The Hid­den Costs of Run­ning

It turns out we need a lot more than shoes to stay in the sport

Canadian Running - - DEPARTMENTS - By Madeleine Cum­mings

Run­ners love to say their sport is min­i­mal­is­tic. They’ve been say­ing it ever since jog­ging be­came pop­u­lar in the 1970s. “There just isn’t a more ba­sic, down-toearth, in­ex­pen­sive way for the av­er­age per­son to achieve fit­ness than by jog­ging,” wrote Rory Don­ald­son, who worked for the Na­tional Jog­ging As­so­ci­a­tion and wrote the best­selling Guide­lines for Suc­cess­ful Jog­ging in 1977. An­other run­ning evan­ge­list, Ge­orge Shee­han, wrote in his 1975 book, On Run­ning, “shoes are the run­ner’s only sig­nif­i­cant ex­pense.” Three years later, in Run­ning & Be­ing, he claimed run­ners need not shower af­ter a work­out, nor buy de­odor­ant be­cause “honest sweat has no odour.” My fam­ily mem­bers beg to dif­fer.

The myth per­sists to­day. “All you need is a pair of shoes and a pair of shorts,” wrote Ray Char­bon­neau in the 2010 book, Chas­ing the Run­ner’s High: My Sixty Mil­lionStep Pro­gram. Female read­ers know run­ning de­mands at least one other gar­ment, but Char­bon­neau went a step fur­ther: “Some peo­ple choose to get by with­out the shoes, and fear­lessly stride bare­foot through the de­bris of mod­ern life.”

Truth­fully, it’s all a lie – per­pet­u­ated by the smuggest among us who be­lieve in our sport’s pu­rity – be­cause run­ning has many hid­den costs. At 12, I was con­tent to run in de­part­ment-store run­ning shoes, a cot­ton t-shirt and shorts, but now I can’t leave the house for an easy run with­out tech­ni­cal cloth­ing, blis­ter-re­sis­tant socks, sun­glasses, a gps watch and phone.

Ev­ery week, I re­ceive press re­leases from pub­lic re­la­tions pro­fes­sion­als hyp­ing their clients’ lat­est prod­ucts: run­ning vests, smart­watches, pock­eted belts, per­sonal safety wrist wear­ables, run­ning bells, ref lec­tive com­pres­sion socks, pro­tein pasta, seam­less un­der­wear, min­eral oil gel pads, elec­trolyte cap­sules…I could go on.

Run­ning may have lower bar­ri­ers to en­try than ice hockey or alpine ski­ing, but it’s al­most im­pos­si­ble to stick with it and not get sucked into a vortex of prod­ucts and fees. Some of these in­no­va­tions, like the gps watch, have made our run­ning lives eas­ier (I don’t miss the days of trac­ing my routes on gmap-pe­dome­ter.com). Oth­ers are com­pletely un­nec­es­sary and the more we de­pend on them, the less ac­ces­si­ble the sport be­comes.

Out of cu­rios­ity, I logged my run­ning ex­penses for a year, tal­ly­ing up ev­ery race en­try fee and pair of socks I paid for. It’s worth not­ing that while I’m guilty of spend­ing un­wise amounts on in­jury re­cov­ery aids (like that bone stim­u­la­tor I bought out of des­per­a­tion in 2013), I also ben­e­fit from an un­usu­ally gen­er­ous coach and – once ev­ery full moon – a mod­est pot of prize money.

Let’s start with shoes. I buy about two pairs a year, which works out to $300 or more.

Races make up an­other large chunk of my run­ning bud­get, re­spon­si­ble for about $500 for a dozen events that ranged be­tween the mile and 15k. Most of my races in 2017 were within driv­ing dis­tance of where I lived, but in my case, there were some splurges, re­quir­ing a ho­tel bed, mul­ti­ple tanks of gas and two air­line tick­ets.

Marat hon­ers have it worse. Ac­cord­ing t o Run­ning usa, t he av­er­age race entr y fee for t he top 25 U. S. marathons rose 35 per cent since 2007 – more than three times faster than inf la­tion. The New York City Marathon costs about $460 for Cana­di­ans, and that’s not in­clud­ing t ravel costs.

Sur­pris­ingly, I spend just as much on in­jury treat­ment and pre­ven­tion tools as I do on run­ning it­self. In 2017, I spent hun­dreds of dol­lars on phys­io­ther­apy, mas­sages, cross-train­ing, blis­ter ban­dages, iron sup­ple­ments and ep­som salts.

In to­tal, I spent at least $1,500 on run­ning last year. That’s more than a month’s rent and about three times as much as a yearly gym mem­ber­ship. There are many ways I could slash this to­tal, of course. Reg­is­ter­ing early, run­ning races close to home, car­pool­ing with team­mates and or­ga­niz­ing more in­for­mal com­pe­ti­tions (beer mile, any­one?) are a few ways to save on bib costs.

When higher race fees trans­late into or­ga­nized events with well-marked, cer­ti­fied cour­ses and lots of com­pe­ti­tion, I don’t have a prob­lem with that. Races can also gen­er­ate thou­sands of dol­lars for wor­thy char­i­ties. But what about re­duced en­try fees for stu­dents or more op­por­tu­ni­ties to earn en­try by vol­un­teer­ing?

The com­pa­nies that profit from our need for shoes and gels of­ten give back to the sport, help­ing fund am­a­teur and Olympic ath­letes, races and, yes, mag­a­zines. And it’s true that al­most any com­pet­i­tive sport has costs. But it’s also true that not every­one can af­ford to pay them.

As marathons swell and our gear be­comes ever more so­phis­ti­cated, I hope we find ways to en­sure the sport is as in­clu­sive as it can be.

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