How to Save Money at Road Races

How to save money on road races

I race almost every weekend.  I posted about it last week.  Honestly, it’s a hobby I like to do. Saving money at road races is tough!

How to save money on road races

Except for one race, I never win money from races.  For every 5k this summer, I’ve paid the full price.  I don’t mind $20-30 for a weekly 5k. It’s becoming easier to save money on road races if you spend some time looking.

Hobbies cost money and paying for a race series or registration fee that I want to do doesn’t bother me. It does add up quickly, though.

You make time for what you want to do, but you also budget appropriately for what you want to do.  I was thinking a lot about budgeting for road races last week, so I decided to compile tips on saving money at road races.  Hopefully, they can help you too!

How Can You Save Money at Road Races? 

For me, racing is a hobby, and paying for races goes along with the sport.  Looking back at the last few months, I’ve spent between $120-170 a month on racing and race fees. That is the cost of 2 half marathons these days or sometimes even one!  Heck, that is half the cost of the NYCM marathon!

  1. First, I’m fortunate there are many race options within 45 minutes of my house.  I have the option of racing in Philadelphia, Wilmington, and all along the shore.  Each location is between 20-45 minutes.  While I live 90 miles from NYC would be a 2+ hour commute and with tolls cost me an extra 50 dollars.  I would rather not pay 80 dollars for a 5k. So that is ruled out for “saving money.”  Running at local races also prevents spending money on extra gas, hotels, and even meals the night before.  Local races are a lot more inexpensive! You can do 10-20 local races for the price of one travel race.
  2. To save money on road races, I scout out races by several factors: 
    1. Price: if there is a 5k that’s 15 dollars and a 5k that’s 50, it’s easy to see which one I’ll choose.
    2. Location of where I’m working.  Since I work at multiple places in NJ, I try and find the closest to work.
    3. Prize money: just kidding, I’ve only won prize money once.
    4. Friends status.  Are any of my friends doing it?  I love seeing local racers and hanging out!
  3. Google for discount codes. I once found a coupon code for 10 dollars off a road race just by googling. It takes ten seconds, and you can save money on road races. For that particular race, I only paid 10 dollars for a 5k. That is the cost of the amount of gas station coffee I drink daily (just kidding). I always try and remember to google to see if there are any discount codes!
  4.  This is relatively obvious but register early for races. Many races cost 5-10 dollars less if you sign up the Thursday before versus race day registration.
  5. Check out the brochures at your local running store or local small businesses.  Sometimes race directors will drop off special coupons/discount codes at the local stores.  We have plenty of race directors that drop offer discounts at the store. Saving money at road races is just another reason to shop locally!
  6. Check Local Run Clubs: Many running clubs have race discounts, or some even compete in races as a team. You might also get a free race entry that way.
  7. Pace Races: Have you ever wondered how pacers in races are found? Often, the race director will look for runners to pace the race. Usually (if you do a good job), they give you a free entry or a free entry at a future race. You pace a race and get a free entry to a future race? That is two free entries!
  8. Finally, remember that every 5 dollars counts.  If you save 5 dollars on each road race and run 15, that is 75 dollars.  That is enough for a few more races! Don’t think of saving money on road races as saving on one race; you will see results if you save money on every race. The money you save can even go towards your next running shoe.

The moral of the story is planning and strategizing for races can save a lot of money.  If you research and see what is available near you, often it’s a lot easier to save money on races.

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Questions for you:
How often do you race?
What tips do you have for how to save money at road races?  



  1. Thanks for the read. over here(England) there is a park run every Saturday and its free. Great tips. x

    1. Park Runs are the best! When I visited Copenhagen this past May I joined in. Really hoping more get started in the states because they’re fantastic. I love how you can join in wherever you go!

  2. Runners World Half Marathon looks like so much fun! I would love to do that. And the Disney Half too. My kids are little though so I will have to wait until they are older and I can take a few trips by myself. Happy Running!

  3. I don’t race that often — once a month, sometimes less. Racing is hard!

    Unfortunately I rarely get to sign up early because we never quite know what’s going on. Although this year I actually signed up for my spring and fall HMs on New Years Day! Very unusual. Then I signed up for Zooma Annapolis like 3 weeks before, but I did have a discount code for it. 🙂

    I didn’t know about brochures with coupons!

