So I’m not really sure I’m the expert on this, since my last couple races have been pain games. (My masochism has really been coming out lately.) I may be more of an expert in picking races that are tough and terrible, but I don’t think that blog post would be quite as popular or magical. All that aside, picking the right race for you ahead of time is the first step on the way to having a great race day.
Here are some tips that will help you find the right race for ya:
- Course Profile- If there is literally only one thing I have learned this year, it’s that course profile is everything. All races are not created equal. Pick one that highlights your strengths. Or just pick a flat course. Ha. If you’re going for a PR, don’t pick a course that you have more of a likelihood of winning the lotto that day than landing your PR in. It still makes me really grumpy that I had to learn this lesson the hard way. Only consolation is that it happened early in my runcareer and is hard-earned knowledge that I will forever keep in mind.
- Scenery- Endurance running can be tough- what makes it MUCH better and more gratifying is getting to run in beautiful places and seeing things from a totally different perspective. A pretty course can distract you from intense pain. I had been to Rome something like 8 times but running the Rome marathon was such an incredible experience- I saw it in such a different way. It was magical- even in the torrential downpour. (Ugh. Evidently I am now a runner that runs a marathon in pouring rain and calls it “magical” –disturbing!)
- Friends- I pretty much run all my races with friends. Doing races with friends is much more fun and the experience is infinitely more enjoyable. A great race and new PR is hard to enjoy without having your friends with you to celebrate. Plus signing up together means you can keep each other accountable and motivated leading up to it.
- Support- If you are used to doing bigger races and you go to a smaller race, it may have a lot less support than you are used to (i.e. no portapotties on course, few aid and hydration stations, no fans). Knowing in what race environment you thrive in will help you pick a better course. If you need the crowd support, then picking the Tucson marathon where you are running on the shoulder of the highway next to all of the traffic for 26.2 miles and where there are not many people, may not be your best bet. Choosing something like Chicago or LA marathon where it’s pretty packed everywhere you go with lots of energy from the crowd may be a better experience if that is what you thrive off of.
- Road v. Trail- I prefer roads to trail right now (mostly because I love the speed and kick you get from the road). But if you prefer trail races and being in nature, then you should look up those specific courses.
- Distance- Figuring out your sweet spot of distance is pretty key. My favorite distance now is the half marathon. It’s very chill- you don’t have to train as long as a full and you don’t come off of it sore. Also, the recovery time is much quicker than a full marathon. Races are more enjoyable if you pick your distance sweet spot.
- Location- Not every race is going to be in driving distance. Flying to races in a different time zone that requires a lot of travel time to get to can be exhausting. If it’s a goal race it may not be the best to go so far from home. For the Rome marathon, we all took the pressure off ourselves for a fast race. We just ran it for fun. A good thing since we were all exhausted from the travel and the walking tour we took the day before. If your goal race is in a location you have to fly to, I would suggest carrying on your bag. My bag didn’t come in on my flight (luckily it came in on the next one) but while I was waiting at the airport panicking, I was really upset that I didn’t pack my shoes and my race outfit on my person.
- Race logistics- Race mornings can either be the most smooth and simplest thing in the world or can be more like my run at AP Calculus my senior year of high school – horribly difficult and exhausting. Some races (mostly smaller ones) have race morning pick up, parking right next to the start line, massive amount of portapotties at start- all the good stuff. And then there are the races where you aren’t sure you are going to make it to the start line on time because you have to park your car, to walk a mile to a shuttle that you have to wait for, to go and find your corral in a race with more then 30 corrals. And portapotties?! please. You think you have enough time to go wait in one of those lines- you’re still 25 corrals away from your corral in a sea of frozen people. And you still have to find bag check to drop off your bag. That is when the adrenaline is high- but not in a good way. Figuring out how to simplify race logistics, or pick a race that makes the race morning really easy is a surefire way to start your day off right.
- Race Reviews- This is one of the most important things to picking your perfect race. READ RACE REVIEWS. You can find them on race finder- or just google the race and “race review” or “race recap” to see if anyone has blogged about their experience. They can better help you prepare for a race and know if this race is ultimately a good fit for you. I try to do this for every race I do and see what to expect. That’s how I found out about Mountains2Beach last year and ended up telling a bunch of people I was going to run it and getting more people to join. A couple LA/OC bloggers had some great race reviews on it and it inspired me to run it.
You can’t control everything about a race. In fact, once you’re in a race you have very little control over what goes on and what your body decides to do. But leading up to it, you have control over some key factors that can make or break it for you. Figure out the important race elements to give yourself as much of an advantage as possible.
Monday- Exhausted from getting in MAD late from Sioux City, I got in a 6 miler in the am. Then climbed Cowles Mountain at night for a grand total of 9 slow miles for the day.
Tuesday- 4 miler quick in the am before my early work meeting and then track (3 by 2000's with a mile cool down). Sooo happy to be back at the track after spending all summer doing Balboa park, but that introduction to the track again was rude. What is a 2000 even?!! I really think that may have been my first time running one. Just kinda an awkward distance. Give me Yasso 800's or death. ;-) Almost 8 miles completed much quicker than Monday's miles.
And here is a little message from my socks to you! Have an amazing day!!!