The Costs of Running

A couple of weeks ago, J Money over at Budgets Are Sexy posted about cheap alternatives to pricey hobbies and listed running as a cheap alternative to horse racing in 9 Cheap Sports For the Common Folk.  And while I’ll agree that running is no doubt cheaper than horse racing, running is definitely not a zero cost hobby.  Well, at least for me.  ‘Cause I’ve developed quite a little running habit.

I’ve logged 3313.2 miles in RunKeeper in a little over three years.  If you can run that for $0, I salute you.  But we’ve spent significantly more than $0.

Ramping Up Running

I started running in college, but pretty casually – just a few miles once or twice a week if that.  Since then, though, I’ve been ramping up my enjoyment and participation, which we can see pretty clearly in my mileage tracker from my RunKeeper account.

This represents all the miles that I’ve logged on RunKeeper since December 2009.  It was then that I decided I had become “serious enough” about running to pay $10 for the premium version of the app.

As you can see, my miles logged used to drop off a lot in the summers as I headed indoors to escape the heat.  But treadmills are boring, so those runs were always short, and I had to rebuild my endurance every fall.  In 2012, I didn’t want to have to rebuild.  I wanted to see if I could manage to keep running through the summer.  As you can see from the chart, that was a pretty big success.  Some of my highest mileage months ever were this past summer.

But I figured out that being cheap was making my running harder, so like 2009 when I decided my running hobby was worth a $10 app, I decided I probably needed to bite the bullet and buy some supplies that make running easier.  That added to the total costs of running in 2012.

Running Costs 2012

  • Total Miles Logged in 2012: 1930.4  (Actual miles probably over 2K due to forgotten phones or not using RunKeeper when jogging with friends)
  • Total Cost of Running in 2012: $1239
  • Time Spent Running: 17,363 minutes = 289.5 hours = 12.1 days …
  • $0.64 per mile logged

I’m not going to lie, calculating it out this way makes me slightly embarrassed that I cost more to operate on a per mile basis than what the $0.55 the IRS claims the average car costs to run per mile.  (I guess I don’t have a second career as a rickshaw operator, huh?)

Where Did the Money Go?

  • Shoes: $408 (33%)  Four pairs of shoes were purchased in 2012.  That means I’m getting about 500 miles out of each pair.  Believe me, I wear these suckers out.  General consensus says that running shoes last 300-500 miles, so I feel like I’m doing pretty well being on the upper end of that range.
  • Running Clothes: $45 (4%) About once per year I need a new pair of running shorts and a decent sports bra.  I get these at the outlets so the colors are “last season”, but they’re good quality.  I also snagged some great socks at a bargain this year that should last a year or two.
  • Body Glide: $32 (3%) This stuff is magical.  It completely eliminates chafing without feeling greasy or ruining your clothes.  $32 is for 2 sticks of it at our local gear store.
  • Hydration System: $39 (3%)  This is so much more than a water bottle.  One of the reasons that running long distances used to be so hard for me was because my hands would cramp up.  HANDS?   Yes, my hands.  Gripping a water bottle for more than a couple of hours really cramps your hands, at least when you have little short person hands like I do.  There are lots of options out there, but I went with these Ultimate Direction Fastdraw bottles.  So far they’re awesome and the company has great customer service.
  • Running Belt: $25 (2%)  Once I had hydration down, I needed more calories to keep going, and a place to carry them.  Enter the Amphipod AirFlow Belt.  Again, there are tons of options, but this one is a solid entry level belt that should last me years.  In fact, Mr. PoP liked borrowing it so much that he got his own for his birthday for when he goes to the gym.
  • Running Nutrition: $100 (8%)  This is all the calories and electrolytes that I consume while running.  It all gets lumped into grocery spending, but it’s about $2/week, so I multiplied that by 50 weeks for a guesstimate.
  • Race Entries & Fees: $480 (39%)  This paid for 3 big races, along with a handful of smaller races, at least one of which I had to write off as a sunk cost because I didn’t end up running it.  These race entries also give me tons of “free” shirts, hence why there were no shirts listed above in the clothing needs.
  • Injuries: $110 (9%)  I had two injuries this year.  One was a cramped calf that I bit the bullet and paid for a massage to get right.  That was $60 (including tip).  And December found me with a (hopefully not major!) injury that required going to see an orthopedic surgeon ($25 copay) for a consult and some specialized pads that I now wear in my shoes.  Not fun, but we’ll have to see how that turns out.
So that’s it.  Kindof.  There are a few additional expenses that I’m not counting in here like:
  • Extra groceries since I eat more on days when I’ve run 10 miles – I mean, I’d still eat!
  • Hotels/gas when we go out of town for a race weekend – I figure we’d still go out of town, right?


Some of this spending isn’t likely to repeat every year, but if I keep up the ~2K miles per year pace, it definitely takes some bucks to keep going.  But I’m betting in the long run, this investment in my health is going to be worth it.


Do you have any “cheap” hobbies where the costs actually stack up like mine?  An avid knitter or jewelry maker has got to be spending some money on those crafting supplies, right?  

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