As I’ve got a reputation for being
careful with my money a tight-arse, I’ve decided to share some of my tips for running and racing on a limited budget. Hopefully some will be useful.
1. Buy old models of trainers. When I first started running, I would buy the latest model of my favourite trainers as soon as they were released. It took me far too long to realise that wearing the latest model of trainers wasn’t going to make me a faster runner. Old models of trainers are usually almost the same shoe at a much cheaper price. I now always search for old models of my favourite trainers online, and stock up when they go on sale.
2. Look after your trainers. I need to replace my trainers every 400 miles or so. To make my trainers last longer I avoid wearing them for anything other than running. I used to play tennis in my favourite trainers, now I know this was adding to their wear and tear, just walking in trainers can wear out the cushioning. Finally, if you need to wash your trainers then use mild soap and cold water, never put them in the washing machine.
3. Only buy what you actually need. I used to be really gullible when it came to buying running gear and accessories, and would purchase virtually every ‘must have’ running gizmo I saw advertised in Runner’s World. I realised that my spending was slightly out of control when I owned 24 pairs of trainers. It really was a case of ‘all the kit, still shit’. Guess what? You don’t need 24 pairs of trainers and the latest blingy GPS watch. I’ve spent thousands on running gear and I’m still shit at running!
4. Shop around for running gear. While I’m a huge fan of my local independent running store, my limited budget has forced me to search for cheaper alternatives. One advantage of the current running boom is the ever-increasing availability of running gear both on the high street and online. Over the last four years I’ve purchased most of my running gear from SportPursuit, eBay and TK Maxx. Although I love a good bargain and refuse to spend a fortune on running gear, I also refuse to buy low quality running gear. People don’t need to see my arse cheeks when I’m running.
5. Look after your running gear. Once you’ve purchased technical running gear, make it last longer by looking after it. Apparently air drying running clothes instead of sticking them in the dryer will make them last longer. Also, make sure you read the care label on your running gear. It took me far too long to realise that technical running gear and fabric conditioner aren’t a winning combination!
6. Become a brand ambassador/product tester. The recent Asics FrontRunner campaign was open to runners of all ages and abilities. I’m pleased to see more and more brands giving ordinary runners the chance to become a brand ambassador. Occasionally brands will advertise for new product testers. Why not apply? You have nothing to lose. My friend in the USA gets to test out trainers and clothes for a major brand. I’m only a little bit jealous!
7. Plan races ahead and race selectively. As I don’t have an unlimited race entry budget, I sit down at the beginning of the year and prioritise my races. My ‘A’ races are the races I want to do the most, ‘B’ races are backup races, and ‘C’ races are races that would be awesome to do but are far too expensive. I set myself an annual budget and make sure that I stick to it. I then look out for ‘early bird’ race entry discounts and sign up for any ‘A’ races I can afford and definitely want to run. I’ve stopped letting race FOMO get the better of me and won’t be entering the Tokyo and New York Marathon ballots until I’ve saved up enough money.
8. Race locally. While it’s fun to travel to new cities and countries to race, the cost of train tickets, flights, hotels and meals soon start to add up. I once spent a ridiculous amount of money on train tickets, a central London hotel and food in order to run a not very well organised 10k. I now save time, stress and money by entering races that are closer to home. Thanks to parkrun I’ll never have to pay to enter a 5k race again. Thanks to local running clubs and groups I can enter well organised 10k and half marathon races for the price of a train ticket to London.
9. Volunteer at races. Race organisers are sometimes desperate for volunteers. Some race organisers will offer incentives such as free race entry into the race the following year. Volunteering is also a great way of getting free running gear as some races will give volunteers the same goodie bags as the race participants. You’ll also get to feel pretty awesome.
10. Search for race discounts. Some races have started to offer quite substantial entry discounts on sites like Groupon and Running Heroes and in other online promotions. If I’m registering for a larger event online I’ll always do a quick search for online discount codes. I’ve been lucky a couple of times.
11. Share race day costs. I used to drive to races on my own until some running club friends asked me for a lift to a race. They gave me some fuel money and by car sharing we helped the environment. Another great way of saving money is by sharing a hotel room. I’m not suggesting that you share your twin room with a complete stranger but with your running friends. Consider alternatives to hotels, If a friend lives near the location of your next race, ask if you can stay the night before the race. Don’t, however, make the same mistake I once made and spend all night drinking wine and reminiscing about school. I didn’t actually make it to the race.
12. Look out for free training groups. Although running clubs can be quite expensive, don’t assume that you have to pay for training sessions with a qualified coach. Many running stores now offer free coached runs and workouts. Examples in Birmingham include the supervised runs organised by Up & Running and Good Gym. In addition, many races have started to offer free or very cheap training runs to registered runners. It’s always worth checking.
13. Stay injury free. I’m not very good at staying injury free, and dread to think how much money I’ve spent on physio sessions. The recovery from running injuries can be both emotionally and financially draining. The majority of my injuries have been self-inflicted and caused by me either ignoring niggles or trying to increase my mileage too quickly. Although it’s probably almost impossible to totally avoid injuries, always listen to your body, warm-up and cool-down, avoid doing all of your training on hard surfaces, and invest in a cheap foam roller.
14. Gifts. I was quite cheeky and published a ‘Christmas gifts for runners’ blog just before Christmas. My unsubtle approach worked and I unwrapped some trainers and a gorgeous running skirt on Christmas Day. Let your family and partner know that you’ll always appreciate running related Christmas and birthday presents. If you don’t want to end up having to return unwanted running gear, ask for something simple like entry into one a race or gift vouchers.
15. Start a running blog. Finally, start a successful running blog. Although there are now far too many running
influencers bloggers, your running related thoughts might catch the attention of race directors and brands. If that happens then congratulations and think of all the money you’ll save on entry fees and running gear.
I hope that you’ve found a least one of my tips useful.
Do you have any tips for running and racing on a budget?
Do you have an annual race entry budget?