“You should try running”, she said. “It’s cheaper and easier than climbing”, she said. Yeah honey, you’re right. ‘Cheaper’. Right. Now, over four years, 30ish pairs of shoes, a ridiculous amount of gear and clothing, and more races and adventure runs than I can count, ‘cheaper’ has taken on a whole new meaning. Sure it’s cheaper, but not than climbing. Maybe cheaper than having neurosurgery or leasing a new BMW, but at this point probably not by much.
Just getting ready to run an ultra and the costs alone can make one cringe. There has to be a cheaper way to participate in this crazy little sport we love. Well, thanks to a very frugal wife and some creative thinking of my own I believe I’ve found several ways to lighten the burden of trail and ultra running.
- One Pair of Shoes – most people will switch out shoes during a race because they feel like the midsole compresses too much after 30 – 50 miles. In reality it’s likely that your midsoles are just fine, but your insoles are compressed. Instead of floating another $110 for a second pair of shoes, spend $10 on a second pair of insoles. Not only is it fast and easy to switch out during a race, but you can do it every few runs during training too. Each time you’ll feel like you’ve put on a brand new pair of shoes.
- I love Me a Fat Ass – “Fat Ass” races or “fun runs” as they are otherwise called are a great way to avoid the entry fees associated with participating in an official race. With just a bit of sleuthing you can usually find one very few months in your area. And they are lower key, more relaxed, and can often be way more fun that the stress and high profile of participating in an actual race. It will also let you save your pennies for that “A” race you have planned for the year.
- Dress for Less – I’m a run clothing snob, I’ll be the first to admit it. I love thin tech tees and very short shorts. Clothing alone can be a pocket emptier. However, if you aren’t so snobbish that you have to have the newest fashions in the coolest brands try going with some lower tier companies for your running clothes. My first pair of running shorts were from Target, a pair of Champion shorts. Sure they aren’t the latest fashion, but they are wicked comfy and hold up longer than any other brand I wear. Oh, and they were $18. There are plenty of other companies just like that.
- Nutrition – I enjoy eating gels and energy chews. But at $1.35 – $2 per gel the cost just to go on a single long run can be more than eating out. Try making your own gels from Chia seeds, water, and powdered drink mix. About $4 will produce the equivalent of about 20 gels. One of our testers makes her own Lara bars. She kept feeding them to me at the Buffalo Run 100 while pacing me. It was the only solid food my stomach could handle. Wow, were they good (if people comment enough I’ll have her write an article with the recipe). And there are a dozen other days to save and eat well on the run. Share your ideas in the Comments section.
- Help Another – Can’t afford to race, but still want to run, at least part of the course. Be a pacer. Helping a friend (or stranger if you don’t mind) through their race is a great way to be a part of the event without actually running in it. And you are always guaranteed to have company and someone to talk to (or at, at least). It’s also very rewarding and you will almost always get a hug at the end.
With a little creative thinking and planning you too can save on your long distance running. Share your experiences and ideas in the Comments section about how you’ve been able to save pennies while still running far.