Assumptions run deep when left with things like social media, cheesy pictures and even adventurous stories like mine. People will count the coins in your purse before the bill money hits the collectors. As I beg my lint to keep my pockets company, I do my best to be a BETTER broke balling ultra runner.
The Young and the Dollarless
Let's play a game: Never have I ever postponed paying for a credit card bill to enter the NYC Marathon race day fee. Never have I ever maxed out a credit card because the Brooklyn Half Marathon books out in 41 minutes. Never have I ever made a struggle meal so damn good for two weeks because these flights ain't cheap. Never have I ever side eyed my friends who run in places like Jamaica who appear to have it easier than you. Or maybe never have I ever found myself considered selling out my morals to promote 'Shake It Baby' because they pay enough to cover my hotel, flight, a bomb ass meal and these race fee struggles?
If you are runner without a shitload of financial stability, don't you even side eye or lie to me. Most of us have been there -- and you haven't, congrats to you...you do gooder bitch (I'm mostly joking but I really adore you -- sorry.) Each year I groan at the exorbitant prices that comes with signing up for another Abbott World Major or a trail run that's dumb cheap in comparison to some runs but stationed out in West Bubbafuck, Utah.
I'm 33 years old, married and have a hormonal game raging preteen son that asks for PlayStation releases that's roughly 60 a pop. And yeah I say fuckouttahere a lot but there's times where I say yes if there's extra money in the budget. It truly doesn't help that I'm a starving artist or freelancer. Yes, this Tommy really do have a job but without a predictable paycheck, I cannot afford to splurge every five minutes I see that new promotion. So I'm sure those who are close and far from me wonder how do I do it?
'Please...Don't You Have Sponsors?'
All that glitters ain't gold, Shady McKnight. For transparency purposes, I am fortunate enough to partner with some incredible companies, an ambassador to several and a few sponsors but please don't let the illusion fool you: They're not paying for everything.
Here's an insider to these things: Each company/individual operates differently and with different terms. Some people will make you offers because they genuinely believe in you while others strictly look at your numbers/following. Sometimes you find yourself in a conundrum like me where you happen to blog about something that fuels your passion and it attracts small and large businesses for you to test out their merchandise.
I'm not sure if I'm best person to seek advice on how to go about it but here's my rule of thumb: Don't advocate for anything that you don't believe in. If it walks like a duck, talk like a duck, looks like a duck: Aflac honey! I make it no secret that I am an ambassador to incredible companies like Skirt Sports and Skratch Labs but these people are not responsible for my race day fees. I advocate for their products because I actually use and wear them. Perhaps my morals keep me broke because frankly I've been offered a lot that doesn't rest well with my conscience. I'm not THAT transparent to tell you who because I don't like burning bridges nor talking shit about places outside of scammy ass diet teas, make me turn into a tree pills or these ShamWow jerks who want to bubble wrap me in plastic wrap and Vicks vapor rub for weight loss. Yes -- a bit of sodium came out with this comment.
Years ago, I didn't even know these things existed; that does make me sound naive but it's my truth. What I DID learn is that sometimes a company that you are partnered or an ambassador to might invite or offer assistance in fueling your goals.
What's an Ambassador Program?
An ambassador program is essentially a company, business or individual who feel you love their products as much as they do. This does require for you to actually wear or promote their brand. And no it doesn't require any type of sleazy marketing with most places -- I personally abhor those types of things. Instead the terms may require for you to only use their products or a certain length of time or maybe this place may ask if you can provide an honest review about something you purchased. In turn, you might get a discount or promotional products for your loyalty.
Why do I mention this? There's races that provide this same incentive. Places like Rock n Roll Marathon and even one that I represent --Cleveland Marathon, offer programs like these. If you consider something like this, actually read through the requirements and be honest with yourself on whether you can commit to it or not. Does this place require you to write something but you hate blogs? Do you have to submit a picture but you don't feel photogenic? Does it require volunteer time but you hate that type of shit? BE HONEST FOR YOU FIRST. If you really don't think you can do it, save the space for someone who will commit.
Programs Extended to the Underserved, Scholarships & More
Once upon a time, I lost my job for the millionth time thanks to health issues and I just started running. Here in NYC, I lucked out through a program called Race Free -- and no this is not a plug. New York Road Runners offered an incentive program to encourage physical fitness to people who didn't have the money to enter races. When I plugged in my information, turns out I was eligible to get a handful or two of free races a year. They would send out an email and tell me what races that they were offering quarterly and in turn, I had to respond and apply within a certain window of time. Despite living in a major city, there are several places across the world who have things like this. Ask around or do a basic Google search to find out what's available around you. If there's nothing available, pitch it to a business and see if they would be open to providing a service like this.
Another way of gaining a free entry to a race is through volunteering your services to a race. Volunteers are essential to race day festivities beyond just race day. People are needed for expos, tent set ups, paperwork, bib assignments and a sleuth of areas. When I want to enter a race like Spartan, I chose a shift that was accessible for me to volunteer and help. When races like these offer these types of incentives, it's typically in their guidelines and thrown out there as a perk. Not only am I able to score a free race but I'm able to cheer on others while they search for their happiness on the course.
What About Traveling, Food & Lodging?
