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Personal Finance > Saving and Spending
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What it costs to run the NYC Marathon
graphic October 31, 2001: 3:18 p.m. ET

Here's how expensive it can be to get to the finish line.
By Annelena Lobb
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  • Why we run marathons
  • A survivor's marathon dreams
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  • New York City Marathon
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    NEW YORK (CNNmoney) - Any devoted athlete will tell you - running the New York City Marathon is a big deal. The race takes a fleet of runners on a 26.2 mile course through the city's five boroughs.  This year, some 30,000 runners will participate in the marathon, the first major citywide event following the Sept. 11 attacks.

    "The New York City Marathon is a great way to see the city's best side," said marathoner Devondra McMillan, 23, of Atlanta.  "You see all five boroughs, and city streets are packed with thousands of people standing out in the cold, and sometimes the rain, to cheer for you."

    Running a marathon may not be the easiest way to get your exercise, but you may spend a lot less money than you would on monthly gym fees.  Or, if you're a zealot with a fat wallet, you could spend thousands of dollars a year.

    "The expense can vary greatly," McMillan added.  "You can get cheap shoes, $10 shorts and a free T-shirt, and you're good to go.  Or you can go all out with top-of-the-line shoes and CoolMax clothes.  Marathons can be as cheap or expensive as you want them to be."

    A sample shopping list

    Your running shoes are your biggest investment.  If you're on a tight budget, this is not the place to skimp. They'll be housing your feet for 26.2 miles on race day and countless more as you train. Consider how your feet strike the ground and how much support they need.  Choose wisely; an ill-fitting pair makes you vulnerable to a painful sports injury.

    Including the time they spend training, the average marathoner wears out about three pairs of shoes, says exercise physiologist and New York Road Runners coach Shelly Glover.  Prices and brands vary, but you can count on spending between $70 and $150 for a full-priced pair.

    To protect your feet, you'll also need cotton-poly blend socks. Don't buy cotton bobby socks, cautioned Glover, or your feet will blister.  The "wicking" (or moisture-absorbing) variety are best.  ClimaCool technology Adidas socks are one example and cost $6 a pair.

    Runners differ vastly on what they like to wear.  Depending on the weather and what makes you feel most comfortable, you may choose to run in long sleeves, short sleeves, leggings or shorts. Whatever combination of pieces you prefer, though, it's wise to dress in layers and wear items made of a wicking fabric.

    Examples include a Nike runners' tank made of moisture-wicking Dri-Fit material, $40. Nike women's marathon split-leg shorts cost $32.  An AdiStar long-sleeve running top costs $36.  RaceReady's Long Distance Original shorts, with a CoolMax lining, cost $27. 

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    For the gentlemen, CoolMax briefs and jock straps, $20 to $30, are available from Road Runners Sports.  For women, a basic sports bra will cost around $10.  Another option is a Shimmel top (with a built-in bra), and that will cost between $20 and $40.  The Brooks Women's Powerpro Shimmel Tank Top costs $27.

    "Make sure you've run at least eight miles in the shoes and the shorts you wear on marathon day," said Natalia Celli, 25, a Boston Marathon runner from Wellesley, Mass.  "Comfort is key. And you'll also be taking off layers as you get warmer." Speaking of comfort, invest in some lubricant to prevent body chafing. You can buy a special runner's lube, like BodyGlide, $7, but many said regular old Vaseline works just as well.

    Ready to accessorize? Try Adidas Gazelle sunglasses, $130, custom fitted to stay put while you run.  New Balance's Thermastat hat, $12, keeps the head warm without overheating.  And to track your progress, you'll want a digital timing watch, like the Oakley Digital Series watch, $180, or the Nike Triax 300 Aluminum watch, $150.

    Your diet will also change as you train to run a marathon.  Assuming the person is a healthy eater, Glover said that grocery bills won't rise drastically.  But many runners buy energy-boosting specialty foods, and those aren't cheap. 

    "Among marathoners, hitting the wall is the term for what happens when your body runs out of glycogen," said Eric Gilsenan, promotions manager for Sports Street Marketing and a seasoned marathon runner.  "Any runner who's hit the wall during a previous race will know to take in between three and ten energy gels on a marathon." 

    Marathoners often eat energy gels like Gu or Pocket Rocket during the race to get them through those dips in energy.  The body absorbs gels more quickly and easily than energy bars or other solid foods.  Dr. Bill Vaughan, creator of energy bars, also invented energy gels - in part because his daughter, who runs ultra-marathons (that's a 100-mile run) said bars were too difficult to digest after long stretches.

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    Energy gel packets typically retail at $1.50 to $2 each.  You'll need them for a few long training runs and race day.  You can also buy in bulk from Road Runners' Sports - a 24-pack of Gu costs $25.  To carry your Gu, the National Running Center sells its extra-light Fanny Packs - the 5K, $17, and 10K, $20, strap around your waist and feel like you don't have anything on.

    A water bottle (essential for training, though you'll have water stations on race day) probably won't cost you more than $10.  You can also get a nifty water bottle carrier by Nathan for $24.  As you trot, it holds the bottle at an angle and eliminates bounce.

    Cover charges

    Aside from training costs, don't forget the cost of the actual event.  Besides the race itself, your $60 registration fee ($50 for a New York Road Runners Club member) includes the pasta party before the race, a post-race dance party (for those who can still walk) and entrance to the New York City Marathon Expo.

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    The cost of traveling to and from New York will vary, depending on where you live.  So will the price of a night or two in a hotel, although many city hotels have discounted their rates that weekend.  The ones listed on the marathon's Web site cost between $155 and $310 for one night in a double-occupancy room.

    If the marathon bill seems like a hard punch to the wallet, consider the money you'll save. 

    "The number one cause of disease is inactivity," said Glover. "Paying for a sports injury costs much less than paying for a heart attack.  As expensive as running a marathon may be, it's nothing compared to the doctor's bill you'll pay if you spend your years as a couch potato." graphic

      RELATED STORIES

    Why we run marathons

    A survivor's marathon dreams

      RELATED LINKS

    New York City Marathon





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