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Running on a Budget

I’ve been meaning to write about my strategies for sustaining my running hobby while on a strict budget.  Running looks like an inexpensive sport; many people think that all you need to do is lace up a pair of shoes and get outside.  Unfortunately, this is NOT the case.  There is a lot of gear to purchase, pricey race registrations, and tons of potential for injuries that need to be treated (possibly leading to expensive medical bills!) Here are some tips and tricks I’ve used to save tons of money, while still dressing, fueling, and running properly: Look for sales on fuel. I’ve been running long distances since 2011 and still can’t believe how expensive gels are.  If I’m running a half marathon, I need to fuel at least twice. Gu Energy Gels, for example, typically cost at least $1.35 each; PLUS TAX.  At about $2.70 per run (2 gel packets), that can definitely add up – especially during marathon training.  I found Clif Shot gels for $0.90 at Target today and jumped at the deal, even though I probably won’t need them until May.  20140202-115737.jpg Another great idea is to buy fuel in bulk! When I was marathon training, I bought a box of 10 gels from Running Warehouse for about $10. Not bad 😀 Use CANDY or FRUIT SNACKS as fuel for shorter long runs.  If I’m running 7 or 8 miles, I usually need a small snack around mile 4.  Instead of “wasting” a fancy gel on “just” a 7 or 8 miler, I take along a small pack of jelly beans or fruit snacks.   Professional/more serious runners will probably snark at this, but I don’t care; this strategy works for me! Find coupons for running stores. I joined The League at Sports Authority, which is a free membership program.  Sports Authority constantly sends me coupons.  Additionally, my bank has different cash back deals, and one of them that comes up sometimes is a cash back bonus for shopping at Sports Authority.  Combining the coupon and cash back deal has saved me a lot of money! Once, I purchased $100 shoes for around $70.  It made my day. 20140202-115825.jpg   Check out Marshalls or TJ Maxx for running gear. I found my cold gear running tights for a BARGAIN at Marshalls a few years ago.  I think they were about $30, when they usually go for around $50.  Outlet stores are also awesome! I found $35 running shorts for only $10 at the Under Armour outlet in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Stop buying running tops and use the ones you earned from completing other races.  After 3 years of regularly running in road races, I’ve collected an entire drawer full of jackets, hoodies, long sleeved tops, short sleeved tops, and sleeveless tops.  I would rather spend money on a fun race registration than on a plain top – it’s like hitting two birds with one stone! Not only do you get to run a race, but you get a dri-fit top to commemorate the experience. 20140121-122121.jpg I even reused a green top from the Shamrock Shuffle in order to dress as Tinker Bell 😀 Take advantage of free injury screenings. The Athletico near where I live advertised for free injury screenings at the Chicago Marathon when I ran it in 2012.  I hurt my knee during the race and was sidelined from running for a few months.  When I went to Athletico, they didn’t pressure me into coming back for physical therapy.  Instead, a physical therapist gave me a bunch of knee strengthening exercises that were customized to the issue I was dealing with at the time.  Guess what? After a few weeks of doing the exercises, I could run normally again! Please don’t take this advice TOO seriously because some issues really do need to be treated by a doctor; I’m just saying that the injury screening worked for me and I didn’t end up having to do physical therapy. Use a foam roller.  I swear, my foam roller has helped me avoid injuries.  My IT band hurts sometimes and a few minutes on the foam roller truly seems to resolve the issue. Also ICE achy joints. This has helped me avoid doctors and stay healthy when training for long-distance races. Again, SEE A DOCTOR if you think you need to. I am by no means a professional! Foam rolling and icing obviously do not solve all problems. jan5foamroller   Register for races EARLY, if possible. Prices go up every few months for most races, which means that the earlier you register, the cheaper!  Sometimes, it’s better to wait until your schedule is clear, which may mean paying $10-20 more, but could also potentially save you the entire registration fee. Check out race expos for deals. This one is not always reliable because I’ve found things online for MUCH CHEAPER than at expos.  However, there can be free stuff and deals on select items. At several expos, I received tons of free gels, granola bars, bottles of water, socks, and even a jar of peanut butter one time!  It’s definitely work checking out several booths if you have time. The moral of this post is to never pay full price for ANYTHING – especially not running gear!