Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Choosing an Ultramarathon: How Much Do Ultramarathons Cost?

The price of ultras can range from free (the previously-mentioned fatass races) to staggeringly expensive. Badwater, a race run through Death Valley in California, can easily cost around $10,000 for the race entry fee, hotels, gear, and rental vehicles. So what is a more realistic price?

Most races range in price from a low of about $30 to a high of about $200. generally speaking, the longer the race, the more expensive the entry fees. Other variables make a difference, like the level of support offered, need for permits to use the land, and the swag (goodies like t-shirts and finisher awards).

Aside from the entry fee, other costs need to be considered, including:
  • Transportation: If the race is within driving distance, you need to consider the price of gas and parking. If the race requires flying, consider airport parking, the cost of the flight, rental car, and rental car gas.
  • Lodging: Hotels may be needed for the night before and after the race. Hint- always get a room on the first floor. After the race, it will likely be difficult to climb stairs. Some races will offer on-site camping, which can save money. If you camp in a tent, bring plenty of warm blankets. It's not uncommon to feel colder than normal after a race.
  • Food: You will need food before and after the race, and potentially food during the race. Some races offer pre- and post-race meals. One of the best parts of ultrarunning- we tend to burn a lot of calories, which means one thing: guilt-free fast food! I recommend Taco Bell. Lay off the spicy sauces, though... otherwise you'll regret it the next day. Trust me on this one.
  • Gear: I usually prefer to bring as little gear as possible, but it still adds up to a fair amount of crap. I usually bring several clothing options, at least two pair of shoes, sometimes socks (I hate socks), bandana, flashlights and headlamps, lube (prevent chafing), handheld water bottles, and a small foot care kit (I'll discuss that one later). For very long races, I'll also add some more crap to my stockpile. To save money, you can often use non-running specific 'homemade” gear. In my first ultra, I used little travel bottles designed for shampoo ($1 each) instead of gel flasks designed for runners ($12 each). Different sections of this book will help you determine what you need to buy.
There may be other expenses that arise based on individual experiences. For the most part, ultras are pretty cheap compared to other hobbies. The closer you stay to home, the more money you'll likely save on transportation and lodging.



  1. Hey Jason, I hate socks, too! But I have yet to find a pair of shoes I can wear without socks (well, except for SoftStar Moc3s and Zem 360s, but I'm thinking I might need something more in the mountains). How do you find shoes you can wear sockless? Definitely something I think you should cover. Thanks!

  2. Rev. Tracy - MT110 best shoe, no sock!

  3. The average I see is $1,000 for an out of state 100 miler.
    Race Entry: $250
    Plane Tick: $300
    Rental Car: $200
    Race Supply: $150
    Meals/Beer: $150 (but you would have spent this anyway)

    The shoes/shorts/gear are all sunk costs, so you don't count those.