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?  

49 comments to The Costs of Running

  • Ha! I’ve never thought to compare my cost per mile to the irs 55 cents. Rickshaw operators must have slim margins after you account for all the food it takes to keep you fueled!

  • Brian

    I finally purchased my first real pair of running shoes (I had always just run in what ever shoes I happened to own). Boy these made a world of difference. My feet no longer go numb (which I knew was bad) and generally I just feel better. They were more expensive than I could have down than if I had got them online, but since I had never been properlly fitted before I would have felt like a real jerk wasting the store owner’s time just to go online.

    • You are so right that quality shoes make a world of difference. I think it can definitely pay to go to a good running store the first time to be properly fit. Also most of the good ones have policies that if the shoe doesn’t work for you after running in it for a couple of weeks you can bring it back in and try a different one. That’s not happening with an online store!

      That said, once I have my shoe, I keep my eye out for sales online (they’re rare with the shoes I wear), and will buy them online if that happens. But if the difference is just sales tax, I try and shop locally for my shoes. I think the running stores do a great service and I’d like to keep them in the area for a while.

  • I love it! $0.62 per mile. Nerd. 😉

    At 500 miles, you’re getting a ton out of your shoes. Mine are dead by the time I get to 400 miles. What stinks is that they still look fairly new, until you turn them over. I’m very lucky when it comes to hydration. Because we have a large group that runs long distances together, someone puts out drinks along our route ahead of time so I never have to carry anything. Fun, fun sport!
    AverageJoe recently posted..5 Smart Money Moves For Young FamiliesMy Profile

    • trudy

      Are shoes no longer resoled, or did that disappear with the previous Depression?

      • This is a great question! Mrs. Pop wears vibram five finger shoes, and loves them for various reasons. The soles are plain rubber, and I wonder why some smart chemist hasn’t figured out a way to make a product where you can somehow reapply the rubber to the bottom of these things. I did get my work boots resoled about 2 years ago-very happy with the results.
        mr. pop recently posted..The Costs of RunningMy Profile

  • I guess like you said it all depends on how you handle it as a hobby. If all you rquire is the running shoes, then it’s not too expensive. But when you start piling in all that extra special stuff, then yeah, it gets expsneive. I think it can be that way for any hobby really. My family and I hike a lot. We see people with the special hiking boots and water carrying things and special hiking poles and other junk. Looks expensive. We just slap on our tennis shoes and go. Much cheaper, lol.

    Depends how you do it, I guess!

    PS Great job being all healthy and stuff — too many unhealthy people in our country!
    TB at BlueCollarWorkman recently posted..Seven Steps to Leaving a Stressful JobMy Profile

    • I think for me, it’s the difference in quantity. When I was running on the order of hundreds of miles of year (not a couple thousand!) one or two pair of shoes and a race or two would keep me pretty set. But over the last year I feel like I became pretty hard core about it, and when you’re doing that many miles, having some gear makes the biggest difference.

      Once my goals are met, I’ll probably cut back on the races in another year or two, which will definitely make a difference to the bottom line for the “running budget”. =)

  • I love how geeky you are about running! :) that’s some serious data! I think like any hobby, if you start to take it more seriously it will start to cost you. Mine was beach volleyball. I paid for classes, bikini’s, new balls, more snacky type food, tournaments, parking for tournaments, etc. OH, and now I have a shoulder injury (probably from volleyball), so I understand. Now when and if I can play again Im just playing with friends instead of tournaments, and making my bikini’s last as long as possible.
    Budget and the Beach recently posted..This Video Will Change Your Life/Link LoveMy Profile

    • Haha, I’m a data junkie, but this is all RunKeeper’s awesomeness. I just click “start” and “finish” and it tallies up everything. So awesome for a geek like me!

