This time last year, I had already committed to running Comrades with my dad. The big unknown of this undertaking, however, was just how much it would cost for this adventure. I could ballpark the biggest expenditures– the airfare and hotel– but there were some other expenses I knew I would incur along the way. For anyone thinking about running Comrades but is unsure if you can afford it, I present my expenses tally from the 2016 race.
The expenses presented are accurate from my experience; as we say in ultrarunning, your mileage may vary.
Qualifying Marathon – $125
A qualifying race is required for Comrades. Entry fees for marathons vary greatly, but most are in the $100-$150 range. Big city marathons will be more; smaller markets are less. Choose what works for you!
Comrades Entry Fee- $175
International runners pay a higher entry fee (2400 rand) for the race than South Africans, but it still represents terrific value for money. As a novice, I also had to purchase an Africa-specific ChampionChip (120 rand), and that was part of my entry fee.
Running Shoes- $120
I went through an extra pair of training shoes in the January – May 2016 training period than I would have bought had I not been prepping for Comrades. I found my new favorite shoe, the Nike Air Structure 19, which retails around $120. I opted to wear my tried and true super cushioned Asics Gel Kayano 22s on race day; after my injury in my last long run, I wanted all the cushioning I could get for the Down Run.
I freely admit that what I paid in airfare on British Airways (Austin-London-Johannesburg-Durban and back) was nearly twice what I’ve quoted above. I opted for Premium Economy seating due to the two overnight flights in a row. I also had a longer stay in London on the way back, further increasing my fare. But what I quoted above was the fare I could have paid had I not been so picky. It fluctuated $50 in either direction from October-February, at which point I booked my ticket.
Thanks to a tip from one of the eagle-eyed runners on the Comrades USA Facebook Group, I snagged my room last October at the Durban Hilton– across the street from the expo and very close to the finish at Kingsmead Stadium– for the fantastic rate of 2100 rand/night inclusive of taxes. (We stayed four nights.) By the time race weekend came around, the value of the rand to the dollar had fallen to under 7 rand:$1, making this hotel an even better value. I managed to pay even less than my quoted rate, however, because the locks on my hotel room did not function. I do not recommend this discount!!
Training and Race Day Nutrition- $100
This is a ballpark figure for all of the extra on-the-run nutrition (bars, gels, powders) I used during my extensive training and on race day. I am not including in this figure the cost of the PB&J sandwiches I made in the Durban Hilton breakfast room and then packed in baggies to eat during the race. (Hey! It was an all-you-can-eat buffet!)
Course Bus Tour- $20 (300 rand)
I highly recommend taking a tour of the course in the days before the race. It is a great way to get the lay of the land and to rightly freak out about the task at hand. It’s also the only way to really take in sights like Arthur’s Seat and the Comrades Wall of Honor.
Team USA Jersey- $25
Certainly not a required purchase, but I was proud to wear the USA jersey. As I mentioned in my race report, the big U-S-A on my chest got me big U-S-A cheers all along the course. Besides, don’t my dad and I look sharp?!
Drop Bags/Support Marquee Service- $42 (700 rand)
As an international runner, I found this service crucial to my success in the race. It was easy to use and good value for money. Make sure you read my full review of the Complete Marathons Race Day Support Marquee service.
Race Day Shared Bus/Driver for supporters- $70
Again, thanks to a savvy and experienced member of the Comrades USA Facebook Group, my husband and mom were able to come out on the course during the race. There was a small group who hired a driver and a minibus to take them to two places on the race course and then back to Durban in time for the finish. It was a nominal cost, but it made the day more memorable for all of us.
Finisher Photos- $38
You cannot tell me that you won’t buy photos if/WHEN you finish. I am a terribly unsentimental person, and I had to buy them.
TOTAL COST: $2965
Was it worth it?
I chose to run three other races in preparation for Comrades– the Miracle Match 50K, Cowtown 50K, and Grasslands Trail Marathon— but I did not include their entry fees (or travel expenses) in my total. I liked having a few “supported long runs” in my training, but it certainly isn’t necessary.
Of course, there will be other expenses on your trip. Food, for example. But thanks to the favorable exchange rate, we found that eating in the hotel restaurant was quite affordable (lunches under $10; full dinners under $20 including wine) relative to other places we’ve traveled. Also, you’d eat if you were at home, so I didn’t include food in the tally.
We chose to travel both before the race and afterwards. While this increased the cost of the overall trip, it was well worth it. I highly recommend the Victoria Falls area for stunning natural beauty, kind people, and fantastic land/boat safaris in nearby Chobe National Park, Botswana. And my husband and I are ready to move to Cape Town, so put that on your itinerary, too.
I don’t want to say this was a “once in a lifetime” trip, because I certainly hope to go back. (And sooner rather than later!) I also realize that it’s not an insignificant financial commitment. But I’ve always found that investing in my personal growth is one way to ensure a positive return.
Comrades definitely delivered!