Leggings, headphones, gels, race entry fees: The price of running

It starts out innocently, but committed runners can quickly empty their piggy banks

We become aware of items we never even knew existed. Running watches, metronomes, reflective jackets, running hair bands, energy gels, wireless headphones, colourful leggings, breathable T-shirts...

A pair of good shoes and 30 minutes of your time is all you need to become a runner. Really? If you are a runner, you may beg to differ. Indeed, we avoid the cost of joining a gym or investing in expensive equipment, but ask any runner and they will readily admit that running is no free sport.

It doesn’t seem to stop us, however. Runners are such a passionate bunch. We are in it for the long run and the many perks of running make the financial, physical and time cost well worth the price.

It all starts out innocently. We set out on our first run in our sparkling new running shoes full of enthusiasm, our phone tracking our minutes wearing comfortable leisure wear that is normally reserved for lazing on the couch. But very quickly runners’ envy kicks in. Once we catch the running bug our sensible savings are redirected to running gear, gadgets, races and adventures.

We become aware of items we never even knew existed. Running watches, metronomes, reflective jackets, running hair bands, energy gels, wireless headphones, colourful leggings and breathable T-shirts. Wherever we go, there seems to be running gear calling to us. We cannot even escape when grocery shopping in a discount supermarket these days.


Running budget

The runners who like signing up for races can quickly empty their piggy banks. The costs of race entries, souvenir T-shirts, photographs and the well-deserved celebratory refreshments quickly add up. As time goes on, local races are gradually supplemented with events further afield, which increases the running budget. Running can become an expensive lifestyle rather than a free hobby if we want it to, and many of us cannot resist that temptation.

Regardless of the financial cost, have a think about the time you have put into running. There is the significant time that many of us spend thinking about going for a run. There is the time researching running gadgets, injuries, sales, races and training plans online. There is the time spent waiting for a Garmin to find a signal, for a running buddy at a street corner and, of course, the time spent talking about running to anyone who will listen. And that doesn’t include the time actually spent running. Wasted time, some may say, but not us runners.


There is a cost of running on our body, too. While the fitness, movement and feel-good factor do wonders for physical and mental health, we need to manage the impact on feet, knees and hips. If we don’t look after our body, we risk letting running make us stiff, tight or even injured. The cost of maintaining a good running body involves more time and indeed cost for those who want to run well into the future. Sports massage, strength, flexibility and technique practice require a little investment. While we might be running just a few times a week, many runners will spend just as much time looking after their running body.

Most runners hardly consider any sacrifices a hardship

What about the injured runner? From physiotherapists to physical therapists, MRIs to lotions and potions that promote healing and recovery, it can be heart-breaking to hand over money to help repair a running body that has hit a setback. While I have written extensively on how to avoid injury, setbacks can happen to the best of us, even to the most diligent and cautious of runners. Many years ago, a moment of distraction sent me flying over the white line on a road and I ended up with a broken arm. Yet still, we recover, we move on and we keep on running.

Second thoughts

Had we known about the bruised toe nails, niggles, runners’ tan lines, blisters, tight muscles and lighter wallets, we may have had second thoughts starting running. But now that we are in it, we never won’t look back. Most runners hardly consider any sacrifices a hardship. It’s just part of our life. For, after all, running is what we love. It is so much more than a hobby for many of us. It’s a lifestyle that helps us feel strong, confident and energised. It may take over our head, time and wallet but it won’t stop most of us continuing to run.

I will admit that running has cost me more money and time than I had ever envisaged, but I have gained from it fitness, friendships, knowledge and memories that I will cherish forever. I’m even lucky enough to have gained a career from it too. I don’t think any runner will doubt that the benefits and value we get from running are well worth the investment.

Indeed we all can, and probably should, watch our running budgets. There are park runs that are free every Saturday morning; you probably have enough running gear and you most likely don’t need the latest gadget. By spending a little more time protecting our body we can reduce the medical costs of an injury and by choosing to run free and alone we can avoid any post-run brunches or exotic adventures. But do you really want to cut back?

Mary Jennings is founder and running coach at ForgetTheGym.ie