    1. I agree that racing is hard and I think that is why I keep signing up. I won’t do workouts by myself LOL.

  4. Thanks so much for sharing your tips Hollie! I just assumed that every race that you placed you got money, so it’s interesting to hear that you’ve only won money at one race. I’ll def be using your tips for my upcoming races! I try to sign up for a mix of half marathons and smaller, local 5ks so I save money and get good experiences. Thanks for posting this!

  5. I’ve said this before but I really wish I could have gone back to Runner’s World this year. That was definitely one of my favorite weekends ever. We have a ton of races here but a lot of times even the 5ks are expensive (through the running store I work at). But it’s also all about prioritizing. If it’s something you love to do, you make room for it. Some people love skiing, or boating, or knitting, or surfing… they make room in their budgets for it.

  6. I hate signing up for a race after the lowest price time frame has passed. It’s the worst. One other way to save $$ on races is to join a group/club. If you are a member of the New York Road Runners, all of their races are cheaper. You pay a fee upfront but it still ads up to saving $$

  7. I try to save for special races that I will do once or twice a year, but otherwise I like running local races – limiting the travel expense. Usually they are cheaper and I just get up early the morning of and drive to the race. And plus local races = homemade baked goods at the finish. What other reason is there?

  8. I race a couple of times a year, and pretty much always race close to home. We have some great races here in Indianapolis now, and it’s just so much cheaper and less stress to run a race downtown than it is for me to travel.

    1. A friend of mine lives in Indianpolis and she always raves about the awesome races out that way. I would stay there too! 🙂

  9. I try not to pay full price for races if I can help it. If I have to, I register online once I know I can participate so that I don’t have to pay the “day of” fee, at least. That alone is $5 savings. Most of the races here offer discount codes, sometimes they will share on social media- especially on holidays. You know, a special discount for registering for the Charleston Marathon over the July 4 weekend… they offer that. Joining running clubs helps too- ours is $20 per year but it includes a t-shirt and multiple race discounts that pay for the membership.

    Another thing is to volunteer in exchange for a free entry. Some races allow this, such as volunteering ahead of time to promote the race or stuff packets, etc, you get to race for free if you contribute so many hours. Or some local race organizers will let you run in a future one if you volunteer at so many.

    I think you have to be careful signing up early and most of all, *read the fine print*. The Kiawah Marathon/Half offers dirt cheap prices if you sign up a year ahead of time, but if you find out you can’t do it, they don’t allow transferring entries so you are out of the money! I would rather just wait a little longer until I know I can do it.

    Very few races here offer monetary prizes, and the ones that do typically get faster runners from ZAP Fitness in NC or other places who come out and win the cash. I’m not fast enough to ever win money anyway (lol) so I just run whatever races my friends are doing.

  10. I really like what you said about making room in your budget for something that you really enjoy doing. I think it goes that way for any hobby, whether that be running, painting, playing the guitar, etc. Of course it requires a bit of an investment, but what you get out of it is worth everything that you put in.

  11. I usually only race 4-5x a year. This year I am trying to race more because like you also say, its a great way to do speed work. I try to sign up for longer distance races as soon as possible, hold on to the fact that I should be healthy, and if not you can always consider it a donation to that race cause. Thanks for your tips!

    1. I think it’s so much easier to race a lot of 5ks versus a bunch of half or full marathons. I completely agree Kristy, I hope we get to hang out at a future race 🙂

  12. For a while, I raced like every weekend, at least a half marathon a month, 4 marathons a year….. buuut then i realized i’m poor. Like, literally poor. i make better money now (i can actually afford rent! yaaay!) but still cant justify money spent on it each month. sigh. someday when im rich i’ll do all sorts of races.

  13. Great tips! I don’t know how much I’ll be running once little guy is here, but I regret not signing up for more races before I got pregnant. It’s just so much fun to run with friends, a crowd, and a free t-shirt!

  14. I do a lot of destination races because we love to travel. My rule of thumb is always finding somewhere where everything is affordable and we can stay for a long weekend. For us, a racecation works!

  15. Races in NYC are so expensive! This is understandable to an extent based on location, permits, people-power, etc.

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