"If you’ve raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in thickets by the Jordan?" (Jeremiah 12:5). Our journey is intended to be more than simply "stumbling" through the days while the world "wears us out.” We are made to experience the thrill of "running with horses” and to navigate life amongst the "thickets." The RWH blog focuses on both the spiritual race of which Jeremiah speaks, and the physical act of running that I absolutely love. In short, it's where "the miles meet the Message" to provide insight, perspective & encouragement that might enable you & I to successfully run either of the races set before us. May our course be purposeful and may we be passionate in our pursuit of the abundant life He desires for us.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Cost of Running

Recently I heard someone say, “You know what I really like about running?  It’s practically free. Get yourself some shoes and you are good to go.”  I thought about this as I loaded down the shopping cart with a dozen Powerades and reminded myself of the trip to Fleet Feet to pick-up the race registration packet, a case of GU and a stick of Glide. It struck me that I’ve always promoted running as the most wallet-friendly hobby one could have, but now I was second guessing this position. In fact, so much second guessing that the thought turned into a mini-analysis on the subject. 
The approach was pretty simple: What are my running related costs on an annual basis?  What costs do I avoid by running? What is the net impact? What is my cost per day?  (Click on image for larger view)
At the end of the day, my overall net cost is about $70 / month.  Not exactly free, yet not exactly the cost of a golfing addiction.  That said, I have to admit that my pursuit is fairly extreme. You could easily bypass the gels and powerade, and if high mileage isn't your thing, there is a strong likelihood that treatment aids, additional pairs of shoes and marathon entries will not be required. In other words,  running IS still a matter of getting the right shoes and hitting the road for a majority of runners. 
Looked at differently, for $2.35 / day I enjoy multiple race day events in various locales, stay well hydrated (with the good stuff) and rotate shoes every 500 miles. Not bad, if I say so myself.  Of course, you could argue that the savings generated by staying off caffeine for 38 weeks a year could be saved with or without running.  I hear you, but I can assure you that for 44 years, the only successful motivator in my deciding to opt for water over Diet Pepsi has been a running plan.  Just trust me on this one, without running I would surely be shelling out for soda and tea. I'm sure most of you might say the same thing about that cup of coffee, super-sized order of fries or second scoop of ice cream. (Actually, I probably should have added all of those to my savings tally!)
Finally, as with MasterCard, the real benefits to running are “Priceless”. The year over year improvements in my annual physical exam – priceless.  The energy and strength to stay active, young and involved – priceless. The greater probability to a longer, better quality life (God willing) – priceless.  The experiences and relationships that running has provided – priceless.  

So do your own math and see how it comes out. I think you will agree that running is still the best bang-for-your-buck when it comes to personal time and physical fitness. 


  1. As a coffee drinker, I'm trying to understand why you cut out caffeine when training. A few guesses seem logical, but I thought I'd ask. (I enjoy your blog, and I look to it for spiritual and non-spiritual guidance.)

  2. Richard, thanks so much for the question and the kind words. I appreciate it.

    As to caffeine, I would first say that like many other running related guidelines, especially with diet, you have to know what works for you. That said, there are definitely a few indisputable advantages to taking the approach of water over caffeine during training. I have found the following to be the most important:

    1. Hydration - Caffeine acts as the anti-hydrator in the body. Given hot summer days and long mileage workouts, being fully hydrated is critical. Especially true if you are running 4, 5 or 6 days a week. Hydration is a multi-day event. For a race, you can't wait until race morning, you have to start a few days out. I simply apply that principle to the entire 18 weeks and have stayed clear of dehyration episodes (unlike a few in the past, when I would swim in Diet Pepsi the night before a run).

    2. Sleep - I find that I sleep so much better, and as a result awake so much more rested. This is critical for me as most of my runs begin at pre-dawn. It's amazing how caffeine can affect the sleep cycle.

    3. Psychological - Training is about discipline. Making this "sacrifice" tends to hold me more accountable to getting all the runs in, getting rest and at least attempting to eat better. A little mental game I play with myself. I also want to hit the starting line without second guessing how I could have done by drinking more water and staying off the sugar and caffeine.

    4. Lastly, I have started a ritual of sorts at the starting line. I read this as a tip from other marathoners, I tried it and really think it helps (again, maybe another mental thing?, but it works). I stay off caffeine for 18 weeks, then about 2 minutes before the start, I down a 1/2 bottle of Coca-Cola. It's the sweetest, most caffeinated drink similar enough to Diet Pepsi that I can find. The miles fly by!

    Long story short, I'm sure that moderation is the key. That daily single cup of coffee likey has little to no impact on your performance and health. However, that second, third and fourth cup probably does. I have difficulty shutting off the flow when I have that big glass of unsweet tea in front of me. I find that by going cold turkey I can overcome the temptation.

    Hope that helps. There are probably better reasons out there. In fact, there are probably some good reasons for keeping just a little caffeine in the routine. Thanks again for the question. Have a great day and a blessed weekend.

  3. Richard / All, sorry, there is one last reason to the last post:

    5. Three years ago, my resting heart rate was in the high 50's / low 60's. Pretty much in range for my age. At my annual physical three weeks ago, and then again at a follow-up appointment, my current resting heart rate is now consistently 41! The running has significantly impacted this, but also the lowered level of caffeine is a contributor to a lower resting heart rate.

    Important, why? When you run, your cardiovascular system helps serve as a cooling mechanism for the body. When it's extremely hot and / or you are at full exhaustion, the heart is working that much harder to help cool the body. A combination of hydrating properly and an efficient cardio network help to combat the heat exhaustion, cramping and even worse, the body shutting down. A lower resting heart rate is typically a sign of a more efficient cardio system. The heart will only pump what is necessary to move blood through the body.

    Finally, at 41 bpm, vs. the 60, I figured I will save almost 10 Million heart beats a year! Hopefully that translates to a little less wear and tear, and few more miles on the motor down the road.

    1. Thanks! I cut out coffee once for a medical reason, so I know I can do it. When I do the Martinsville Half again in 2013, I'll add this to my training, a bit of extra incentive, too.