Running – Racing And The Marathon, How Do You Select A Race?


Whether you run local 5 and 10ks, half marathons, full marathon or ultra distance races selecting a race to run can be an arduous process.  There are many things to consider.  On the line are long hours in training, miles on the body and the time away from family, and friends.  Not to mention the money spent on registration fees, travel and  accommodations.  This investment can be money well spent or wasted depending on the outcome.  Selecting a race is a major decision point on to not take lightly.

With all of that added pressure resting on your shoulders (and on your feet) is your race selection normally based on the length of the race, the location, on performance indications or on the swag and bling available for finishing? 

bling(I love the bling) 

I get asked this question often via e-mail or in person, how do I go about picking a race?  Although my selection of a race is never the same, sometime I’ll run a certain race because friends recommend it, it’s a local favorite or I just want to hang out with a group of cool people.  Although I’m selecting a race to run for training or race purposes it comes down to…

Mostly distance.  I pick most of my races based on the distance I need as part of my Marathon/Ultra training plan.  I normally select a few target aka “goal” races during the year, then the rest of my racing calendar is based around races that will support these “goal” races. The trend lately has seen most of my target races being marathon and longer in turn the “support” races have been half marathon or longer in length.

On Location:  I’m not an elite athlete , not independently wealthy and not sponsored by a national shoe company.  Selecting a race destination with its associated travel costs, time and the number of vacation days needed are major factors for me.  Most of my races tend to be local events while my destination races (a night away from home) are run in combination with a long weekend or previously planned vacation.  Reviewing my race travels for last year (2015) I ran 11 races with five being in combination with a night out of town.

On performance:  In years past, 2013 in particular my eyes were squarely on running my first sub-four hour marathon.  I selected both Cleveland (failed attempt) and Niagara Falls (successful 3:56) with the hopes of providing a flat and fast track.  Other years I’ve selected races as a train up for a longer distance  an example being my first 100 mile run at Umstead in 2014, I ran the Graveyard 100k as a train up run.   Counter to this I have yet to avoid a race based on the performance.  I’ve gone into a few races knowing it was going to be a slow tough event for me.  In 2013 I ran races an example being the Medoc Mountain Meltdown, a FA event of the 50k+ length, that I knew would kick my butt.  Here performance wasn’t the end result hanging out with running friends was the goal.

For the bling/swag:  Yes I’m a sucker for big and shinny race medals.  I love the free goodies and event shirts that most large scale races offer.  In reality I do not pay much attention to the bling or event goodies when I select a race.  I love finding out what the medal looks like and I like a lot of chrome and shiny stuff, but I do not select a race based solely on the bling/swag. The swag at the expo and the finishing bling is a bonus.

With so many great races on the calendar, the selection is getting harder and harder to make. How do you go about selecting a race?