Do you know how I functioned for 2 1/2 months of traveling? Planned early, paid earlier, opted for highly recommended AirBnBs and bartered with friends. Oh you thought I had 8 - 10K to shell out? Absolutely not darling. I'm not famous yet! Here's my secrets:
Living My Best Life (In an AirBnB)
I chose places that were not that close to tourist traps but not so far off that I'm essentially screwed out of reasonable public transportation or car service. Research is key, my dear friends. Look for those reviews and don't allow yourself to be the first person at this space. Budgeting doesn't mean you should be sharing a room with a water bug. And yes, I choose places with kitchen access and sometimes a laundry room on premises. If it's a really high rating, I'm open to only taking a room, not the entire place. It truly depends on how long I'm staying, price range and how much I really need my concentration/isolation.
If paying for a hotel, I look for Groupon specials, Expedia or comparing prices and negotiating with a neighboring hotel for a cheaper price. What exactly do you thing Priceline and Expedia actually do?
Cheap Flights, Train, Carpool or Bus
The closer you encroach on a date, know the prices are going to creep up BUT cancellations kick in too. There are sites that's designed to fully book an entire plane for dirt cheap. I'm not that bold with it but I have friends who like to travel to Brazil and fly out internationally on the regular for ridiculously low prices. This may mean you will not be placed in a window seat by request or there's a few more layovers. Ask yourself if your comfort will permit that to be an option.
Carpooling with a friend or family member is a dope option --unless you want to kill that son of a bitch. Apply this logic to sharing a hotel room with someone and splitting the bill. To prevent yourself from catching a homicide charge, everyone should put up money in advance. Easiest way to kill a friendship or family bond is through entitlement and money. Let's just say I've been burned way more times than I care to admit -- fuck me for being an empath.
And oh-- most of these places like to charge out the ass for bags. If you can get a free carry on, pack smart according to your comfort level. If you are a minimalist, EXCELLENT. If you're a neurotic rage packer like me who expects the worst, be really really strategic. I carry a backpack that I can place under my seat at all times. I barrel roll two outfits in there and place it at the base of my bag, wear smart shoes that I can use on multiple days and whatever I'll have on the plane. Other items go in the carry on if I'm staying that long. If I'm checking in luggage, I pray to God, Jehovah, Buddha and the Devil himself that I don't hit over 50 pounds. Sometimes they be trippin'.
It's Not Delivery; It's DiGiornio
Oh look: Food cart. Great restaurants. Expensive ass steak that I would never eat back home. Be smart and not compulsive. I LOVE traveling for food but I'm mindful about my budget. Beforehand, set aside money into different accounts and hold onto a set amount of cash to use for different things. If my trip is five days, I'll eat breakfast at the free buffet or make it myself 4 of the five days unless I'm swapping it out for another meal. I tend to do one elaborate splurge day, two mediocre but flavorful days and keep one to two in a realistic price range. You're not eating for 6; just one or two if you're expecting. CC your pockets for tourist traps, souvenirs and the urge to be lazy and get on a horse ride.
In Case of Emergency, Use a Credit Card
I hope you never run across a terrible situation while traveling but I managed to encounter a few good chapters of shitty events. My passport was stolen recently while on a plane and two years ago, someone hacked my account, leaving me with exactly 62 cents. Hurt isn't the word and I was essentially fucked. I am fortunate enough to say that in both scenarios, I had good friends nearby. Not everyone is that lucky. Keep around a strict emergency credit or debit card. Do not touch this shit for a play. Do not touch it because you need to impress the hot chick at the bar. Use it for an EMERGENCY!
Contests, Couponing and Local Run Clubs
Last week I ran a giveaway for two pairs of Jaybird headphones. One of the winners told me that she never believed in these things lucking out for her and it helped her through a shitty moment. I actually teared up a bit because I always felt that way with my own luck until it happened to me. Before meeting Jessamyn Stanley, I participated in this 30 day yoga challenge and I took a bunch of selfies of myself doing what I called #bathroom yoga. As a parent, you sometimes seek escape in the strangest of places. I love my baby but he was my shadow at one point so I practiced yoga asanas in there. Sounds disturbing -- well, I don't care. I actually improved my assisted headstand in there too. Nevertheless, I participated in it just because I was engulfed in it but severely doubted that I'd win. And guess what -- I won bitches! It wasn't a life changing gift but it did restore my faith. I'm not saying I'm going to play lotto tomorrow but if it's not going to further break your pockets, test your luck a bit.
Coupons through places like Retailmenot.com or one that was passed around in Facebook running groups helped TREMENDOUSLY. Sometimes those holiday sales kick in with that dope ass promotional code. Oh yes -- say hi to me 20 percent off. In the name of the father, son, holy discount Amen, I will surely sign up for a 75.00 race at 60.00.
But on a serious note, if you really want something, you'll work for it. This sometimes means sacrificing the small things for a bigger picture. Some people desire the latest shoe but I love traveling the world for adventure, new experiences, great food and culture. It's been my thing for five years and I placed aside my pennies to earn that right. This means that I cook more than I want to on some days or pass up on going to Dunkin Donuts here and there. I drink water instead of juice. Whatever it may be, it's going to my travel budget. Do I get more assistance these days than before? Absolutely! I'm still humbled but never feel entitled to it. I know these circumstances can change any day now. It's not just the pessimistic side of me talking on this but a serious reality. Even freebies come with some type of exchange. It may be through listening to someone for an extra five minutes or staying around longer to push someone through. But if you are anything like me, you are willing to realistically sacrifice a little to get a lot. I hope I see some of you mutually broke fuckers in one of my travels and perhaps if we can afford it, we'll have a cup of water - preferably the beer kind - to laugh about our struggles. Happy broke running my friends. I wish you more money to fuel your race addictions and share space with your lint.
Latoya Shauntay Snell
For my pretentious ass bio, check out the about me page but for anyone interested in who I really am, make me a good meal at your house and I'll tell you a dope ass story.
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