By Jessica Thiefels
For most of the country, fall and cooler temperatures are right around the corner and runners everywhere are rejoicing. Nation-wide popular marathons such as the TSC New York City Marathon and the Bank of America Chicago Marathon will once again be taking place this fall.
Shortly after, spring marathons such as the Boston Marathon and Walt Disney World Marathon will also be taking place. Training for a marathon is not for the faint of heart and whether it’s your first or fiftieth, there’s a lot to think about, aside from choosing a great training plan.
This is especially true when it comes to paying for the trip—marathon entry fees combined with traveling expenses can feel more like a pricey vacation than a race. Luckily, you can save on everything from your home away from home to last-minute purchases with these tips.
Look for Sweepstakes and Contests
For advertising purposes, companies will offer sweepstakes and contests that you can enter to get your entrance fee paid and some even offer an all-expense paid trip.
Get in touch with the management team for the marathon you’re running to see if they know of any opportunities like this; often times they work with companies to facilitate the contest prizes, so they should have helpful information.
Get a Vacation Rental
In the midst of a huge marathon that attracts thousands of people, hotel rooms can become scarce and rates increase significantly. Avoid these costs by renting a vacation home instead. Websites like HomeAway all you to find a room in someone’s house, or rent a home or condo.
With a rental, you can also avoid the noise of a busy hotel and have a peaceful respite to come home to at the end of race day.
Find a Sponsor
Sponsorships aren’t just for elite athletes. If you’re a frequent marathon runner, your times keep improving and you’ve built an audience on social media or with your blog, finding a company to sponsor you is a great way to save money. Many companies view it as a marketing opportunity and will pay for all of your expenses to simply put their logo on your athletic gear. Of course there are best practices for knowing whom to contact and where, so you’ll need to do a little research to get started.
All marathons need volunteers to help with check-ins, passing out water, setting up the course, security and a variety of other duties. By volunteering your time, some organizations will reward you with free entry into a future race, usually listed on their website. This is a great way to save because you’re giving back to the community, likely supporting a great cause, and have the opportunity to check out your future competition
Eat All Natural Snacks
Eating healthy to fuel up for a marathon can be costly in itself, so skip the name-brand health foods and stick to the basics. Pinterest has a seemingly endless vault of recipes for homemade healthy snacks, like no-bake energy bars, that you can make for your trip and the race.
If stocking up on food when you arrive at your destination look for an Aldi, which was found to offer the most discounted items out of a variety of nationwide grocery stores. You can also look for coupons online for the store nearest to where you’re staying to save a little extra cash.
Research Running Gear Stores in the Area
Race gear is expensive and if your luggage gets lost at the airport or you forgot to pack something important, you’ll need to know what stores won’t break the bank when buying replacements.
While every area will have local and national stores, we researched the best local stores in terms of prices and running gear sold for a few of the big races:
- New York Running Company for the NYC Marathon
- Marathon Sports for the Bank of America Chicago Marathon
- Fit2Run (two Orlando locations) for the Walt Disney Marathon
All of these stores will provide you with anything you might need last-minute, from water bottles, prevention/recovery tools, shoes, clothing, GPS watches and more.
Big-name marathons bring in a high-volume of foot traffic to businesses in the surrounding area. In order to maximize sales, businesses will offer discounts for runners or even sponsor/partner with the race associations. Stay in the know and take advantage of these discounts at clothing stores, restaurants, movie theatres and more.
The earlier you plan, the better. Early bird rates for runners who sign up in advance will give you a break on registration fees. The list of rates can be found on each marathon’s website and will continue to rise until race day.
Skip Out On Local Races
While local races do give you great practice for a marathon, if you’re on a budget, skipping them is a great way to save. Although registration fees are usually only $25-$30, these add up quickly.
Instead, use them as a way to schedule in longer races and practice pacing. For example, put all the local race days on your calendar and build that into your training—on those days you’ll run for pace and prep for race day, which is what you’d do in the race anyway.
Join a Running Team
Local running groups often offer discounts at athletic stores, chiropractic visits and even registration fees for some races. Joining a running group will not only help you stay motivated to train, but you’ll meet people who are also passionate about running and potentially get opportunities to save for your big race.
Jessica Thiefels has been writing for more than ten years and is currently a full-time blogger. She is also an ACE Certified Personal Trainer, NASM Certified Fitness Nutrition specialist, and the owner of her own personal training business, Honest Body Fitness. She’s using her experience from writing, editing and marketing to help people get healthy and learn to love what their bodies can do. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for health articles, new workouts and more.