Racing Costs an Arm and a Leg…

[This is a follow-up to On The Cheap, last week’s post about the price of racing. It’s also a work in progress so please feel free to send me additions!]

Many of us have suffered from sticker shock after looking at the price of a race entry fee. Racing, it seems, is getting more and more expensive. But you know what, it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. Once or twice a year I’ll pay an expensive entry fee for a race I really want to do. The rest of the time, I seek out cheap races. I don’t need any more race shirts, participation medals, or freebies. I just want to race. And I can keep both arms and both legs by avoiding the highly advertised, monster-sponsored, big-budget events and doing something low-key instead. I often have more fun, anyway.

After I wrote in my last post that, if you don’t want to pay a fortune to race, you have to seek out the races that don’t have huge advertising budgets, a runner asked, “how do I find inexpensive races?” Great question. Knowing where to look is key. Sometimes, but not often, cheap races are listed on the big sites like, but most of the time, such races are organized by running clubs and groups, so the club’s web site is your best resource. Often, clubs have e-mail lists that you can subscribe to so you hear about upcoming races. Note that many of the races in the state-by-state listing below are organized by running clubs.

In my area, MCRRC,  DC Road Runners, Annapolis Striders and Howard County Striders host several low-key races that are free for members and around $10 for others. DC Road Runners also hosts the GW Marathon in February that’s just $45 right now, and Annapolis Striders hosts the B&A Trail Marathon in March for which the entry fee is only $50. Both courses are USATF-certified. For trail runners, VHTRC is a great resource, listing both club races and other local races, many of them ultras. Another resource is the Washington Running Report, where you can find listings for races in DC, MD, VA, PA, DE, and WV.  This is where I found the MLK 10K that I’m running tomorrow. Cost – $10.

It’s a little bit harder for triathletes. Triathlons by nature are expensive. Still, the same strategy applies…look for races put on by clubs. in 2012, Charlottesville Triathlon Club is hosting sprint, international, and XTERRA (off-road) triathlons. The international is only $75 right now, which is a lot less than you’ll pay for most olympic/international distance events, and a better deal than the $70 sprint. Setup Events is a large organization that manages to keep prices relatively sensible. They host events in MD, VA, NC, SC, and GA. The key is to sign up early as they have a price-increase system where the price goes up the closer you get to the event. But you can’t beat the current price of $165 for the Kinetic Half (half-iron distance) at Lake Anna in May.

Don’t expect to get a shirt or a medal or a lot of hoopla at all events (although some provide them). These races are organized by runners, not large corporations. That being said, I enjoy the low-key events where I’m not fighting to get into a corral after standing forever in a porta-potty line even though I was at the race site 2 hours early so I could get a decent parking spot…

Many thanks to my blog readers and fellow Brooks-sponsored runners who suggested the races listed below. Let me know if you have any additions.

Darkside marathons, Peachtree City
Darkside Running Club hosts a marathon on New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, and Labor Day – all are free for members. (Lifetime membership is $35) And everyone gets a medal!

Mississippi Coast Marathon, November
At $35 and with a good rating on Marathon Guide, you can’t go wrong with this race! And the race host, Gulf Coast Running Club, hosts several other races throughout the year. Note that their 10K on Jan 21st is just $18!

New York
Rockaway Running Series
OK so $22 for a 5K isn’t a great deal but it’s a great price for a 10 miler or half marathon!

Van Cortland Track Club X-C Summer Series, Bronx
$5 for each 5K race…plus, pies to overall winners and carrot cake muffins to age group winners!

North Carolina
Army Birthday 10-miler, Fort Bragg, June (2012 race date TBD)
$15 gets you entry into this 10 mile race. There are awards.

Erie Marathon at Presque Isle, September 16
It often pays to sign up early. Entry for this USATF certified marathon at Presque Isle State Park is $40 through June 1st, $50 through August 1st, $60 through September 1st, and $75 after that. Plus, according to the web site, it’s “quite possibly the flattest course in the country.” There’s also a half marathon and 5K.

Run The Woodlands 5K Series
Entry is just $1 for each race, held on the 2nd and 4th Saturday of every month. Of course, for that price, don’t expect “T-shirts; prizes; five-course meals; 2:08 marathoners.” That last one makes me chuckle.

Tour de Bayou Cross-Country Series, Houston
FREE 5-race spring (April/May) series; distances from 3 -5 miles. Complete the series and you get a bog hat, bog shirt and bog shorts…

South Shore Half Marathon, Milwaukee, April 7
Seriously, I don’t know if you can do much better than $12 for a half marathon ($10 if you’re a Badgerland Strider…and with a club name like that, who wouldn’t want to be?) Even if you’re a procrastinator, race day entry is only $20! Beer and pretzels at the finish…


  1. we have some amazing races here in Rochester NY super affordable weekend. Also does “snow cheap” and “dirt cheap” 6 races for 45 bucks, includes a shirt, and door prizes, and food after each race…. amazing stuff.

    Also this “mud event” is the best price I have EVER seen

    I guess its partly about the city you live in, and partly how hard you want to work to find good deals.

  2. Yes to the @HoCoStriders weekly series! We only charge a buck for these low-key races. For our bigger races (Clyde’s, Women’s Distance Festival) we still try to keep the prices reasonable. I am much like you–one or two bigger races/year, but the rest smaller. I don’t care about the schwag, at all! Give me a race and I’m good to go, no bells and whistles needed!

  3. Wow, I knew there were some inexpensive races out there but these are awesome! $12 for a half marathon? It just shows that if you look hard enough, racing is not cost-prohibitive. Thanks!


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