I’ve made two repeated mistakes over the last 15 years of racing….
- I don’t bother to read the course description at all. Leaving me with a stomach in knots the week prior as I realize it has 623 hills.
- I TRUST the race description.
Turns out race directors are a lot like real estate agents. You know the cozy house on a corner lot, which is actually a house built for small children on a busy road full of blaring horns.
Decoding Race Course Descriptions
Because I know I’m not alone in finishing a race and wondering if I missed something on the website, a little laugh for you today…and possibly a little life saver next time you pick a race! If you’re really setting out for a PR, checkout this post on picking the right race.
Let’s be clear, these aren’t all bad things! They’re just the little nuances that we sometimes don’t pick up on until it’s too late.
Gently rolling hills (lots of hills)
I can’t count the number of times I’ve found myself mid-race thinking gently rolling?! Which of course is because they may not be big but as your legs get tired all those rolling miles add up.
Cool temps (It will be frigid at the start)
Arizona was a test for David…he thought it was the desert, must be warm. Errrr…nope. After busing to the start line we had an hour in just below 40 degree temps with a breeze. At which point, I smugly noted he should be glad I packed the throw away clothes he swore he wouldn’t need. 🙂photo by Janet Thompson
Post race party on the beach (during race sweatfest in the heat)
While I adored all of the post race parties when I lived in Miami, the truth is nearly any race by the beach means tropical weather and you’ll be paying for that post race luxury during the race.
And it’s also super important to know if the FINISH line is on the sand!
That happened during the Zooma FL race and it really threw a bunch of us for a there goes my PR loop.
Beginner-Friendly (we’d like to increase our numbers please don’t be afraid)
There are a lot of ways to take this description…could be a flatter course or it could be hard as heck and they just have a generous time limit to ensure you have the chance to finish no matter way.
Scenic (expect no spectators and often feeling like you’re running alone)
Hey I love a solo run, but if you thrive on the ambiance of race day…just know that’s probably not the case here. And I’ve seen many marathon runners on the road solo during scenic races because far more people are doing the half.
Nice Sea Breezes (winds to knock you over)
A little breeze is great in hot weather for staying cool, but if you’ve ever run in to a stiff headwind you know that it feels like you’ve come to a grinding halt! Here are some tips for running in the wind.Fast downhill course (your quads will hurt and there’s a hill at mile 25)
It tends to surprise runners time after time that an “all” downhill courses ends up hurting more than those rolling hills, but it’s true. Read more on dealing with downhill running pain and of course check that elevation chart because many NET downhill races still have a number of good hills.
Limited vehicular traffic (ahh the sweet smell of exhaust)
A closed course usually means you won’t be running near any cars, but many smaller races only close one lane which means you still get to run with plenty of cars and all the fumes they leave behind.
HAHA ok your cars might not look like this but still haven’t you ever wondered about the cars right in front of the lead runners…ick.Admittedly, I pay little attention to descriptions and I absolutely NEVER preview the race course. I figure I’ll know when to stop because there’s a big line that says finish…everything before that I have to complete regardless of whether it’s easy or awful.
Have you ever had a course turn out to be different than expected?
Do you study the course description?
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