Monday, February 2, 2009

The Dollar Cost of a Minimalist Sport

Those who know me well would probably use the adjective 'frugal' to describe me in relation to my spending habits. Those who know me better might even use the adjectives 'tight' or 'miserly.' I prefer 'cautious,' but I guess all things are relative.

One of the many reasons I love running so much is the simplicity of it versus other gear-dependent sports such as climbing or biking. An avid climber or cyclist can expect to fork out serious dough on equipment and repairs annually. The runner, by contrast, needs a few pairs of shoes, socks, shorts, T-shirts and sundry cold-weather gear to get through the year.

However, runners, like humans more broadly, do come in many shapes, sizes and flavors. There are certainly products and races out there that can do serious damage to the pocket book. The cost of running Badwater, for example, when all the supplies, fuel, crew costs, hotels, rental cars, sauna fees, training trips, ice, etc are factored in can be as much as $10,000.

If you're into gadgets, then there are plenty of GPS-type devices on the market that can run you $300-$500.

I tend to forgo overly expensive races, and simply don't feel the need to spend money on gadgets that, to me, are of marginal utility especially as relates to performance.

Running minimalists such as myself subsist on clothing schwag from previously run races, while also maxing out the mileage on their shoes way beyond the (Runner's World-/manufacturer-) recommended 350-500 miles. My buddy Felix would be a good example of the shoe-stretching runner.

Personally, I haven't bought an item of running clothing, except for a $4 pair of gloves from Big Lots, in over two years, while I bought a grand total of two pairs of running shoes last year (both on clearance) and won a couple more pairs. Socks, T-shirts and hats come courtesy of race giveaways, while shorts last forever. I am currently subsisting on trail shoes from last year and reusing previously retired road shoes, although I will have to bite the bullet soon and pick up a new pair. I wear my wife's jogging pants for leg warmth through the winter (it's a good look!) and don't actually own my own pair.

Shoes are Expensive

Despite my best efforts, however, the outgoing-dollar total racks up quickly when one considers travel to and from races/trailheads, race entry fees, and other miscellaneous expenses. It definitely ranks as my biggest annual discretionary expense, but to the tune of how much? I intend to find the answer to that question by keeping a monthly log of run-related expenses, and to then assess whether I am getting value for money (although I already now the answer to that question).

For the sake of simplicity with regards to car miles, I am calculating just fuel costs, and not other factors such as insurance, depreciation, and wear and tear. The IRS calculated all those costs combined at 50.5 cents per mile in the first half of last year and at 58.5 for the second half.

For the Month of January:

Jan 10 - To Round Mountain & back (45 miles).
Jan 17 - To Wyoming for Twin Mountain Trudge (165 miles). $5 donation to race $4 on food for race.
Jan 22 - Treadmill ($277).
Jan 31 - To Conoco to meet Chad (20 miles).
Jan early race entries - Collegiate Peaks ($65), Fruita ($65), Crazy Legs ($20).


Running-related car miles (230 miles @20 mpg & 1.70 per gal) = $20.
Race fees = $150
Gear = $277
Food and race prep = $9

Total = $456


  1. Excellent post, Nick! I especially loved that part about how you haven't bought an item of running clothing in over two years. :) I think you have me beat here. But wait, $4 on a pair of gloves? I used to get $2 pairs at Walgreens (especially since I keep losing them) but now I just either get them from Dollar Discount or thrift stores for $1. Ha! :)

  2. $1 at Dollar tree for gloves. Been using them for 4 years now:)