How Much Does It Really Cost to Run a Marathon?
We break down the expenses—from socks to Gu—to help you budget for the big race.
Thinking about running a 26.2? You've probably budgeted how much time you'll need to train. But you might be wondering just how much money a marathon will cost you. To help you plan for the big race, we've broken down the expenses—everything from entry fees and sneakers (you'll likely need two pairs) to recovery massages and Gu. Here's how the costs can stack up:
For most marathons, this ranges from $60 to $300. More prestigious and popular races (often in big cities) tend to have a higher entry fee. Sometimes you have the option to run on a charity team, in which case your entry fee is covered; but then you might have to fundraise anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000.
To run certain marathons, you need to qualify. That might mean running a competitive time. Or it could mean completing a series of other races. Those qualifying events could run you from $60 to $300 each.
Many marathoners like to sign up for destination races, and make travel a part of the whole experience. A domestic flight or long drive and one-night hotel stay could cost between $200 and $600, and possibly more, of course, depending on where you go and when.
These are a definite training necessity. Many runners use two pairs, one for the majority of their training, and a fresh pair (with about 20-30 miles on them) for race day. If you’re a bargain hunter, you may find great sneakers on sale for $60. But most pairs cost around $100. Two pairs might set you back $120 to $250. Many runners also need arch supports to avoid foot injuries, which could be an extra $25 to $60.
For all those long training runs, you might want to stock up on some portable snacks and good sources of electrolytes (think Gu, Gatorade, sport gummies, and bars). You can often buy these in bulk on Amazon. A 16-pack of Gu will run you about $21. And you might need three boxes to get through your training. Add in drinks and gummies, and you could spend up to $150 on fuel alone.
FlipBelt or arm-band phone holder
It’s nice to have somewhere to stash your essentials when you run. A FlipBelt, around $20, can hold your phone, lip balm, headphones, keys, and a Gu packet. You can also opt for an around-the-arm phone holder, which costs about $7.
If you already have plenty of workout clothes, you can skip this expense. But good running gear can do wonders for your training and comfort on long runs. If you’re training in the summer, you might mix and match three pairs of leggings, three pairs of shorts, three tank tops, three sports bras, and a running hat. All of this could cost $500 to $870, depending on what brands you pick. For winter training, a jacket, three long-sleeve tops, running gloves and a warm headband might cost about $250 to $350. Keep in mind, these rough prices are for technical, performance running gear. You can definitely train well and feel great in less expensive options.
Think sport sunglasses, headbands, and hair clips. For all three, this could cost up to $150.
High-quality running socks are more expensive than you might think; and having thick, cushion-y, durable pairs is key for preventing blisters. Five pairs could cost $55 to $75.
Training for a marathon is no walk in the park, and you’ll need to invest time and money in stretching and recovery just to make it to the starting line. A foam roller, lacrosse ball, and regular trips to the gas station for bags of ice (for chilly baths after long runs) will add up to about $100.
These might be a luxury for some, but other runners rely on massage to keep them healthy and moving. One massage could cost $100. One per month for four months of training would add up to $400.
To test your progress as you train, you may sign up for other road races like 5ks, 10ks, and half marathons. These can help you focus on speed during training. The cost to enter these races may vary from $20 to $100.
Even if you’re regularly running outside, you may want a gym membership to run indoors on super chilly or rainy days, and for access to cross-training options like the elliptical and stationary bike, as well as strength-training machines and weights. Depending on the gym, a six-month membership could run you $60 to $900.
Hand-held water bottle or water bottle belt
Getting thirsty on a long run is zero fun, and if you don’t run in a city with accessible drinking fountains, you’ll probably want to purchase one of these water-carrying options. It'll set you back $15 to $30.
Headphones and jams
They can do wonders, keeping you pumped up and motivated. Basic earbuds cost about $15 and an in-ear wireless pair will be $50 to $130. If you buy new songs to build the ultimate playlist, factor those into your expenses too.
You’ll want one of these to keep track of your pace and distance. A basic sport watch goes for about $45, while a GPS tracker will be around $150.
Training plan or coach
Not every runner will want this, and you can find many training plans for free. But lots of people can benefit from having a coach and a personalized plan. Coaching services could set you back about $150 a month (so $600 for four months) and training plans are about $150 as well.
Body Glide or baby powder or anti-chafing spray
Lots of running equals lots of chaffing. To avoid the burn, you’ll want to invest in something like Body Glide, which is about $8 for a stick.
Obviously not every runner will need all of the gear and other options listed here. But if you shelled out for everything above, a marathon could cost you more than $5,000.
That feeling you'll get when you cross the finish line? Priceless.