      In a couple of years, I think I’ll tone down the races, which will cut the budget back. But I feel like there are a couple of goals I want to hit running-wise while I feel like I’m in awesome cardio-vascular shape, ya know? =)

  • I’ve never thought about analyzing what the cost is per mile, what a great idea! Race fees (and hotel/transport/etc. for it) are definitely pricey, but the experience is always well worth it so it’s hard to give up. And the shoes are a non-negotiable – they’re like tires, you want quality. In comparison to biking and triathlons where the start-up cost of the bike itself can run around $2k, I’d say running is still fairly economical! :)
    anna recently posted..Happy Valentine’s Day and Week 7 SpendingMy Profile

    • I like the tires comparison! You want what keeps you safe and stable.

      I’ve never really considered tri’s since I don’t like swimming all that much, but I totally agree that tri-gear is super expensive… wet suits! bikes! bike shoes! running shoes!

  • I’m a runner, always have been since middle school!
    I think most people make the mistake of not getting good shoes to begin with. I buy adiddas trail running shoes. They are not super expensive, but they do the trick.

    I recently just purchased some workout clothes over xmas ($150). I love them! Last time i had upgraded was high school.

    I don’t run a lot of races, so don’t pay a lot of fees.

    RIght now I’m technically not paying for a gym. I go to my apartment’s fitness classes and gym. But once I move out, I will have to get a gym membership for cross training classes.

    I eat healthier when I’m running a lot, so I probably spend less food on junk food.
    SavvyFinancialLatina recently posted..Are Baby Boomers Still Retiring?My Profile

  • D5

    Wow, your mileage is fairly awesome (as in ‘inspires awe and more than a bit of jealousy’). I know you’d mentioned that you were a runner in the past, but this pretty incredible!

    I don’t have a smartphone, but I swear by the Garmin Forerunner 410. It was my gift to myself when I finished grad school, a stat-gasm occurs every time you plug it into your computer!
    D5 recently posted..Quick Post – Breaking in New ShoesMy Profile

    • Ahh the Garmin. I thought about getting a Garmin at different times, but RunKeeper does so well on my phone that I can’t really justify the extra expense. Especially since I’d probably still want to carry my phone with me on runs as a safety measure. So the Garmin would just be another piece of gear to strap on.

      Do you do the integrated HRM and everything? I thought that some Garmins let you sync a strap monitor for heart rate, which is something I haven’t been able to get too into.

  • This is awesome data that you have accumulated. I think your expenditures are reasonable for that amount of running. For me, the one thing that is not negotiable is shoes…gotta have a quality pair. And you are absolutely right in that it is an investment in your health, so one worth making.
    Brian @ Luke1428 recently posted..For the Love of MoneyMy Profile

  • Two things about the gas rate vs your rate: the first is that I tend to think the IRS’s estimate is way low. The second is that if the numbers are right and it’s cheaper to operate, your car is depreciating every mile you’re putting on it. For every mile you’re running, you’re increasing your body’s health and therefore decreasing the ultimate cost to operate it (via insurance, doctor’s bills, etc.)
    femmefrugality recently posted..Programs that Help Women Get Back to WorkMy Profile

    • I dunno-I’m pretty sure my body is worth less at 30 than it was at 25; even if i can bench press more now =P. Kidding aside, totally agree on the value of physical fitness; running would be just about the last place I ask Mrs. Pop to cut expenses.
      mr. pop recently posted..The Costs of RunningMy Profile

  • Good shoes and good sports bras are two things I can’t/won’t skimp on. I’m pretty top heavy, so the cheap crappy sports bras don’t give me the support I need. When I found out there are good sports bras for chesty girls it changed my life (well the way I work out).
    KK @ Student Debt Survivor recently posted..Big Beer Companies Paid Me $350 Last YearMy Profile

  • Runners are a bit of a crazy bunch :) Running 2000 miles in a year sounds like torture to me!

    Even with the money you spent, I’d still wager that running is among the cheaper hobbies one can have. Seeing as its winter, I don’t even want to add up how much being a skier is costing me right now!
    The First Million is the Hardest recently posted..What Is Your Retirement Scenario?My Profile

    • I’ve heard that being a hard-core ski bum can be reasonable if you take small jobs like being an instructor or working on the slopes and living like a student. But I know being a wage slave and traveling back and forth adds up…
      mr. pop recently posted..The Costs of RunningMy Profile

  • […] Pop at Planting Our Pennies showed us how much she spends on running.  It turns out it’s just over […]

  • What a great post.. A running hobby is honestly something that I have always wanted to have.. It isn’t the money that has kept me from really getting started, it is the time. But even with that, you did an outstanding job of outlining the costs of what it takes to have a hobby such as this.

