Running is supposed to be cheap, that’s what everyone says. All you need is a good pair of sneakers and you’re off, nothing to it. Of course, as any real runner knows, that isn’t so. Let’s for a moment forget about Canadian winters, in which you not only need special tights, coats, socks, bras and hats, but also gloves of a caliber that running brands don’t make. If you want to run outside in the winter it’s quite conceivable that you’ll be outfitted in $350 worth of stuff. Then, if you’re training, you probably need a watch that can track your pace and distance, unless you use your phone, which, despite a reluctance to recommend buying stuff, I don’t really recommend. Because the idea is that you want to schlep the least amount of things possible.
I’m running the Boston Marathon in April, which costs $240US for international runners, even though I’m American in Canada with a permanent resident card, no one wants to argue with Boston for fear of losing that valuable bib. To train for Boston, I’ll first run the Chilly Half, which cost $75, and Around the Bay, which is $90. I train with Black Toe Running, twice a week, and am given daily workouts, and that costs $100. God willing, after Boston, I’ll keep going. Run the Toronto Marathon and meet Kathrine Switzer. Travel to Ottawa for the largest race in the country or finally make it to Calgary, then run through the summer, race and train, and do another marathon in the fall.
The Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon costs $105.
Not exactly cheap when you add all those things up. Let alone the flight, hotel and beers I’ll need in Boston. But here’s the thing: I know the Boston Marathon saves me money. I’ve been training now since November and I don’t spend money on ancillary things. I don’t go out. And I’m not hungover, which means the next day I don’t spend money on junk food. The longer you train, the longer you save. When once a night out, easily, would be $100, and I’d do that if not once a week, then at least once every two weeks, I’m much more likely now to splurge at the grocery store. I buy Perrier instead of Johnnie Walker, and a treat is a huge sandwich after a Wednesday workout. When I’m feeling frisky, I have chips on the side. If I take the kids to A&W, I don’t buy onion rings. To the movies, we get a smaller popcorn and no root beer. And if I do drink beer at a party, after two I’m flying. It’s a treat and I’m satisfied.
It’s also a good long-term investment. Every dollar I spend on running translates to three dollars I save on crap. Crap that’s bad for me. Plus, I’m more efficient. Healthier. What’s that worth? And, once you spend your $350 on shoes, tights, bras, hats and ski gloves, you’re done. Buy the stuff once. Choose wisely. Then use it until it falls apart. My plane ticket to Boston is like an insurance policy that I don’t give up on saving money.
$240 is fourteen martinis. I’d rather run Boston than have fourteen drinks.
The long-term dedication to running requires goals. And the longer you stay in running, the bigger those goals can be. Once you’ve done a 10K, next comes the half marathon. You see your results in your performance and you want to keep going. There’s only so long you can practice your Spanish without going to Spain. It’s fun to perform. But the running lifestyle is the bit that’s frugal, if not the pursuit of the sport. Sure, running doesn’t cost as much as skiing or Ironman, where you need a bike and a membership to a pool. Runners don’t need to belong to a gym. (Though I do, the YMCA, which costs around $700-per-year for my entire family, and is probably worth 10-times that because it gives me something to do with the kids on the freezing cold Saturday mornings).
The point is: every dollar I spend on my sneakers, on my races, on my coach, is a dollar that translates to good health. What’s that worth? How much does it cost to avoid a hangover? To not be groggy, grouchy, smoking cigarettes? I think Boston not only saves me money but it saves me heart, saves me soul. Makes me a better husband, better dad. There’s a direct correlation to how much I train, how much I invest on my training, to how much time I spend on the details of running my household. I wish all these things were cheaper. But when I do math, it’s the savings of a lifetime.
Run Boston. Run Calgary. Run Manitoba. Run Ottawa. Get a plane ticket and do a race with your friends. Spend money and join a club. Spend money and get a coach. Get a fancy watch and track your training. Join Strava. Invest in the sport and you invest in yourself. It may cost money up front. And you may balk at $175 sneakers. But stay in the sport and keep with it. And if that’s what it takes to get you moving, keep you clean, make you vital—every dollar you spend, at least for me, translates into a fortune I save.