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If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve been bitten by the race travel bug. I’m infected, too: I’ve run races in 40 states and 5 countries so far! While we often like to talk about what an inexpensive hobby running is in theory (technically, you just need a pair of running shoes), the costs can quickly add up when you start traveling for races—even if they’re simply in different parts of your state or home country.
Fortunately, race travel doesn’t have to completely break the bank. Here are my top tips for saving money on race travel.
Join a Club
Whether you have aspirations to run a marathon or half marathon in every state or simply like to race frequently and do a little bit of travel here and there, there’s a club out there for you. If you have completed three marathons in 90 days or three half marathons in 90 days, you can join the Marathon Maniacs or Half Fanatics. If you have completed marathons in 10 states or half marathons in 10 states, you can join the 50 States Marathon Club or the 50 States Half Marathon Club. Why join? These clubs often get exclusive discount codes for their members—even for some of the nation’s most popular races. You can only get access to the codes by joining!
Now that you’ve joined a club (or even if you haven’t), start networking to find other runners who might be interested in being your travel buddy. Many runners are looking for someone to split the cost of a rental car or hotel with, so ask around! If the idea of rooming with a stranger seems odd, start seeking out club members during the race or at the start line and get to know people first. I’ve met some of my best friends (and lifelong marathon travel buddies) during marathons!
Split the Costs
This has been the single biggest cost savings for me when it comes to race travel! Whether you’re spending $100 or $300 a night on a hotel, the costs add up quickly for everyone. If members of your local running group (or one of the clubs you joined) are interested in splitting a hotel room or rental car, the costs become far more manageable. A $100 a night hotel room split four ways is just $25 a night—and you know no one will mind going to bed early the night before the race! Rental cars work the same way if you’re flying to a race.
Offer to Volunteer
Some race directors will offer a free or discounted entry to volunteers or those who have services to swap. It never hurts to ask!
Register Early—Or Late
If you know for sure that you’re going to a race, register as early as possible to save the most dough. We all know that. But I’ve actually seen this come back to bite a lot of my friends, who register for a race as soon as registration opens (a year out, usually) and then end up not being able to travel to the race by the time it rolls around. My personal policy is if the race requires a flight, wait to register until the plane ticket is booked. That way, I’m definitely going!
Run Back-to-Back Races
“Doing a double” is a great way to save money on race travel! Find a Saturday race and then another race on Sunday that is within a comfortable driving distance. Just hop in your car after the race on Saturday and go! Running in the USA has a great tool for this called the “50 Staters Gadget” that helps you find back-to-back marathons and half marathons. I’ve done three doubles (Wisconsin Marathon/Kalamazoo Marathon, New Hampshire Marathon/Maine Marathon, and Southern Indiana Classic Marathon/GO St Louis Marathon) and while they can be physically grueling, the challenge is a ton of fun! Plus—only one plane ticket required.
Seek Out Small, Local Races
We all know registrations vary widely from race to race. Because of the complex logistics surrounding larger events, they cost more. Smaller, locally run races (rather than those with a large corporate sponsor) will always cost less than the larger races. Plus, they can be some of the most fun! Running blogs can be some of the best resources for learning about races you would have never heard of otherwise. Shamless Plug: Check out my race reports on The T-Rex Runner! I’ve done races ranging from the tiny to gigantic all over the country!
Find International Races With Package Options
International races that are trying to grow their attendance often offer attractive packages for international runners. You can find everything from subsidized charter flights to drastically reduced host hotel rooms! A great example of this is the Run in Paradise Half Marathon, 10K, and 5K on the beautiful Caribbean island of Antigua.
See? You can run and travel without accumulating a ton of debt in the process. Get creative! What are your favorite ways to save money on race travel? Tweet @WomensRunning and @thetrexrunner and tell us!