One of the things I’ve always loved about running is how simple and accessible it is to everyone as far as sports go. All you need is some clothes, (depending on where you run, I guess), and a pair of running shoes, (again, maybe, maybe not), and off you go.
Sure, plenty of us get a bit fancy and go out and buy the best shoes or the super duper GPS watch we have no idea how to use properly, (guilty as charged), but the entry level is pretty easy. Shorts. Tshirt. Socks. Shoes. Go.
Compare it to something like cycling, for example, which by comparison can be fucking ridiculously expensive. Not only that, but even if you have all the money in the world, you can’t really buy much of an advantage in running. The most expensive pair of shoes you could ever possibly buy are less than AUD$300. So if you’re slower than the fastest guys on the planet, it’s not because you don’t have the best gear, it’s just cause you’re, well, slower.
In cycling, if you spend more, you can buy yourself a bit of extra speed… lighter frames, those weird fucking wheels without spokes in them… those alien looking helmets… the list goes on. You may not be the best in the world, but money can actually help you go further and faster. Not so with running.
By my calculation, the maximum investment in running gear would be something like:
- Shoes: $100-$250
- Socks: $5-$30
- Shorts: $20-$50. Unless you get them from LuLuLemon, them maybe $90.
- Top: $10-$100. (Cold weather top may be a bit more.)
- Buff: $10-30 (optional, but useful)
- Hydration pack: $100-$250
- GPS watch: probably don’t need one, but one that does everything you need like the Forerunner 35 is $300. (Even if you splashed on out a Forerunner 645 with music, it’s still not a carbon fibre bike.)
So for a grand total of about $250-$1,000 you’re ready to run. Less if you can snag some second hand stuff or don’t need a hydration pack and go without your GPS watch when you’re starting out.
Fuck me some events are expensive these days.
Which brings us to events. Fuck me, haven’t they gotten kind of expensive lately? Which is partly our own fault as we expect fancy personalised bibs and bling for running anything further than out to the letterbox. Stuff costs money, so it’s probably not surprising events are getting more expensive. Not to mention all the logistics they have to pay for like insurance, traffic control, support stations, and various other things.
Of course, you could just not run events – running around the streets or on your local trails will cost you a big fat nothing. That’s always an option. But if, like me, you like the buzz of an event, and the motivation of having something specific to aim for, events can be really useful.
To help you do that on the cheap, I’ve compiled a list of low and no cost events here in South Australia that you might find handy. This certainly isn’t a comprehensive list, just some that I’ve either done myself, or heard about, or plan on doing this year. Would love to hear if you have your own suggestions.
But here’s mine:
It goes without saying, you couldn’t do a list and not include parkrun. South Australia now has about 4,262,470 of them. OK, honestly, at last count there were 22, so there’s no excuse that there’s not one near you! These are 8am every Saturday morning and they’re free. Which means there’s not many excuses to not do one. No money? No problem. Busy this Saturday? There’s always every single other Saturday. Go. They’re fun. Inclusive. And you can walk as much as you want. The whole way if you like. The courses themselves also offer plenty of variety, so whether you like your runs flat or hilly, on paved pathways or on the trails or even sand, chances are you’ll find one you like.
No bibs. No bling. Register in advance online to get a barcode that is valued at any parkrun and have your time recorded.
If you want to hit the trails, Trail Running SA have events that are ridiculously good value throughout the year, (I’ve included a few of them in my calendar, but really, all of them pretty much qualify), but when they don’t have actual events, they have all kinds of social runs, of varying distances, both on the weekend and during the week. These are inclusive and are all over the place – so some of them may be near or far, but keep an eye on their website and tag along when one comes up that floats your boat. They’re free and unsupported, but a great way to run with company and explore new trails.
26 January. Marion Coastal Trail. Who knows what will happen when Australia Day moves, but for now, this is a pretty awesome run. It’s an out and back course, 8kms each way if you go all the way to the end but you can pretty much turn around any time you like. Starts at Brighton Jetty and follows the coastal trail. The first part’s along the esplanade, then shit gets real. Be warned, there’s a soul (and quad) destroying amount of stairs on this course. Estimates put it at around 900. Feels more like 9,000. On the upside, there’s epic views along the way and if it’s warm, you can go for a swim afterwards. If you make it all the way to the end, be sure to add a short diversion around the amazing rock formation that is ‘sugarloaf’ and quickly read a bit about the landscape’s ancient glacial history. It’s also a good excuse for a quick breather. This run is free and unsupported. There’s a few taps along the way but taking your own water is a good idea as it’s almost always hot. (You’ll most likely find details of this on the Trail Running SA website.)
