The Cost of Running the Chicago Marathon 2015

No vlog today, I forgot my camera at home yesterday! Oops!

As the Chicago Marathon gets closer and I finalize my travel plans I thought it might be interesting to add up how much it cost for me to run this race as a charity runner and then compare that to how much I spent traveling to and running the Portland Marathon last year.

I hope this post is informational and interesting for anyone who is thinking about running an out of state marathon.

As most of you know I received my Chicago race entry for free in exchange for fundraising on behalf of PAWS Chicago, the midwest’s largest no-kill animal shelter.

Many of you made a donation to PAWS Chicago to help me reach my $1,000 fundraising goal. I appreciate every single person who donated – you have helped me realize my goal of running a race that is part of the World Marathon Majors. More importantly, by helping me reach my $1,000 goal together we have saved three lives!


When I first signed up to fundraise with PAWS Chicago as part of Team Paws many of you commented or emailed me to say you were considering doing a future race as a charity runner as well. At the time I didn’t have a lot of information to share with you since I was just at the beginning of my journey, but now I have a bit more information to pass on.

First, I think we can talk about the cost of running the Chicago Marathon as a charity runner. Obviously expenses will vary depending on how far you have to travel, which hotel you stay in (if any), how much you’re able to raise, if you travel alone or with a significant other and so on.

Here’s what I have spent so far, keeping in mind that this list doesn’t include shoes, fuel, coaching or any of the other things I’ve spent money on during training. I’m not including those expenses as they would be the same whether I was running out of state or not.

Additionally, since the race hasn’t arrived yet, the chart also doesn’t include transportation around the city or any meals while we’re in town for the race. It also doesn’t include all of the money I will probably part with at the race expo!

Team Paws membership fee$25.00
Hotel Room (3 nights)$755.14
Plane Tickets (2)$396.00
Donation to Team Paws$135.00
Paws virtual 5K medals$48.69

To join Team Paws at the very beginning of the year I had to make a $25 donation. After that I didn’t have to contribute any money for a couple of months. I’m not sure if other organizations make you pay a membership fee.

Earlier this summer Team Paws announced the Congress Hotel as their hotel partner and offered a nonprofit rate of $219 per night (plus tax). At the time I only booked for two nights (Saturday and Sunday). Eventually I decided I wanted to fly in on Friday so I booked a third night at the Congress which cost about $245 at the rate found on Orbitz.

I could have selected a less expensive hotel, but then I wouldn’t be in walking distance of the starting line. I was willing to pay for that convenience as the last thing I want to do is get lost or feel confused on race morning. The hotel fees came out to $755 in total, definitely the biggest expense of the trip.

I ordered plane tickets for Adam and I through Orbitz because we had $9 in Orbucks available through their rewards program. Two round trip tickets from Miami to Chicago came out to $405 with tax but we paid $396 thanks to our rewards. Normally we would fly from the Fort Lauderdale airport but plane tickets were much more expensive and at less convenient times. I would assume plane tickets would vary by a lot depending on where you live.

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You guys helped me raise $867 for PAWS Chicago through the virtual 5K/10K I held earlier this year, and I contributed $135 to reach the $1,000 goal necessary to secure my race entry.

The cost to enter the race as a non-charity runner would have been $185 so I did save money on my race fee. If you are able to meet or exceed the $1,000 fundraising minimum without making any contributions of your own, you would save all of that money!

The final thing I spent money on were the finisher medals I offered through the virtual race, which came out to just under $50. That was a fee I was more than happy to pay. Obviously if you don’t host a virtual race or you decide not to offer medals this is an expense you could entirely cross off the list.

In total so far I’ve spent $1359 on Chicago Marathon related activities that pertain to my Team PAWS membership status and travel expenses.

Since we’ll be in Chicago from Friday afternoon until Monday morning I expect we’ll spend about $200 eating out (possibly more, but probably not less). I’ll also likely spend at least $100 at the expo, which is about what I spent last year at the Portland Marathon expo.

I’m not sure how much I’ll spend on public transportation but I do expect to hail an Uber multiple times. It’s also possible I’ll pay to upgrade our plane tickets on the way home from Chicago. When you book plane tickets through Orbitz you can only book economy seats. You have to wait to upgrade your seats at checkin. I imagine I will upgrade if possible so I can get the extra leg room.

