Not all races are created equally, and choosing the right race could have a huge impact on your racing experience and goals. There are as many different types of races as there are types of runners. Each one unique.
Before you can begin planning your next race, or filling out your 2017 calendar you need to start with goals. What are your short and long term goals? What are you looking for in a race experience? The answer to these questions, will be the driving force behind picking the right race for you. This year when I set up my calendar I have two big goals that my race calendar will be centered around; running the Boston Marathon and running a big half marathon PR.
Timing is the first factor I look at when setting up my race calendar. I want to run all the races, but I can’t. I need to give myself adequate training time, and recovery time between goal races. I suggest picking your goal races first. The longer your goal races are, the more time you need between them. Once you have those set, you can sprinkle in shorter races that are great for gauging your progress. I like to mix in shorter, non-goal races in about 4-6 weeks.
Another important timing factor is the time that your training will take place. For me, as a teacher and a track coach, the Boston Marathon is great timing for training. A majority of my training will take place before my kiddoes track season starts. Our track meets start in April and that will be when my taper will begin. When I return from Boston I can focus on the kiddos track season and state testing, while running goes into easy mode for a few weeks. I also like to increase my mileage and focus on strength in the summer when school is out. It also helps that I enjoy hot weather running.
Type of course
There are many course factors that you should consider. Type of race, elevation and design are all important.
The type of race includes road, trail and “experience” type races. Road races are typically faster, larger more competitive fields, more volunteers and spectators along the route. Trail races usually have a more relaxed atmosphere, more inviting and will have a larger variety of distances. Experience races would include the obstacle course style races like “Tough Mudder” and “Warrior Dash,” Color runs, Glow runs and other odd races that may have you doing other stuff outside of just running. These can be very fun races, but I am guessing most people don’t include these as goal races.
Course Elevation can be very important if you are trying to take down a PR. Don’t be fooled though, sometimes overly flat or extreme downhill races can become problem. You’ve heard the phrase, “too much of a good thing” and that definitely applies to race courses.
How the course designer set up the course is important too. There are single loop courses, multi-loop courses, point to point and out and back courses. I think these are more about personal preference. I know I considered a multi-loop marathon course and people constantly said how horrible it sounded. To me, it sounded like a benefit. I liked the idea of knowing the course and being able to see my cheer section every couple miles. However multi-loop course with different distances are my nightmare. One of my first 10k races include a two loop course with a 5k race. I spend so much time weaving and I tripped over a stroller busting up my knee. I ended up missing a PR by 4 seconds.
Size of the field
Do you prefer large races or smaller races? Both choices have their pros and cons. I like large races because I am less likely to catch myself running alone. This is especially important if I am needing that extra push to reach a new PR or keeping me motivated in longer races. Bigger races also tend to be well organized machines. There is also an amazing energy at those large races. I can’t wait to experience that energy, I have heard so much about, for the first time at Boston. Smaller Races seem to be less hectic on race day. The bathroom lines are more manageable and you can usually park close to the start/finish line.
Up until now, I have only run local races. This year, I will begin to look for more destination races. Boston will be my first out of town race. As I look for other races, location will be a big factor because I want my family to be a part of my journey. Places that can double as a vacation and offer experiences outside of race day will be important to me. Finding races within driving distance of out of town family members is a nice perk, also.
I like to race about once a month, it keeps me motivated and helps me target my training paces. Some of my best races have been these lead up races, including many of my PRs. I like to run shorter races in my training for longer races.
Some of my favorite websites that I use when comparing courses;
KC/Local races-KC Running Company
What do you look for when picking a race? What are the most important factors to you?
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