4 Feb. Victor Harbor Half Marathon. Not much I can say about this one except if you were interested in doing it this year, bad luck, you just missed it. I had it on my calendar and for some reason, totally forgot to go and run it. Oops. What I can tell you is the half marathon had a super early bird entry fee of $20 and a standard entry of $40 which still makes it pretty good value. Unlike some events, you can even enter on the day although that’ll cost you $60. The $10km entry is from $15-$30 and $50 on the day. There were bibs, but no bling.
UPDATE: Apparently this event was postponed… rescheduled date TBC
25 March. The Granite Island Run. This is an awesome 5k and 10k event at Victor Harbor. Think nice flat run across the jetty to the island, then a lap, or two, around the not flat island on a mostly pretty smooth pathway. Not the easiest run going around if you’re looking to race, but a really cool course. And at an early bird entry rate of $12 for the 5k and $20 for the 10k, pretty good value. Nice bib. No bling. Hang around after and have lunch in Victor. Or go for a walk around the island and see all the things you missed when you were running. Or swim with the tuna at the Oceanic Victor in-sea aquarium if that’s your thing.
25 March. Orrorro Half Marathon. I haven’t personally done this one, but have every intention of doing it this year. There’s a 5km ($20), 10km ($30) and 21km (also $30) option. Makes the half marathon extra good value so may as well do that and get 11kms free. Walkers are welcome for all distances. The elevation chart shows a few bumps, but nothing too serious. I’m not sure what else you can do when you’re in the neighborhood, but I’ll be sure to let you know.
30 March (Dates varies each year based on when Easter falls.) The Easter Bun Run. Another freebie. No bibs, no bling, no drink stops, but… HOT CROSS BUNS!!!! There’s usually two approximately 10km courses – the flat course along linear park and a not flat course around Black Hill. (Looks like there may be some shorter options this year as well, with options to walk and be back in time before the fast runners have eaten all the hot cross buns. The website also says you can ‘jog’ which is slightly disturbing and very 70s. I’m assuming you can also run it. Like runners do. For safety reasons, the course has changed a bit in recent times and while I’ve never done the flat course, you’ll usually earn your hot cross buns on the trail course which takes in a bit of elevation. Oh, and did I mention there are hot cross buns at the end? This is a free event but bring a few bucks for raffle tickets. They usually give away about 2,000 prizes so you’ve got a good chance of getting lucky. And if you don’t win anything, there’s always the hot cross buns. Because… hot cross buns.
8 April. Salisbury Half Marathon. Haven’t done this one but it’s on my list for this year. Early bird entry of the half is only $35 (the 10km is $15 up to $20 on the day, the 5km is $10 up to $15) and goes up to $40 on the day which is still great value. Looks like the course hasn’t been 100% finalised yet but starts at Carisbrooke Reserve, (there’s a parkrun there if you want to check it out in advance), and follows parklands most of the way on what is a mostly out and back course. I’m actually really looking forward to this one. There’s water stops and… bling!
22 April. Murray River Trail Running Festival. This one’s brought to you by the same people as the Federation Ultra and XDuo, and covers some of the same ground as those events, and I only discovered those trails when I did the XDuo last year so if you haven’t been out there, it’s well worth a look. A half marathon with bling for $25 gets two big thumbs up from me. If you’re not up for the half, there’s a 3km ($10), 5km ($10), and 10km ($15) which are all pretty decent value as well. Sadly there’s no full marathon distance this year, but I’m looking forward to having a crack at the half so maybe I’ll see you there!
13 May. Mt Misery Trail Run. If you’re looking to dip your toe in the water, or on the trails, this is probably not for you. The course can change a little each year, but if there’s one thing you can be sure of it’s that it will be a miserable motherfucker. This is not false advertising, it’s called Mt Misery for a reason. But on the upside, it is a beautiful course with great views from the top. And if you don’t die, you’ll feel like you really achieved something. If you want to be slightly less miserable, do the 8km ($17-$27 depending on when you enter) or 15km $21-$31 depending on when you enter) courses.