Overall traveling to and running the Chicago Marathon will cost me just under $2,000.

In comparison, last year I booked a hotel and two airline tickets to Portland for the marathon and my travel package through Orbitz cost $1,370.00.


We stayed at the Courtyard by Mariott Portland City Center which was within walking distance of the start and finish line. Again, we could have stayed at a less expensive hotel but I wanted to be able to walk to the start.

We flew Delta and I remember upgrading our seats on the way home, but I can’t remember how much that cost. I believe it was an additional $100 per seat, so overall my travel to and from Portland came to just around $1,500.

Adam bought my Portland Marathon entry for me as a Christmas gift but I believe it was $150. Once you include eating out, public transportation in the city and the $100 I spent at the Portland expo the total I spent to run Portland comes to roughly $2,000.

I suppose this means the general cost of running an out of state marathon is about $2,000.

While people will say that running is an inexpensive sport, I think many of us would disagree. Certainly there are ways to make it an inexpensive sport, but I like buying running related things and traveling for races. I know I can’t be the only one who feels that way!

Truthfully though, until I added up the individual costs I didn’t realize just how expensive it was to race out of Florida. I feel incredibly lucky to have the ability to travel multiple times per year and to schedule race-cations.

I think traveling for races becomes much more affordable if you space out your expenses. For instance, I didn’t pay for our hotel and airline tickets in the same month this year (although I did last year). If there is a race that you want to travel to but you’re on a budget, I would definitely recommend coming up with a plan to space out your expenses.

When you first buy your race entry fee you’ll feel pressure to book your hotel and plane tickets right away. You’ll worry that the good hotels will sell out fast, but I’ve found that’s generally not true. From talking with others I’ve learned that waiting until a month or so before the race is a great time to find good prices on hotels near the start/finish because people cancel reservations they made earlier in the year and the hotels want to fill those rooms.

I know that’s true for the hotel I’m staying in for Chicago because it listed a sell out for race weekend back in May but now there are rooms available!

I’ll try to remember to update the chart in this post after we get home from Chicago to list out our expenses while in the city to document the actual total.

If you have any questions about what it’s like to fundraise as a member of Team PAWS or what it’s like to travel for a race just let me know!

Maybe by the end of next year I’ll be able to put together an estimated cost of running an international race …. fingers crossed!

Have you ever raced as a charity runner or considered it?
What is the furthest you’ve traveled for a race?



  1. October 1, 2015 / 5:24 am

    This makes me really want to add up the costs for me to run some of my out of state marathons! I can’t believe its still so much even though you are running with a charity program!

    • Kristina
      October 1, 2015 / 11:56 pm

      I was prompted to add everything up because the other day I said to Adam, “Chicago is going to end up costing close to $1,000” and he was like, “that’s all?” Apparently I was way off. If you pay for different parts of the trip over the course of a few months it’s so easy to ‘forget’ how much it really costs!

  2. October 1, 2015 / 5:37 am

    Oh I know, when you add it up this race is going to cost big bucks! For Matt and I we have our two tickets, hotel for 3 nights, registration in Canadian $ came to $240 I believe each. I am also losing a day of pay for work. 🙁 But I would still travel for a marathon because it is what I love to do. 🙂 I really want to see you there!!

    • Kristina
      October 1, 2015 / 11:38 pm

      You have to lose a day of pay from work? That sucks! I’m glad you think it’s worth it though because I can’t wait to see you! 🙂

  3. October 1, 2015 / 7:15 am

    Nice post! I just did a rough estimate and mine will be around 1600-1700 (my hotel is about a mile out so that saved me about $200). I KNOW I definitely spent more on the hotel for NYC, but we also used the bus which saved $$ 🙂

    • Kristina
      October 1, 2015 / 11:39 pm

      I bet NYC was *super* expensive. A coworker of mine is running it this year and looking into an AirBNB. Initially I looked at AirBNB options for Chicago but they really weren’t that much cheaper. Everyone price gouges for race weekend I guess ;)!

  4. October 1, 2015 / 8:19 am

    This is a great post, absolutely informative. I’m going to look at Vegas right now and see what that is going to cost us. And that is only one state away lol.

    • Kristina
      October 1, 2015 / 11:41 pm

      Hopefully it won’t be too bad! I am always impressed by how affordable the resorts in Vegas are. I think they knock down the prices with the expectation that you will buy lots of drinks and gamble, haha!

