very cool races in Minnesota! Isn’t it amazing how quickly a “cheap” race spirals into a major expensive one?

  4. That Lucy picture is hilarious!!!

    I actually hate all the “bling.” I like the satisfaction of placing overall or in my age group more than any trophy or trinket. I do like winning something usable though! If it’s not usable, don’t bother IMO! Just print out a certificate or something rather than wasting money and petroleum biproducts on plastic trophies, etc. I really don’t mind a barebones race most of the time. Just some water after would be nice for short races.I do like race shirts to wear around, so we can keep those too :) I wish more RDs would have a barebones option for those just looking to do a workout or run. There was a half marathon near my house this weekend and I would have gladly paid 20 bucks for the privilege of running the course in the race, but I wasn’t racing so didn’t want an official time or any of the bling (although the shirt was super adorable!) I wasn’t going to pay $60 to do my long run, so I just ran to a spot in the race, cheered and ran around and home for free.

    • Marisa says:

      YES! One of my local races used to let you register without the “swag” and it was $10 or less. Too many races now are getting sucked into the hype and becoming over the top deals — and too expensive to me as a result. I don’t want to pay over $30 for a 5K or 10K, and I really find that to be a hard pill to swallow even for a 1/2. (Races here are run heavily on bike paths so we shouldn’t have the high costs associated with a true road race). Our local 1/2 used to be under $20, but it’s now getting turned into an EVENT. They always had a 5K but they were both on Saturday. Now there’s going to be an expo, a kid’s race Saturday morning (free, but with medals to the kids) and the 5K will now be Saturday afternoon. The 1/2 will be on Sunday morning, and of course they are promoting a 2-day challenge. All events come with a giant medal, and an additional medal if you do the challenge. The half is over $50 for early registration. I’d kind of like my cheap race back.

      • Mint says:

        I love the without the swag options too. I have far too many (ill fitting) race tees and don’t want to pay $10 in race fees for them. I love it when I can cut that – particularly if I am registering a family of 4 runners! I also think the new trend of medals for all participants is crazy. I get it for long distances where people have clearly invested themselves for months, but I recently got one at a 10k (which we all ran on a whim).

  5. Allspice says:

    I agree – it would be really nice to have an option when you register. When I first started running halves, I have to admit I loved the medals. But now my wall is almost full, and if I could just a tech shirt and course support, I’d be happy.

  6. Mary says:

    I would much rather get the medal than the t-shirt! I’ve already made two quilts out of all the t-shirts i’ve received from races haha. I spent WAY more than I should have/could last year on races, running at least 1-2 races a month, sometimes 3! This year, I’ve only run 2 races, planned for a 3rd in july, and I haven’t paid for any of them. (Comped bc of my job at a running store, friend paid for the second, friend of friend can’t use her bib for a race so I get it…) I’m working very hard on spending little to nothing on running/racing this year. Need to get that bank account back in order! I miss it very much though :(

  7. Allspice says:

    Mary, your free races are awesome! Hopefully a year of that will help the bank account. That’s what hubby and I are trying to do too.

  8. Mary Street says:

    hahahah hilarious lucy picture. I cut way back on racing because it’s so expensive. I sort of look at a destination race though as a vacation so I’d bin it as a vacation in my budget, unless I was just flying in the morning of and flying out. So tell hubster that he’s binning the amounts wrong. lol

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