Running is supposedly the cheapest sport there is, but if you follow many of the discussions on trail or ultra running Facebook groups or in Internet forums, then you could be led to believe that it is impossible to be an ultrarunner without the latest £100+ rucksack or £500+ watch.
Now, some of the pricier brands do produce excellent quality gear that will last you for many years; however, the most expensive kit won’t make you run any faster or provide a substitute for your lack of training. I wondered, is it possible to kit yourself out for ultra running for less than £100?
Kit for a 50km Race (or Trail Marathon)
If you are training for a 50km race or trail marathon then it is quite likely that you already have a basic running kit, but for this exercise let’s assume that you are starting completely from scratch. For a standard 50km race in non-mountainous terrain and not run in the depths of winter, you will need a basic running outfit (top, shorts or leggings, underwear, socks and trainers). You will also need a waterproof top for bad weather, a rucksack to carry said waterproofs and some food and drink, and (although not strictly necessary) you may want to consider some method of recording how far and fast you are running.
I have researched various options available at the time of writing this blog (Summer 2018); there are plenty of other choices available, these are examples only! I haven’t linked to individual clothing products as retailers change the deals available on different sizes at different times, but hopefully this provides an idea of the sort of deals available.
- OMM Trail Women’s Short Sleeved Running Top – £6.99 (Sportsshoes)
- Ronhill Advance Motion Running T-shirt – £9.99 (Sportsshoes)
- Kalenji Run Dry Men’s Running T-shirt – £3.99 (Decathlon)
- Kalenji Run Dry Women’s Running T-shirt – £3.99 (Decathlon)
Or, if you have done some previous running then you almost certainly have a free race T-shirt somewhere!
- Kalenji Run Dry Men’s Shorts – £5.99 (Decathlon)
- Kalenji Run Dry Women’s Shorts – £6.99 (Decathlon)
- Higher State Trail 5 inch Race Short – £6.99 (Sportsshoes)
- Higher State Women’s Run Short – £4.99 (Sportsshoes)
- Asics Essentials Women’s Knee Tight – £7.99 (Sportsshoes)
- Kalenji Breathable Running Boxers – £3.99 (Decathlon)
- Kalenji Women’s Breathable Running Briefs – £3.99 (Decathlon)
One for the ladies only of course! Guys, I suggest you use the money saved to invest in some nipple plasters (NipEaze Running Nip Guards – £6.78 for 15 pairs (Amazon)).
- Adidas Women’s Racer Bra – £9.99 (Sportsshoes)
- Shock Absorber Women’s Ultimate Run Bra – £12.66 (Amazon)
- Higher State Freedom Running Sock – £2.99 (Sportsshoes)
- Ascis 2 Pack Quarter Running Sock – £3.99 (Sportsshoes)
- More Mile London 5 Pack Running Socks – £7.99 (M and M Direct)
If you already own comfortable road shoes then in dry conditions these would be fine for a 50km ultra in most parts of the UK. If you would like to upgrade to trail shoes then a great place to start is the Running Gear Buy and Sell Facebook Group, which often has great deals from people selling low mileage trainers that they have been trying out. You can often also pick up deals on previous season trainers once retailers bring out upgrades or new colour combinations, or try one of these options:
- More Mile Cheviot 4 Men’s Trail Running Shoes – £30 (Start Fitness)
- More Mile Cheviot 4 Women’s Trail Running Shoes – £30 (Start Fitness)
- Kalenji Kiprun Trail Women’s Running Shoes – £39.99 (Decathlon)
- Kalenji Kiprun Trail Men’s Running Shoes – £39.99 (Decathlon)
- Higher State Soil Shaker Trail Running Shoes – £39.99 (Sportsshoes)
- Saucony Nomad Women’s Running Jacket – £24.99 (Sportsshoes)
- Dare 2B Luminous Waterproof Men’s Running Jacket – £12 (Start Fitness)
- Higher State Trail Waterproof Jacket – £39.99 (Sportsshoes)
- Kalenji 5l Trail Running Bag (including bladder) – £15.99 (Decathlon)
- Kalenji 10l Trail Running Bag (including bladder) – £27.99 (Decathlon)
- OMM Last Drop – £29.99 (Extreme Adventure Races)
I have to confess that it is probably not possible to get a GPS watch as well as the rest of your gear for under £100, but other options are available! The most obvious is to use a free app for your Smartphone such as Strava, Runkeeper or Map my Run, or you could just use a standard stopwatch to get your times:
If you do want to spend a bit more to invest in a GPS watch then there are some great deals available on Ebay, especially on refurbished units, or you can try one of these:
The Final Cost
Opting for the cheapest kit in each category and recording runs on your phone, this gives a total cost of £84.94 – it is definitely possible to kit yourself out to run a 50km ultra marathon for less than £100.