May 27. Federation Ultra Trail. I can’t tell you much about this one. No one can as it hasn’t happened yet. 2018 will be the first time it’s been run as an event. What I can tell you is it’s on the Lavender-Federation Trail through Monarto Woodlands Trails and Kinchina Conservation Park and there’s a 25km and 50km option. The courses are a mixtures of gravel, dirt, sand, rocks and sweet single track and the 50km only has 440m of vertical ascent making it about as flat as you can get on the trails. At $55 the 50km event is amazing value, and the 25km is only $35. Check out their facebook page for training runs in March and April to get a feel for the course. Pretty sure there’s bling. After running 50kms, there’d fucking want to be.
24 June (TBC). Pichi Richi Marathon. A full marathon for $70 is pretty good value and about half what you might pay at most. So I’m including this one for those of you who want to run a marathon without coughing up the bucks. Of course, the flip side is, this is a fucking hard marathon so you while you won’t be kissing your hard earned cash goodbye, you will be kissing your chance of cranking out a PB goodbye as the course goes over some pretty serious hills on the way from Port Augusta to Quorn where it finishes. Having said that, running isn’t always about smashing your PB, at least it probably shouldn’t be, and this course is pretty epic so slowing down to a crawl on some of the climbs is a good excuse to take a look around and enjoy the views. If you’re not up for the full marathon, there’s also a 22km – think of it as a half marathon with a bonus km ($60), 10.5km ($50), 5km ($40) and 1km ($10) option for the kids (under 12). To be brutally honest, the half marathon is about standard value, and by comparison, the 5 and 10km options don’t really qualify as great value so this one’s really here for the marathon. If you’re looking for a fast, flat course and a big field, maybe give this one a miss. If you like slightly out there runs where there’s a very good chance you’ll be puffing through some of it on your own, then sign up and maybe I’ll see you there. I’ve only run this once, but would do it again in an elevated heartbeart. Bibs and bling! While you’re in the area, make sure you go to the Arid Lands Botanic Gardens just outside of Port Augusta and do the Red Cliff Walk (only 4.5kms) then duck into the cafe for a legendary quandong smoothie – delicious. I shit you not.
1 July. Great Southern Half Marathon. 2018 will be the 3rd running of this event which takes in bits of esplanade, bits of scrub, bits of wetlands, and bits of beach making it a pretty epic all terrain, but mostly flat, half marathon. And if 2017 is anything to go by, bits of “holy fuck” headwinds. This year the course promises a few changes with less beach running and a change of direction – with any luck, it will offer a 100kmh tail wind instead of the fuckity headwind we had in 2017 for about the last 8kms where I’m pretty sure I was running hard but actually going backwards at one stage. Either way, it’s a great event. There’s water stations along the way. Early bird entries are $25. Pretty good for a half marathon.
Bibs. No bling. (NOTE: Be sure to double check the date as it may change due to a clash with Gold Coast Marathon.)
12 August. Rocky Gully XDuo. Still waiting for the official 2018 date and pricing info on this one, but I did it last year just to mix things up a bit and had a blast. This list is supposed to be for running events but for this one I’ve made an exception because I liked it so much… and there’s a run-only option if you don’t have a mountain bike. The XDuo course is a 4.8km trail run, a 10km mountain bike ride followed by a 3km trail run. I’m completely and utterly shitful on a MTB and managed the course just fine so if you’re looking to try out a multi sport race and you’re not sure if you’re up for it, this is a great place to start. If you don’t have a bike, there’s a 11.5km and 4.8km trail run only or you could do a team entry and get someone else to do the ride. There are also bike-only races but this isn’t about that so you can read about them yourself on the website if you want. The XDuo is $35 and includes bling! Woop Woop!
9 September 2018. Mt Crawford Challenge. I’d never actually been out to Mt Crawford til there was a race on there a few years ago and wow, it sure is a beautiful place to go for a run. This is a Trail Running SA event and they seem to have a knack for, and take great delight in, finding the toughest, steepest trails around to put an event on, so don’t expect this one to be a walk in the park. Unless you actually walk it. IN which case it probably is literally a walk in the park. They’ve been known to tweak their courses every year so I can’t speak for this year’s event, but last year was kinda brutal, and it was a particularly windy, wet, muddy and swear word-inducing on race day. I did the 24km which was $26, the 35km was $32 and the 13km was $21. Assuming the weather is better this year, it’s a definite must do I reckon. Ah, what the heck, a little mud never killed anyone so just gear up, and get out there even if it’s under water again. They always have nice bibs. No bling.
