Monday, 13 January 2014

What is the cost of staying fit for a year? The money that goes into running, cycling, and racing.

Recently, Christopher Taylor's article about the real cost of running a marathon was published in the National Post. In it he details the monetary cost of running one marathon in terms of total dollars expended, beyond the entry fees. Shoes, training programs, travel costs, accommodations, souvenirs, and nutrition, among other things, are detailed by Taylor in determining what he spent on getting him through his first marathon.

This article got me thinking: I ran over 17 races in 2013, many of them without a care for the cost of the registration fees, money spent on gear to do the events, or travel costs. I was ignorant to what I spent my money on for 2013. If I wanted to do a race, it fit in the calendar, and was relatively affordable, I would sign up for it.

I invest in this lifestyle of athletics and sport for recreation, health benefits, and competition. This lifestyle is a personal luxury, yes, but also a hobby, a stress-relief outlet, social time for me and my friends, and a means to a better quality of life. There are many, many more benefits to staying fit than my list above, and I recognise that. I cannot fit them all into this short post. However, a question I have been playing around with stems from Taylor's article: Within the last few month, just how much have I spend on running shoes, bikes and bike parts, race fees, travel, and accommodations to take part in these events. Had I tallied those 2013 races registration fees alone, I am sure that I would be in for a surprise.

For 2014, I feel it appropriate to (shoot myself in the foot with this reality check once my wife reads this and) tally up my expenditures for all athletic endeavors in this calendar year. This effort is not to discourage my involvement in staying fit and competing, as these events facilitate positive health benefits, afford some great travel opportunities, and help me meet some really great like minded people. No, this effort is to just break down how much I spend on a month to month basis on anything related to athletics--running, cycling, racing, and injury recovery/medical attention.

Since this is January I can already begin to total up what I have spent in the first few days of 2014, and it goes like this:
  • Salomon Sense Mantra, size 13: $44
  • Fraser Valley Trail Series (January-February) Peninsula Runners: $45
  • First Half Half Marathon, Vancouver (February): $62
  • BMO Vancouver Marathon (May): $121
So far for 2014, I have dropped $272 without even batting an eye. That is a lot of money.

On a monthly basis, I will divulge my monthly expenses on running, cycling, or anything that I feel is directly or indirectly related to maintaining my competitive spirit. The days of signing up for the Vancouver Sun Run and scoffing at the $30 entry fee are long gone. As I said, now I sign up for whichever events I wish to do, without thinking about the financial hit me and my family are taking.

Back to the race registration fees for 2013, I gave you the results on my 2013 year in review post. But what did those races cost me in terms of registration fees?  Here goes:

Jan 20: Campbell Valley Stomp 10k     $15

Feb 3: Aldergrove Mud Run 8k     $15

Feb 10: PRR First Half Half Marathon     $62

Feb 27: Fort to Fort 30k     $15

Mar 16: Chuckanut 50     $90

May 5: BMO Vancouver Marathon     $160

Jun 9: Sandcastle 10k     $23

Jul 7: Axel Merckx Gran Fondo     $225

Jul 13: Knee Knacker     $110

Sept 1: MYM 50mi     $130

Sept 28: South Fraser XC     $10

Oct 13: Victoria Marathon     $80

Oct 19: Frank Reynolds XC     $10

Nov 11: Remembrance Day 8k     $20

Nov 17: Fraser Valley XC Ramble     $5

Nov 30: CAN National XC Champs     $43

Dec 7: Gunnar Shaw 10K XC     $15

Total:                                                                                                                 $1028

$1028 in entry fees alone!

If I were doing an Ironman, my race fee would have been around $800. Not that much difference.

$1028 is a lot of money. Do I have any regrets? None. I would argue that although it sounds like a lot of money, I don't keep a gym pass which could run me between $300-$600 (at least) per year, depending on the club. Nearly all of that time is spent in the outdoors, 12 months of the year in training for those races. Keep in mind, that total does not include travel costs, equipment purchases, nutrition, or any other costs associated with the my fitness pursuits. When I think about it, I have trouble identifying what I would have rather spent my money on if I were not engaged in sport.

More beer? Possibly.

Cigarettes? Never. But I supposed if I smoked a pack of cigarettes every two days, my costs would look like this: 1 pack every 2 days, 15 packs a month, 12 months a year, at $11 a pack (if that is what a pack costs) = $1980 (approx.)

I do look at the race fee total ($1028) and see that my lifestyle is one of privilege: A person who spends that kind of money on recreation must maintain a job that can support that lifestyle, and have a job that affords them the time to take part in the events and activities. I understand why many, many people do not invest such time or money into racing or taking part in events--it is costly. I see why I used to scoff at the Sun Run entry fee when I just came out of university: I had no money to spare beyond my means to live.

I do think that for ones own health, obviously, a person does not need to take part in so many races as I have. That goes without saying. That amount of races can be seen by some as unhealthy. Just ask my wife what she thinks. However, personal health comes down to the choices that we make on a moment to moment, day to day, week to week basis. The food we have access to, what we choose to eat and drink, the decisions we make to occupy our recreational time, the amount of sleep we get vs the sleep we need, the people we surround ourselves with, and the communities that we live in all play a part in our own immediate health.

I love racing. I love the race environment. I will not stop doing this for the short term, at least, and hope to be doing this long into my 70s and 80s. That is a lot of money over the next 40 years..... I may need to cool it a little. That is doubtful.

However, if you are reading this and see the cost as something that may discourage you from taking part in an event because it is costly, think of it like this: you will not remember the money spent, but the memories that are created. These events represent goals for a person that one can keep for the rest of their lives. A finishers medal, an event t-shirt, time spent with friends, training for and achieving a set goal, and even event photos are all positive outcomes to taking part in health based activities.

I think back to my first Vancouver Sun Run in 2000. I was not a runner--I was a novice runner. I ran hard. It hurt. It took me a long time--years in fact--to feel really comfortable running at that intensity. In spite of all of that, every time I went out, I was better for it. I felt better after I was finish, I could think just a bit clearer, and I am a better person for it.

Every athletic endeavor, no matter who you are, has to begin somewhere.

Sooner or later, with persistence, it becomes a lifestyle. We shall see how much this lifestyle costs me this year.