  5. October 1, 2015 / 8:30 am

    It sure is expensive to travel for races BUT if you can do it, it’s an experience you will remember forever! The biggest distance I have traveled for a race would be the Keybank Vermont City Marathon in Burlington. It was a GREAT race and recommend it to anyone. Lots and LOTS of support. It definitely wasn’t the most expensive race though. That would go to Boston. The first time we went up, we took the train. Unfortunately, train tickets are pretty expensive. The second time we drove. My guess is I spent about $1500 for Boston if you include hotel, gas, getting around the city, food, expo, race entry… oh and I always lose a day of pay for work because it is on a Monday!

    • Kristina
      October 1, 2015 / 11:45 pm

      I don’t understand why teachers have to lose a day of pay! Is it because you have the option to use a vacation day OR just take a day without pay?

      I am not surprised Boston cost you so much, it’s such an expensive city. Adam and I really wanted to move there a few years ago but we couldn’t afford the rent at the time. Now we could, but we’ve decided we can’t deal with the cold for so many months! 🙂

      • October 3, 2015 / 10:31 am

        Yeah should totally stay in Ft Lauderdale!

        At my school, we get 3 personal days a year. Unfortunately, these past two years I have always had to use them all up when I am off for about 8-10 days for Paul’s surgeries. We get 10 sick days too, but just this past year it was changed that 5 of them we could use when I family member was sick. But the year I went to Boston, Paul had surgery and I took 3 personal days and 7 no pay days to be in the hospital with him and then stay home a couple days with him after. So luckily I got paid for 3 of those days. So then I took a day without pay for Boston because I couldn’t really call in sick that day because everyone knew where I was! In fact, I drove us home right after the marathon, and I got home at 3:00am, and was at work by 7:55 the next morning hahah! I got a special shout out at the next faculty meeting for running Boston on a Monday and being at work the very next day! So the moral of the story is that if Paul would stop getting brain surgeries I wouldn’t have to take a day without pay to run Boston HAHAHAHA! Typing all this out I feel very stupid because my insurance has always covered all of his surgeries and we haven’t had to pay a cent, and here I am complaining about taking a day with no pay to run a marathon in Boston. I can be such a whiner sometimes.

  6. October 1, 2015 / 9:00 am

    Wow! Nice breakdown!

    The furthest I’ve traveled for a race (so far) is about 7 hours. Haha. I drove to Minnesota for Grandma’s Marathon, and I was lucky to be able to stay with a friend and pay no housing expenses. The colleges in the Duluth area open up their dorms to runners, and before I knew I was staying with a friend I was able to book two nights in a dorm for about $200ish total – and since I canceled by their cancel date, I was able to get the entire thing refunded! I would say that the gas money for driving and the splurges I made at the expo were my biggest expenses that weekend. Oh, and the race registration fee.

    I would love to travel for races, but when I do I need to find a way to be very practical with expenses: stay with friends or family if possible or find cheaper alternative housing (like the dorms in Duluth. Luckily I’m pretty low maintenace!), don’t buy things at the expo (do I really need more running gear?), take public transportation instead of cabs if it’s a big city, and, if I’m driving, maybe even pack snacks and stuff to make lunches so I’m not eating out as much. Traveling for races is still expensive but I think if you’re being frugal and really trying to make it work, it can be done for a lot cheaper than many realize!

    • Kristina
      October 1, 2015 / 11:48 pm

      Wow, that is so cool that the colleges open up their dorm rooms. That would be such a fun way to stay overnight for a race, I love that! Even better to stay with a friend though!

      You’re so right about the expo. I usually talk myself out of most purchases, but last year I really wanted a Portland Marathon jacket which was almost $100 on its own, and this year I’m sure I’ll get something that says Chicago Marathon on it to commemorate running one of the World Marathon Majors. Maybe after this one I’ll stop buying branded stuff!

  7. October 1, 2015 / 12:19 pm

    Great breakdown! I ran my first half in my own home city, and then after realizing I like it I signed up for races where my BFF lives and then in my old college town where I had roommates to stay with or at least a cheap hotel to crash in. I like running races where I know people because it usually guarantees a finish line hug and sometimes a place to eat and shower after. This is good info though since I’ve had a destination race on my to-do list for a while.