I’ve got nothing. On the lookout for something to stick here. Was going to put the Black Hill Challenge but didn’t quite meet my low/no cost criteria given the $35 cost for a 10km distance. Still a nice event to do though – for no other reason than they have fabric bibs they wash and re-use every year.
4 November. Cleland Trails. It’s hard to go past Trail Running SA for great value trail races. This one isn’t quite as good as something like Mt Crawford which was basically a dollar per km, but at $33 for the 25km and $28 for the 12km course it’s still about half what you can expect to pay for similar distances at other events. And Cleland is obviously a great place to run – although again, you can expect a few decent hills thrown in so perhaps on this one you’re paying per metre of elevation, not per km? Think 400m of descent in the front half of the race, but what goes down, must come back up, so you’ve got that 400m of ascent in the back half. And it’s a bit fucked. Especially ‘Doug’s Hill’ which isn’t really called ‘Doug’s Hill’ but that’s what we call it. It makes me hate Doug a bit which is a shame, because it’s not like he put the hill there or anything. The last bit to the finish line is downhill if that helps make it seem more do-able? In any case, worth having on your calendar. Great bibs, no bling.
2 December. Blue Lake Fun Run. I’m including this one just because I quite like it. Not entirely sure why, it’s not that epic, but I really like Mt Gambier so I say it’s worth a trip. My suggestion would be go up/down/across on Friday evening, run the Mt Gambier parkrun Saturday morning (be warned, this used to be the steepest parkrun in the universe – it didn’t get any less steep, a few others just got steeper – and goes around about half the Blue Lake crater rim so goes up, then up, then up a bit more then a little bit of down on the way out, then is somehow also up most of the way back which is kinda weird and a lot fucked), then run the fun run the next day if you haven’t completely thrashed your legs already. There’s a 3.2km and 6.8km option which are both $20 while the 10.4km distance is $30. (It’s $10 extra if you enter after 17 November.) It’s worth noting the 10.4km does an extra lap of the lake, so you won’t miss out on any views if you do the 6.8km run. The course is all roads and quite hilly, but on the upside, it’s a pretty epic downhill run to the finish line. Would be awesome on a skateboard but not sure that is allowed. Pity. I like this run because I like the caves and coast and various other things you can do in the area. Or bugger burning any more calories and put a few more on at the Metro bakery cafe – their cakes are fucking insane and literal works of art.
25 December. Fanatics Half Marathon. No, that date’s not a typo. Yes, it’s Christmas morning. 6am. Right when the sun is coming up. And sane people everywhere are at home, getting out of bed, unwrapping their presents. Except for a bunch of fanatics who go for a run because… running. There are two shorter distance options – 8kms and 13kms. There is minimal support with two water stops (and a self serve tap) along the way. And usually a few nibbles at the end if you’re nice to people who bring stuff. Cost to enter is you must mumble your way through a few lines of “Oh come all ye faithful” on the start line. Seriously, it’s free. No bib. No bling. Times are manually recorded and may or may not appear online somewhere.
UPDATE: Honourable mentions go to:
- Yumigo Summer Series. A great series of four trail races between December and February. Usually with a 8.5-13.5km short course and 114-19km long course for between $30 and $40 but with a discount if you enter all four up front. (I think. Struggling to find that detail.)
- Bravehearts coastal runs. These events definitely qualify for value with marathon entry usually being around $25 which is ridiculously cheap, but I struggled to find good quality info on them, and with some races having minimal numbers, I didn’t think necessarily met my criteria for an event that offered that ‘race atmosphere’. No judgement on my part that they are or aren’t ‘good’ – whatever that means to you – more just didn’t meet my personal criteria for what I thought I would personally be interested in running and what I based my race selections on. (I should note, I seem to recall the XDuo event having a fairly limited field also but still a great race atmosphere and excellent custom bling.)
So there ya go, my tips on how to keep your costs down this year while you’re out there running. And while this is a South Aussie calendar, wherever you live, it’s worth doing a bit of research to see what other events are around. Just because they’re not high profile doesn’t mean they’re not awesome.
Some of these prices are based on early bird prices (which I’ve tried to point out when I remember) and/or 2017 registration information where current info wasn’t available. It’s worth double checking them in case I’ve fucked up.