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How much does it cost to run a marathon?

woman training for marathon
October 11, 2018

By Maggie Tomasek

Completing a marathon or a triathlon might be on your bucket list, especially if you’re celebrating a “milestone” birthday. (Fun fact: Studies show that runners are about 13% more likely to complete a marathon on a milestone birthday i.e. 30, 40 or 50 years old.)

No matter the reason, participating in one of these events can take months of training and planning. In addition to thinking about logistics and the amount of physical effort you’ll need to put in, you also need to think about your budget – because there is so much more to consider than just the race registration fee. So how much does it cost to run a marathon? And how much does it cost to do an Ironman triathlon? In short, it depends, but here are the biggest things you need to account for in your race budget.

Race registration: Event registration costs can vary wildly, from about $50 for a small local half marathon to nearly $1,000 for an Ironman triathlon. Paying a heftier registration fee can help you feel more accountable and committed to your goal, but it can also leave less money in your budget for the other things you’ll need.

Gear: Equipment costs alone for an Ironman triathlete could skyrocket into the tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the type of bicycle, wetsuit, shoes and other apparel you want to buy. Is this something you’re just doing once, or is it going to become a regular thing? For example, if you’re making a lifestyle change or this is a true passion, investing in high-quality equipment might make sense for you. Otherwise, look at lower-end gear or even renting equipment. These days, there are seemingly endless gear possibilities, from GPS watches to utility belts to heart rate monitors. Even if you decide to go bare-bones on your gear, at a minimum you’ll need quality shoes and clothing, which will likely run you a few hundred dollars.

Other training costs: Do you need to get monthly massages or physical therapy to help you stay healthy? Where will you do your training? Do you need to join a gym with a pool? What about cross-training activities like yoga or fitness classes? While these questions have a lot to do with how you’ll approach your training, they also greatly impact your wallet and your budget.

Travel: If the race isn’t local, or you want to turn your race into a vacation too, you’ll need to account for travel and lodging. Once again, these costs can vary significantly depending on the locale, so follow our tips to save money on race travel.

Other stuff: Most races have large expos with super cool swag to commemorate the event. Will you spring for a fancy jacket to show off your accomplishment? (Pro tip: set a spending limit before you even walk into the expo to help stave off the impulse to buy all of the things.) Do you need to pay for a taxi or parking to get to the starting line? And don’t forget the post-race celebration. Do you plan to treat yourself with a giant steak dinner or a pedicure after your 26.2-mile victory lap? Make sure you add that to your budget plan too.

A couple of years ago, when I got very serious about marathon training and went all-out to improve my time, I spent nearly $3,000. By contrast, my training was much more lax this year (and I already own a lot of gear), so I spent closer to $1,000 all-in. It’s been worth every penny for something that I love to do, and it’s always part of my yearly budget planning.


Maggie Tomasek is the Social Media & PR Specialist at Alliant. She began her career as a journalist for newspapers in Utica, N.Y., Des Moines and Cincinnati before moving to Chicago in 2009. Maggie is an eight-time Chicago Marathon finisher and a lifelong creative writer with a passion for comedy. Her mom instilled in her a great sense of fiscal responsibility, and her big sister told her to throw that responsibility out the window every once in a while in the name of life experience. So far, that combination of financial advice has worked out pretty well for her.