    I think I would need a good pair of headphone as well, if I were to start. So, add $50 for that :)
    jefferson @SeeDebtRun recently posted..Financial Lessons To Learn After CollegeMy Profile

  • Baking can be expensive! All the extra ingredients can really add up.

    I’m barely a runner, really, so my costs are negligible – shoes last me a few years, I don’t run paid races (have done one free one and two paid for by my company) and I don’t have any special clothing.
    eemusings recently posted..Boyfriend in the kitchen: Lamb rack and raw saladMy Profile

    • Mrs. Pop is actually at a marathon right now, so we can tack on the cost of the starbucks I’ve been drinking all morning while I wait for her =)
      mr. pop recently posted..The Costs of RunningMy Profile

      • Karen

        How’d she do? OMG it was SO freaking cold. I wish they had hot chocolate at the end!

        • Not sure of the chip time yet, but I know it was a PR by at least 10 minutes, so yay! And you are right – it was freaking freezing! =) I wore gloves pretty much the whole way through. I thought I saw coffee at the end – but hot cocoa or some nice chai would have been awesome, too! Request for next year?

          • Karen

            Last year it was 80 degrees at least. I think I prefer that. The wind was killer.
            I’m very tempted by the Big Bang series medals. LOL

          • Oh we are so opposites. I died last year in the heat. The last 4 or 5 miles with the sun directly on you were brutal.

            Big Bang Series? Never heard of it. But I loved the medals at this year’s race. I think it’s my favorite so far and is already hanging inside my closet.

  • I love to run. I do a 30-minute run every morning despite how busy I may be.
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  • Karen

    I can’t ‘reply’ anymore. Look for space coast marathon. There was a flyer in the bag they gave out.
    Same group does this race and Halloween; they come up with fun medals! But Halloween has better tech shirts (more like a moisture wicking vs silky nylon).

    • Ahh, I’ll have to look it up. The best tech shirts that I’ve found are at the NDN half. High quality Brooks tech shirts that come in both M&W sizes. Definitely my favorites!

  • This is quite interesting. I really didnt know all that went into running. I just thought a pair of shoes and some gym shorts. Obviously i do not run. Body glide is something I had never heard of…Off to google it. As far as health costs, I am sure you are way ahead of the curve so this hobby has allowed you to keep healthcare costs down…ever consider going to a high deductible healthplan
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  • […] when I was listening to the audio-book of Seven Years to Seven Figures by Michael Masterson while running a while back.  In the book, it felt like Masterson was saying that if you had $1 million in real […]

  • […] that Planting Our Pennies has laid out how much it costs to be healthy, someone needs to figure out how much it costs to not be healthy. I bet it costs more to be a couch […]

  • […] over at One Smart Dollar and TB at Blue Collar Workman highlighted our post: The Costs of Running in Personal Finance Weekly Review and the Blue Collar […]

  • […] $236.95 to buy about a year to figure out my shoe situation on my own timeline. (If you saw my Costs of Running post, you saw I go through about 4 pair of running shoes per year with all my mileage.) Instead of […]

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  • […] month. And don’t get me wrong, I love my iPhone. I use it for just about everything. From recording all my runs using RunKeeper, to getting paid for working out with Pact (FKA GymPact), to keeping on top of our finances on a […]

  • tom

    use! they have awesome prices and it is always super easy to find a coupon.. I usually buy saucony kinvaras or new balance minimus when they are on clearance and with the coupon..

  • My main hobby is Running and I have to say it is by far the cheapest. I cant stress how much sense it makes to pay a bit of money on a good pair of running shoes. I always lean towards New Balance runners. My mother bought me a pair about 12 years ago and I ran everywhere in them. I still buy them to this day. Great post Ms Pop
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  • […] – I run (usually at least one marathon per year), I commute to work by bike, and do yoga too. Exercise is […]