Kit for a 50 – 100 Mile Race
It may be possible to kit yourself out to run a 50km race for less than £100, but can you also equip yourself for a longer ultra marathon for under £100? For this one I have assumed that if you are racing this sort of distance then you have already run a trail marathon or 50km trail race and already have the basic gear outlined above. So, what extra items do you need for a 50 – 100 mile race? I’d like to make it clear that I am not talking about a mountainous or winter 50 – 100 miler, where you are reliant on the performance of your kit for safety, instead this is based on the kit list for the popular North Downs Way 100, run by experienced race organisers Centurion Running, in the South of the UK in summer conditions.
The additional items that you need for the mandatory kit for this race, above what you will already own for a 50km race, are: a headtorch, back up light source, long sleeved base layer, survival blanket and a cup. They recommend that you carry a compass. I’d also suggest that gloves and a hat or Buff would be a good idea. It is also important to check the specific requirements for your waterproof jacket; most races will require it to have taped seams, Centurion Running also require a minimum 10,000mm hydrostatic head (indicating how waterproof the jacket actually is), some races may require it to have a hood. Finally, you might want to use a GPS watch with a long battery life to record your runs, rather than drain the battery on your phone.
Back Up Light
Long sleeved Base Layer
- B’Twin 100 Long Sleeve Base Layer – £4.99 (Decathlon)
- Kalenji Run Dry+ Zip Women’s L/S Shirt – £9.99 (Decathlon)
- Kalenji Run Warm Men’s Running L/S Shirt – £7.99 (Decathlon)
- Higher State Crew Neck L/S Running Top – £6.99 (Sportsshoes)
- Higher State Women’s L/S Running Top – £6.99 (Sportsshoes)
- Steroplast Emergency Foil Blanket – £0.78 (Amazon)
- Wildo Fold-A-Cup – £2.37 (Amazon)
Or fashion your own for free with a cut down old water bottle or Ribena carton (but probably best not to use it for hot drinks!).
- Trekrite Starter Small Navigation Compass – £7.99 (Amazon)
- Silva Classic Compass – £11.99 (Dash4it)
- Trekmates Expedition Compass – £3.99 (Gaynor Sports)
- Kalenji Running Tactile Gloves – £4.99 (Decathlon)
- Ultimate Performance Running Gloves – £5.99 (Sportsshoes)
GPS watches with sufficient battery life are generally not available new for under £100, but plenty of options are available if you are prepared to buy second hand. Ebay or Facebook selling groups are the best sources for good second hand deals, with watches such as the Garmin 310xt (18 hours battery life) available for £30 – £40.
The Final Cost
If you are able to secure a second hand watch for £30, then the total cost of all the above kit, again taking the cheapest option, is £72.10, leaving a bit of spare cash to contribute towards the cost of your race entry!
If you are prepared to stay away from the better known brands and shop carefully, then it is possible to kit yourself out for ultras for under £100. The same shops and brands do crop up again and again as sources of good value kit – if you know of any other great places to look then please share them in the comments!