Running a Race? Here are 8 Ways to Save on Race Fees and Expenses

Run races
Penny Hoarder Editor Caitlin Constantine runs in downtown St. Petersburg, Fla. Heather Comparetto/The Penny Hoarder

Running is one of the most affordable forms of exercise. Usually, the only big expense you have to worry about is buying a reliable pair of shoes.

Oh, and races.

Competing in races is my favorite way to stay motivated and stick to my exercise routine. I love race day! The inspirational group mentality, the crowds on the sidelines and setting a new personal record (PR) gets my blood flowing.

But races can get expensive. As a general rule, the longer the race, the higher the cost.

If you’re a fellow race lover, we’ve got some great suggestions for saving on your next event. If you’re in the beginning stages of running and have been toying with the idea of participating in a race, finances shouldn’t stop you from meeting your goal.

Whether you want to run a 5K or a marathon, here are some ways to save.

1. Run as a Group

Many races offer a discount to people who sign up as a group.

My husband and I want to run the Atlanta Halloween Half Marathon this year. The registration fee is $75 per person, which is pretty standard.

We’re trying to scrounge up a couple friends to run with us, though, because the cost is only $70 per person if we sign up in a group of four or more.

$5 might not sound like much of a difference, but it starts to add up when you’re a married couple registering for two or three races per year, as we plan to do.

Plus, since it’s a Halloween-themed race, we get to wear costumes! And costume options are just so much more fun with four people. Here’s what I’m thinking: Spongebob, Patrick, Squidward and Mr. Krabs.

2. Register Early

In many races, early birds are rewarded. For example, if you sign up the day before the OUC Orlando Half Marathon this December, you’ll pay $100 to participate. If you register online before September 30, you’ll only shell out $80.

Runners with the foresight to sign up an entire year ahead of time paid just $70!

3. Use the Same Company for Every Race

While many races are independent events, there are plenty of companies that host numerous races throughout the year. If you stick to a certain company’s races, they typically reward you for your loyalty.

One example is A Better World Running, which hosts races throughout Southern California. If you run four of their races, the fifth race is free. A free marathon? That’s my dream!

4. Volunteer

If you love race day as much as I do, have you ever considered being a race volunteer?

Putting on a successful event takes a lot of manpower, so race organizers always need folks to hand out cups of water at mile markers, distribute race packets or serve food.

Race 13.1 is a company that rewards its volunteers with “race bucks” to apply toward future Race 13.1 events. For example, if you help runners with packet pick-ups, you earn 10 race bucks per hour. If you are a course monitor, you make 20 race bucks per hour. One race buck is equivalent to one dollar.

By the end of the day, you will have enough to pay for a 5K or maybe even a longer race!

Race 13.1 hosts 5Ks, 8Ks, 10Ks and half marathons all over the country, so you can probably find one near you.

5. Get a Coupon Code

RetailMeNot offers a lot of coupons for savings on certain races. It’s easy to search for races in your area. The website offers discounts on some popular race series.

For example, earn $5 off The Color Run and $15 off the Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon series.

6. Skip the Gear

Sometimes an official T-shirt is included in the price when you register for a race. However, certain races let participants choose whether they want to spend an extra $10, $15 or even $20 for the T-shirt. Skip buying the shirt to make your race more cost friendly.

7. Stay Local

My runner friends and I have a habit of searching for races in cool locations we’d love to visit. My college roommate and I traveled from our school in northern Georgia to Nashville, Asheville, Eastern Tennessee and even Washington D.C. for races.

While trips to new cities are exciting, the cost of transportation and accommodation quickly adds up. See if you can find a race close to your town.

8. Run Virtually

If you’re less interested in the excitement of race culture and more interested in reaching a goal or setting a new PR, consider running a “virtual race” in your own neighborhood.

For a virtual race, you time yourself, which some people find inconvenient. However, you don’t incur any travel expenses, and your medal is mailed to your door!

Virtual Run Events and Virtual Strides are two programs dedicated to virtual races. These companies are also good options for anyone who wants to run for a good cause, because a certain amount from each registration goes to charity!

Virtual runs are usually much cheaper than location-specific races. The Eyes of the Dragon Half Marathon only costs $29!

If one of your New Year’s resolutions for 2017 was to participate in a big race, don’t let the cost slow you down! Visit Running in the USA and find a race near your town. Then use one, or several, of these tips to make race day less financially stressful.

Laura Grace Tarpley is a nomad and freelance writer who runs the blog Let’s Go Tarpley!, where she shares tips about budget travel and moving abroad. Follow her on Twitter @lgtarpley.