When it comes to enjoying race day, nothing matters more than picking one which truly aligns with your goals!
Maybe you want to run somewhere exciting, fresh, new? Maybe you want to break the 2 hour half marathon mark? Maybe you just need some time with friends and it’s all about a race that feels good?
Or maybe you’re friend just finished the NYC marathon with a grin a mile wide and another just shared her photos of running along the in the perfect weather of San Diego and now you’re torn, you want to do them all!
How to Choose a Race
It’s easy to get swept up in the excitement of others and choose a race that’s across the country, at altitude or littered with twists, turns and hills that could all derail your big goal.
A great new study of Millennial racers produced this insight “we found that many millennials begin running to lose weight, but they continue running to maintain not only their physical health but to also improve their mental and emotional health.“
This excites me to no end because it’s my story! And I think as we tap more in to those feelings it becomes easier run consistently whether you have a race on the calendar or not.
Before signing up on a whim, consider these factors when picking your next race:
Impacts of Travel
That race along the beach, tasting wine at the finish line looks like so much fun you just have to do it!! But if you’re aiming for a big PR, don’t forget that travel can play a massive role in how well you do.
- Local races mean sleeping in your own bed, no travel stress, and eating your regular foods.
- Local races also mean knowing the course and exactly how far you have left (for better or worse).
- Destination races mean seeing new sights and immersing yourself in the race atmosphere of something new and exciting.
- Destination races mean more logistical planning, which can add to overall stress.
- Read the most important tips for undoing race travel stress >>>
Impacts of Temperature
My dear friend Jodi trained through the 0 degree winter of North Dakota to run the Honolulu marathon with me as her very first marathon.
Race day was 80% humidity and 70 degrees at the start…her body was not prepared to handle the heat that she had been dreaming of for months.
I saw this same scenario play out with friends who came to race the Miami marathon while I lived there as well. So it’s key to remember that your fantasy beach getaway may not be the perfect place for a PR.
- Cold weather means planning ahead for layers, both one’s you can shed and one’s to hold. During the summer there’s not a lot you can do other than ice baths or running with a fan on you in air conditioning.
- Humid weather means practicing how you maintain electrolytes, not just water
- Hot weather means being prepared with a different hydration strategy and slowing down due to a higher heart rate (your body is working harder). You could try more layers and running inside to help practice some of the warm feeling during winter training.
- Will there be shade? Rain? Snow? Nothing is unrunnable, but it requires preparation and it’s hard to adjust to an entirely different temperature than what you’ve been training in.
- Great tips for preparing for all weather from runners who have been there >>
Impacts of Terrain
During the years that I lived in flat, road running Florida, I found heading to races nearly anywhere else left me thinking “what was that hill?!” and also oh my gosh the lack of humidity is amazing.
Rolling hills can be great for allowing you to use different muscles, while the coveted downhill course could actually trash your quads! Check race reviews and consider what you can do in training to mimic the terrain.
- Will you have similar training terrain? For instance, training for a race that happens in the mountains is much harder when you live at sea level.
- Course elevation charts will help you determine the amount of hill training needed.
- Race reviews will help you find courses that are more scenic, challenging, or unique.
- During training, do you like running loops, out and back, or point to point? Choose a race with your preferred running style.
- Selecting a trail race brings even more considerations as every trail is different. Make sure you know if it’s a groomed path, rocky, water crossings or even a mountain running course.
Impacts of Friendly Support
The race of your dreams is half way across the country and just not feasible for the family to go…that might be just fine, but it’s definitely worth considering. For most new distances or PR seekers, there’s an added benefit to sideline support.
- Are those closest to you supportive of your running?If they haven’t supported you this could be an opportunity to show them why it’s so important or just a great reason to get out of town!
- Do you run consistently with the same people? If you’re used to certain people helping to push and pace you, it can be a shock to be without them on race day.
- Knowing someone is watching for you on the course can keep you moving (wouldn’t want them to see you walk!) or can give you a little break if you know you can stop for a hug or even your favorite race fuel
- Having someone waiting at the finish line when you’re wiped out is reassuring.
- Also important to consider if you’ve selected a race that will make a great vacation for them or allow them to easily spectate?
- There’s nothing wrong with going it alone, just make sure you’ve considered exactly how it will make you feel.
- Share these great tips for being a good spectator >>
This was from the Resolution Run I organized in Miami. Without a doubt having friends was a major booster for those who participated.
Impact of Other Racers
It might sound odd to consider who else is on the course with you, but you must.
If you’re a happy middle of the packer or out to run/walk your first marathon then Steamtown where a high majority are after a last minute Boston Qualifier could feel intimidating and lonely.
On the flip side, Turkey Trots and Corporate runs are known for having a lot of first time racers, who might line up at the front incorrectly making it nearly impossible for you to have a PR race. These are times to show up and enjoy the atmosphere or stick with a friend, rather than planning for your best day. A few other considerations about the race crowd:
- Do you feel motivated by always seeing other runners? Then a larger race could be perfect.
- Do you love having plenty of space to maneuver? Smaller races will allow you to stay in your own zone.
- Is your goal a PR? Remember that a more packed course could me time spent going around other runners or fighting to get through a pack.
- Need a big running ego boost? Those small races could be your chance to hit the podium.
- Do you love clanging cowbells and funny signs? You’ll certainly get more of those at a larger race.
Continue reading the Road to A PR Series:
Choosing your race pace >>
Creating your training plan >>
Why you need a base building phase>>
Safely adding speed work >>
Why you need a peak week >>
How to correctly taper >>
Race day etiquette do’s and don’ts >>
Do you pick a race spur of the moment?
What do you consider when selecting a race?
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