    • Kristina
      October 1, 2015 / 11:49 pm

      That’s so great that you were able to race near your BFF! I really need my friends to move away so that I can start visiting them for races! 😉

  8. October 1, 2015 / 12:22 pm

    This is really interesting to read–thanks for the write-up! It’s amazing how quickly costs add up. I guess although it is for a marathon, you are also getting to see the city, and getting to explore a little bit when you first get into town, so that helps justify the cost (not that I don’t mind paying money for all things running :D).

    • Kristina
      October 1, 2015 / 11:50 pm

      It’s true! We’re definitely thinking about this as a mini vacation that just happens to be centered around a race! Neither one of us has ever gotten to spend any significant time in Chicago so we’re excited to see some of the sights and eat some good food!

  9. October 1, 2015 / 2:44 pm

    Love the break down, that is very informative. When I race shop I am usually looking for small races in nearby states so I can drive. I still haven’t done not much of it though, hopefully I will feel confident my legs will hold up and be able to sign up for a few.
    My farthest and most expensive was the Disney Princess half. It was a fun course to run, but I think it is a one and done for me.

    • Kristina
      October 1, 2015 / 11:54 pm

      I wish we could have connected when you ran Princess! I didn’t think I would ever do that race again, but I’m thinking about giving it another try at some point. Really I just want to do one of the Disney Challenges – maybe the Glass Slipper Challenge. I probably won’t do it next year but maybe the year after!

  10. October 1, 2015 / 5:08 pm

    Thanks for sharing this information with us. I’ve never really done a destination race out of state. I think probably because Wes and I both do a lot of domestic travel for work, so unless it’s somewhere we really want to visit or a big-deal race it seems to me like more of a hassle than a vacation. Chicago would be a huge exception to that because we have friends there and love it and miss it terribly and basically are always looking for an excuse to go! Maybe I should suggest flying out to spectate the race! 🙂

    • Kristina
      October 1, 2015 / 11:53 pm

      Oh so true, you do travel frequently! That would be so cool if you could come out and spectate for the race! I’ll be the one with the grouchy face crossing the finish line (Adam says I never look happy at the end of races)! 🙂

  11. October 1, 2015 / 8:27 pm

    I ran my first half in Chicago and will be running my first full there. I’ve also travelled to Utah for a half.

    I actually have a separate savings account for all race related expenses so I am constantly budgeting for upcoming races and training and (recently) physical therapy and other associated fees for medical interventions. I allocate money with each paycheck and just allow it to pool in the savings account for any upcoming expenses.

    This Chicago trip is pretty pricy for me too. Airfare for my daughter and I was about $400 round trip. The hotel around $600 (I’m staying from Friday to Tuesday). Registration etc (and not including the money I lost when I had to cancel last year) $200. So, so far that’s about $1200 and I’m pretty sure I will be spending at least $500 on food 🙂

    We really should plan for a bloggers meet-up. So many of us are running this event 🙂

    • Kristina
      October 1, 2015 / 11:51 pm

      DEFINITELY! I’ll send you an email this weekend. I’m trying to organize something, even if it’s just meeting up the morning of the race to walk over to the corrals together!

  12. October 2, 2015 / 10:26 am

    Thanks so much for this info. It’s really eye opening! I have never traveled for a race (the race I did in San Fran coincided with visiting my friend, the main reason I went there). This gives me a really good idea of just how expensive it is. Given that I don’t love races, I will be happy with staying local! I did look into doing the Philly half this year, and if I did a full it would be Philly. But I planned to take the Megabus since it’s not too far, and tickets can be very cheap if you book in advance. Of course, Megabus wouldn’t be good when traveling a really far distance.

  13. October 3, 2015 / 3:41 pm

    I just added you to my blog reader because I forget to stop back, and I can’t wait to hear all about the Chicago marathon! I was totally thinking about running Boston as a charity runner since I didn’t make the cut this year, but then I saw they only want people who can raise $7,500. And after I picked my chin up off the floor, I knew that was never going to happen – so no, I’ve never done the charity route.
    Sometimes running does get expensive, doesn’t it? Especially when there is a PT and MRI involved, but let’s not go there!! 🙂

  14. October 3, 2015 / 4:51 pm

    This is exactly why I haven’t done any of my out of state bucket list races yet. The cost is SO inhibitive 🙁 but I’m glad you’ve had the chance to do your races!