As a money blogger I’m always thinking about our household budget and how our variable spending on categories such as groceries and dining out affect our ability to save. Hobbies and fitness activities fall into variable spending, too, and so today I’m going to look at the economics of running and exactly how much this new hobby is costing me.
Fitness memberships can be expensive with some gyms charging $100 per month or more to workout. One would assume that running does not cost that much. Running outside is free, after all. But is that really the case?
It turns out running – just like going to the gym – can be as cheap or expensive as you want it to be.
How much does running cost?
Here’s a list of items that I’ve purchased in the name of running:
Treadmill – $1,104
I started running in the summer of 2016 and loved the feeling of hitting the open road and coulee trails of southern Alberta. By late fall reality set in that we live in southern Alberta and would have to deal with cold, harsh winter elements for a good 4-6 months of the year.
We bit the bullet and bought a treadmill for indoor training. We found a good deal on a NordicTrack from Costco and by November 2016 had it set-up in our basement.
Races – $647
I enjoy solo running to clear my mind, listen to music, or catch-up on my favourite podcasts (or television shows, if I’m running indoors). But there’s nothing like the feeling of testing yourself in a race environment with hundreds or even thousands of other runners.
I’ve only raced three times so far; last year in the Moonlight Run ($27), Calgary Marathon ($90), and Lethbridge Police Half Marathon ($40), but I’ve already entered the Calgary Marathon ($90) again this year and plan to do the Police Half ($40) again in the fall.
Race entry fees have totalled $287 for me, and that doesn’t include travel for the Calgary Marathon, which requires an overnight stay. Two trips to Calgary costs $100 in gas plus $260 in hotel accommodation ($130 per night) for a total of $360 in travel.
Shoes – $450
I didn’t fully appreciate how many miles runners put on their shoes until my wife had gone through her third pair of ASICS in just over a year.
Experts suggest that a pair of running shoes can last anywhere between 300 and 500 miles. That’s a huge range, and as a frugal guy I tried to squeeze out every last mile out of my first pair of Under Armour running shoes. Until my feet and ankles begged me for a new pair, that is.
I’m admittedly still on my second pair – ASICS this time – to get me through winter running on the treadmill, but I recently purchased my third pair when I found a good sale at Sport Chek. They’re still in the box waiting for the coulees to dry out.
Electronics & apps – $412
While I won’t argue that fitness tracking devices are a necessity for running, there are a number of gadgets and apps that can improve your training and that are frankly just fun and interesting to use.
I wear the Garmin vivofit activity tracker, which retails at $119.99, and pair it with the Garmin app on my iPhone.
I also use Runkeeper for its awesome training plans and last year paid for the premium Runkeeper Go edition. It’s an annual subscription, but I’m not convinced it’s worth the money. Nevertheless I paid $42 and have access to it until the end of June 2018.
Wireless headphones are a must if you like listening to music or podcasts while you run. I have the Powerbeats3 wireless headphones. They’re expensive – retailing at $249.99 – but I was able to get them for “free” with the purchase of an iPad Pro. You can pick up a cheap pair for $30 but you’ll get what you pay for in terms of battery life and sound performance.
Food – Immeasurable
The term ‘Runger’ is used to describe the insatiable feeling of hunger you get after running. It’s most noticeable after long runs, but sometimes can appear throughout the day after a morning run.
It makes sense when you think about it. I’m regularly burning between 800 – 1200 calories with every running session. Of course I’m going to be hungry. I need to replace those calories. But if you’re replacing all or even most of those calories then you’re adding another meal or two to your daily intake.
That doesn’t go unnoticed when looking through bare cupboards and an empty pantry at the end of the week. It also adds real dollars to your monthly grocery bill.
Increased food consumption is not something that I’ve actively tried to measure and directly tie to running, but it must exist and so we need to acknowledge the extra cost.
So how much does running cost? Well, for me the costs add up to $2,613 since the summer of 2016, or about 20 months. That works out to $130 per month – more than even the most expensive gym memberships!
Now, to be fair, those average costs will come down over time. I won’t purchase another treadmill anytime soon. And I’m all set for gadgets right now. That leaves the major expenses as shoes, which I’ll likely continue to purchase two pairs a year ($300), and races, which should cost no more than $600, including travel.
The frugal side of me will be happy to keep my running costs below $1,000 for the year.