I got into running as a casual hobby because it’s cheap and convenient. I don’t spend massive amounts on shoes or clothing. But in addition to being outdoors, I like the flexibility of it. You hit the road whenever you’re ready.

And unlike many other exercise options, running is free. Until you get to the competitive race events.

I participated in my first half-marathon over the weekend. I was surprised when I started adding up the costs.

For my $70 entry fee (including tax), I got a t-shirt, a few ounces of Gatorade or water along the route, a whole bottle of generic supermarket water at the finish line, and a steel bottle opener with the marathon’s logo painted on it.

About a thousand people competed in the Gulf Coast Half Marathon in Pensacola Beach, Florida. I understand that not everyone pays the same entry fee. But do the math and you’ll see why marathons have become big business – not to mention the impact on neighboring restaurants and bars.

The runners came from 28 states. So for many of them, you’d have to include gas, lodging and food to the cost of the competition. If you just take the cost of one night in a hotel at $100, you’re looking at $172 for a 13.1 mile event (you have to pay $1 to get on and off the barrier island.) That comes out to $13.13 per mile.

Other more major events are piling on the fees, according to March 23 article in The Biz Runner. The basic entry fee for the Chicago Marathon, for example, is $135. But that’s just for starters.

With the added extra options, like hospitality arrangements for both participants and spectators, a flash drive loaded with your race photos, and a post-race pasta dinner, the price maxes out at $711 – or $27 per mile.

The March 21 Los Angeles Marathon, which drew the most participants in its 25-year history, also offered a menu of options. The entrance fee itself was $125, but add a training program and your total was $210, and you could have dinner with former USC coach Pete Carroll for $35.

There were 26,054 registrants and 22,361 finishers.

More of these events seem to be popping up, by the way. It was the first time for the Gulf Coast Half Marathon. Further north, there was the inaugural Oak Barrel Half Marathon in Lynchburg, Tennessee.

Everyone who finished received an award made out of genuine Jack Daniels oak barrel wood. The entry fee, like the one in Florida, was $65, t-shirt included.

Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/crazyneighborlady/415534472/

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