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How to Find Affordable Races

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Part of the beauty of running is the simplicity of it – all you need is a good pair of running shoes. But signing up for a race can be fun and beneficial for a number of reasons. It can provide an extra boost of motivation to increase your training. It can help bring out a competitive streak which can result in faster times. It can provide camaraderie with other runners. However, for some the entrance price of a race can be a deterrent. Below are some tips for finding affordable races.

Sign Up Early

Many races, big and small, have some sort of early bird special. While it may seem fun to spontaneously sign up for a race at the last minute, when it comes to savings, signing up early can have some real benefits on your bottom line. By signing up early at a discounted rate, you could potentially add more races to your yearly calendar with those extra funds.

Engage with Running Clubs and Companies

There are a number of ways to engage with running clubs and companies. Many of these engagements can be beneficial to discover promotions. Signing up for email lists can keep you in the loop about flash sales, discount codes, groups carpooling to races (signing up for local company/club email addresses is particularly helpful for this sort of logistical savings info), and more.

Social Media

Similarly, following running companies and clubs on social media can reveal promotions. For instance, on December 14, 2017 the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series posted a 24-hour “Best Prices of the Year” sale on Facebook to encourage registrations. This is not only a tactic used by large race companies such as Rock ‘n’ Roll but is also true for smaller, local races. Social media is also a great place to learn about giveaways and contests (some contests even offer a free race bib!). Also, social media savings sites such as Groupon can be a great resource for races. For example, it is not uncommon to see a normally $45 race on sale for $22.

Check Out Smaller Races

Smaller races supporting causes tend to be an underutilized resource if you are trying to save money. Some groups use a race to generate funds for their cause. And while they may not be Boston qualifiers or chip-timed, they can be a great experience for you (not to mention, can make you feel good about supporting your local community). Races support all sorts of causes – zoos, cancer research, community parks, and more.

Some charity races offer non-traditional ways of paying. For instance, the March of Dimes in Nashville, TN is donation based rather than a set price. Some charities will offer you the option to bring in nonperishable food goods in exchange for a race entry (such as the Dream Center 5k, which  benefits those living in distress in the Nashville community).

photo by Pingswept


There are races such as the Tough Mudder series that will allow you to work a volunteer shift in exchange for a race entry or a major discount off a race entry. With the “Mudder Volunteer Program”, you get:

  • A discount on any length Tough Mudder race (for instance, if you volunteer for a full-day shift, you can run one event for $20)
  • 20% of Tough Mudder merchandise
  • A free meal (breakfast or lunch)
  • A free t-shirt and other gear

And even if volunteering is not something that is advertised on a race’s website, it never hurts to email the race organizers and ask if this is an option. A race takes a lot of people passing out water, checking bags, serving as parking attendants, handing out medals, etc., and volunteers are a great asset.

Opt Out of Gear

Sure, it is fun to don the new race t-shirt you got the day before. However, if you have been running for a while and already have a full collection of race shirts, do you really need another one? More companies are starting to offer an option of adding a race shirt at an additional cost. This allows you to choose the no-frills, race entry only option. And with some races, the experience is so great you won’t even miss the race swag.

Price Compare

We price shop for everything else these days so shouldn’t that same logic be applied to racing? There are great sites that compile data of thousands of races across the U.S. like one of my favorites is Running in the USA. So for instance, if you want to run a 5k in September in the Chicago area, you can type in that data and have them pull up a list of races. Then it is a matter of selecting an affordable option that appeals to you.

Chat with Other Runners

Other runners are great resources for knowing the latest deals on upcoming races. Chatting with other runners at a running club, the gym, social media, or an online forum are all ways to find out what others know.

That being said if you are really, really on a budget it may make sense to try a Virtual Race. Or, you could use a running club as a “race” of sorts. Many things that you may be seeking from a race – camaraderie, running in a group, challenging your time, feeling pushed by those around you – can be found by participating in a group run. There is no shame in using a weekly group run as a time to push your limits and try to clock a great time.

Happy racing!


  1. Tough Mudder website, Mudder Volunteer Program, Website
  2. Running in the USA, Find by State, Website
  3. Rock 'n' Roll Marathon Series, 24 Hour Sale Best Prices of the Year, Website - Social media

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