The “Cheapest” Sport Comes with a High Price

image from @abrowngirlruns

Often, running is considered one of the cheapest sports. A pair of shoes is all you need right? Technically, yes but those shoes do not come cheap. According to Runners World (2013) the average runner spends more than $14,000 during their running life. You might be thinking “well I’m not an elite runner clocking 50km a week! Surely I’m spending less.” However, this stat accounted for runners who are ONLY buying $50 shoes and never participate in a race. The average lifespan of a pair of running shoes is around 500km. For someone who only owns one pair of shoes and runs 3-4 days a week could easily burn out a pair of shoes in just four months.

Running and Privilege

So why does it matter? Running is a privilege, not a right… that’s exactly the problem. Distance, track, and trail running is often reserved for people with some amount of economic privilege. This causes people with more money to often have better health. Often, people with higher incomes have lower chronic illness rates, higher physical fitness, and higher life expectancy. This gives higher-income individuals better life chances: such as a greater likelihood of getting good jobs, more leisure time, and more social relationships.

For amateur runners who do wish to participate in races costs continue to make this difficult. Marathon and race entry fees have risen by more than 35% since 2007 according to Running USA (2019). This is 3.5x than the normal inflation rate. This statistic does not take into account the other expenses of marathon participation, such as travel costs, clothing costs, and accommodations.

So what can be done to close the economic gap in running and health in general? Luckily, there are several amazing organizations doing their part to make running more accessible. Including, The Kickback Connect which provides many BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) with running gear. As well as Air Up There Run Crew in Hamilton that has a Mutual Aid fund to provide running gear to BIPOC and/or LGBTQ+ runners. For individuals looking to do their part, some ideas are:

  1. Organizing a running/sports gear drive in your community
  2. Donate your race bib if you are unable to participate in an event you registered for
  3. Start a mutual aid fund in your run crew to alleviate marathon costs

Running is a gift that ALL people should be able to participate in.

What Runners Look Like: Body Image and Running

“So what do you like to do for fun?”

“I like to run! How about you?”

“Wow that’s amazing! As you can probably tell looking at me, I’m not a runner”

Yep, this is a real conversation I had with someone, and unfortunately, it’s not unique. So many people walk around with the idea that they don’t “look like a runner”. As if there is a specific menu item of physical traits every runner has to have. Running and body image go hand in hand. For many people who haven’t come to love running within itself, running is a way to change their body which society has told them isn’t good enough. I remember this feeling as a new runner. There was something exciting about seeing your clothes fitting looser, and having people tell you, “you look amazing!” or “have you lost weight, you look great?” For some people, comments like these can lead them down negative roads of over-exercising and disordered eating.

Running and Body Image Go Hand and Hand

When people think of disordered eating, it’s easy to think of severe cases of Bulimia or Anorexia Nervosa. However, there are many behaviours engaged in daily by people that fall into the category of disordered eating. This can include overexercising or restricting eating to make up for eating large portions, feeling guilt and shame associating with eating, or having rigid ritual routines around exercise and food.

I would encourage runners and nonrunners alike to look at the full diversity of bodies in the running and fitness community. Although, in advertisements and running imagery often shows thin, able bodied people as runners, that only represents a fraction of all the talent runners within this community.

credit: nationalgeographic

Mirna Valerio- multi time marathoner and ultramarathoner

Frank Pizarro
Frank Pizarro, marathon runner

"most of us don’t even acknowledge ourselves as athletes because we know that physically we don’t fit the mould of what society believes an ‘athlete’ looks like." Photo: Nicole Spears

Nicole Spears: Fitness Trainer, Triathlete, and Endurance athlete

Before you tell yourself that you “don’t look like a runner”, remember this, a runner only has to be one thing; someone who runs.  Whether you run once a week, once a day, or a few times a year, that’s all it takes to earn the title of “runner”. As a runner myself who has had many fellow runners pass by me on the streets, my only thought of them was “another runner, thank goodness”, and I know I’m not the only one.

Why Students Should Run Too

University and College years are often described as a time of self-discovery. For myself, my discovery came in the form of developing a new love and hobby; running. In my second year, I saw a friend fundraise around $1000 for a charity through the Scotiabank Marathon charity challenge. This was incredibly inspiring to me. Having been volunteering with the charity Second Harvest through a university club, I wanted to take my philanthropy further. So, I signed up for Scotiabank half and several races proceeding it. I laced up my shoes 4 times a week and hit the pavement to train!

In my last two years at the University of Toronto, I ran 8 races and went between 5 different running groups. Often, I showed up to run groups and noticed a prominent missing demographic, students. Why was this?

There are many students who are involved in athletic endeavours where running would be great cross-training. Not to mention it’s a great stress reliever with a strong community in Toronto and other cities. For many students, building time in for fitness is difficult in between piles of readings, pending exams and assignment deadlines. Also, commitments to clubs and part-time jobs take up free time as well, and that’s completely understandable. For myself as an undergrad, getting myself up in the morning and lacing up my shoes felt painful some days. Especially after all-night study sessions powered by 3 cups of coffee, however, the rewards were much greater than the losses. These are three reasons I encourage participation in the run community for undergrad and graduate students.

Increased Social Circle

In University, your social circle can easily become limited to being only other university students. However, relationships with non-university age people can be equally (if not more) beneficial to your social network. People of many age groups and walks of life attend running groups. The more running groups I joined, the more friends I made around the city. Broadening my network outside of my university allowed me to discover new job and volunteer opportunities, and a mature friend circle.

As my interest moved away from college parties to endeavours that could aid my running, my run group friends became the perfect people to try new things with. In many ways, running groups are a non-intended social networking forum. I met people from diverse backgrounds and work industries through our shared love of running. Also, many run groups facilitate social events as well like runs to local restaurants and pubs in the city, which were great for connecting with people. If meeting people at college parties, fraternities, and clubs isn’t your forte there’s plenty of people to be met through running groups! I went from being strangers with the people at running groups to regularly attending Barrys Bootcamp and F45 classes with them!

Time Management

With increased training both solo and with my running groups I had to revaluate my schedule to make everything fit. Staying up until 1 am was no longer working for me in terms of training for races. Training caused me to flip my entire daily schedule upside down, by maximizing my mornings rather than sleeping them away. Slowly over time, I have trained my body to wake up between 6:30-7:00 am. This allows me to fit in a run, a few hours of studying, and time for a proper breakfast before 10 am!

For other students I know in the run community, they always talk about how running helped them shake bad habits like procrastinating, heavy drinking and partying. Many of us also improved our diet and meal prepping skills to aid in our training. Losing bad habits simultaneously increased their academic success along with their athleticism! Now as a graduate student, my early morning runs are the highlight of my day that gets me up and going. Building time in for running can be challenging, but it also challenged me to efficiently schedule my day to maximize my training results and overall productivity.

Stress Relief

Let’s face it, university is stressful. When those stressful sessions hit, it curling up in bed and watching Netflix is appealing. However, one of the many benefits of running is its release of endorphins, which decrease your stress levels. There were definitely days I didn’t feel like going to run club. However, stepping away from studying for an hour to interact with people while exercising often improved my mood. Also, seeing myself push through the challenge of running 3 half marathons gave me increased confidence to push through challenges in school. Therefore if you’re looking for a healthy outlet to channel your stress as a student, the run community is a good place for you ? .

If this article has sold you on the benefits of running groups as a student I’m glad! Check out the running groups page on our website to find a group near you!