Choosing Your Next Race

Yes, I like to run races.  So I run a lot of them.

But how do you decide which race to run?

Here are some things to consider:

What is the race distance and where does it fit into your training?

Obviously a marathon and half marathon are goal races.  I can only speak about half marathons.  I always make sure that I have 12 weeks to train whether do I sign up for a spring, summer, winter or fall race.

So if you choose a spring one, you have to train in the winter (which was awful this year.) And if you choose a fall one, you have to train through the heat of summer. You just choose your poison. The reward is worth it.

Sarasota HM – March 2013

Mohawk-Hudson HM – October 2013

Sometimes a 5K can just be a training run and you may want to run additional miles before or after.  Or the 5k can be a race where you want work on your speed and try to PR.  A short race can also be a way to get back into racing after an injury. A 10k or a 15k can be just a different distance to try. Each distance accomplishes a different goal.

I am fortunate that where I live, between April and October, there are many races to choose from each weekend. Most are 5ks. So when I only ran 5ks, it was easy.  Then I started training for half marathons and sometimes I just had to skip a 5K if I wanted to run long. That’s when the 10K and 15k worked out well.  But there aren’t as many of those. I

So if you like to race a lot, you just have to be flexible with your running schedule.

a fun 10k to get miles in while training for a half


running a 5k (for speed work) and then adding more miles on after

Do you want a big race or a small race?

Big races offer a lot of excitement and they are a lot of fun. They are also more expensive. More expensive sometimes means more perks – medals, swag, food, photos, etc.

Small races are less hectic, it is easier to find parking and there is just less hassle.  You also have a better chance of winning an age group award in a small race.

I like both. In big races, you are always running with a crowd and it is very motivating. You can feel the excitement in the air. Sometimes it is lonely in a small race.  You may often be running by yourself.  But then again, they are more personal and I have been lucky in winning awards & raffle prizes in some small races.

racing among 5000 women

winning a medal in a small race

Are you willing to travel and how far?

I know someone who is willing to travel for hours to a race. That’s not me.  Gas is expensive and if the race is far away, you have to get up at an ungodly hour. What helps is if you can carpool or go with a friend.  Even better is knowing someone who lives close to the race and staying over the night before.

Then there are destination races.  Those are races that are too far away to go for the day.  You may make them in a vacation or just a weekend away.

As I said, I don’t like to drive more than an hour for a race. (I’ve only done it only once.) I do like destination races.  I have been lucky and been able to stay with a friend (in Florida, California, Pennsylvania, etc.) which saves money.  I also save up my frequent flier miles (that I get my using my credit card) for these trips. So my vacation to visit an old friend just happens to include a race.  Perfect!

Biggest Loser 5K Run Walk

this was farthest drive – 2 1/2 hours to VT

visiting an old friend in CA.

What is the course elevation?

Check it out ahead of time.  No one likes to be surprised by a hilly race.  I don’t like hills but sometimes you can’t avoid them.  Other factors about the race may be more important.

For a half marathon, I love a flat course since even then this distance whips my butt.

Florida races are usually flat (except if they go over bridges)


hilly 4 miler in Lake George

What is the course like?

Is it on trails?  Is it on roads open to traffic?  It is through a park? Is it in a residential neighborhood? Do you run along the ocean or a lake or a river? In other words, will the scenery be a distraction from the struggle of running.

I love to run a race along the water and through a park.  The course is important to me.  That’s not to say that I haven’t run on some boring courses.

these free races run around the state office campus – so boring

scenic fall 5k in the Adirondacks

Do you get good swag?

Who needs another cotton tee shirt?  At least now, most races are giving gender-specific tech shirts.  Some races give bags or mugs.  And some short races even give medals. We love bling, right?

free windbreakers!

a medal for a 5K!

Has it gotten good reviews?

The race’s advertising always makes the race look great. Try Googling  the race name + “race recap” to pull up bloggers’ reviews.  They are much more helpful.  No one likes to pay for a race that doesn’t have enough parking or bathrooms or water on the course.

Most of my race experiences have been good just a few snafus here and there and I have honestly blogged about them. (I have had 2 bad experiences at 2 USRA races.)

USRA Lake George Half – poorly organized


CGI Love Run – well organized

So speaking of choosing a race, my next one is this Saturday – Rabbit Ramble 4 miler.

I chose it because it was nearby and supposedly not too hilly. 4 miles is a good distance since I am not training for a half right now but it is short enough to add on more miles if I feel like it. As far as swag — Special 20th anniversary t-shirts, door prizes, special 20th year medals and awards to all overall and age group winners and if you registered early, a pair of Rabbit Ramble running gloves. Some runners that I know have run it and said that it was a fun race.

My goals for this race are:

  • run the whole thing without stopping
  • finish under 40 minutes
  • keep each mile’s pace under 10 minutes
  • win an AG award 
  • have fun!
  • stay healthy!

Happy Running! How do you decide which races to run?



2 thoughts on “Choosing Your Next Race

  1. I think you covered that really well. The only thing I’d add is to consider the type of course for a longer race – is it out & back? Point to point? Does it loop?

    Race reviews are crucial for me, since all my HMs are destination races.

    Running gloves would be cool!


    • How true. The course does matter. I hate races where you loop around more than once. The Run-off That Turkey 5k after Thanksgiving in Altamont gives out gloves.


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