The Connection Runners + [training]

So You Want to Run a Race?

Thanks to everyone who left me an encouraging note on Friday's commitment-phobia-filled post. I DID register for the Seattle half, so we're off in June with LBA in tow! It helped me to know that you guys all supported my craziness in flying across the country just to run 13.1 :)

*****

Now, let's start this Monday post off with a little honesty: If it weren't for racing, I probably wouldn't be a runner.

Yeah, I'm kind of fairweather like that.
You see, running is one thing. But running during a race is entirely another. It makes me feel alive; it makes running feel worth it to me.

And even though I'll never ever "win the race" like so many people often ask when I return from such an outing (Ha! C'mon people - I'm average), nothing beats the satisfaction of crossing the finish lines of the smallest, local 5ks to the big fatty marathons.

In a recent post about beginning to run, one of my five tips to help get yourself started in the sport was to sign up for a race. As a follow-up to that, I bring you five more tips to consider when registering for said races.

1. Contemplate distance, and couple that with your tentative training regimen and weather.
Runners have a plethora of options when it comes to racing. You've got your traditional distances - the 5 and 10ks, the half and full marathons - but a small group of oddities does exist out there. Think about a 10-miler or 15k, or get a group together to run an ultra or marathon relay course.

Post Bastille-Day 15k in 2010 - one of the hardest races I've ever run. But I earned a brand-new PR while doing so!

Don't forget about timing for training, particularly for longer events. Do you really want to be marathon training for 12 weeks in the dead of winter to complete an early spring marathon? (Oops, I made that mistake. I was pretty cold and miserable every Sunday long run.) Aim to train when the weather you'll be training in is most like the weather you'll be racing in.

2. Consider the cost and location of the event.
Ok, so yeah. I just shelled out $100 buckaroos to run a half-marathon that's thousands of miles away. Pretty nuts. However, RnR Seattle won't be my first racing go-round, and I feel pretty confident that I'll be prepared even so far away from the homestead.

Usually, I stick to races in Michigan and around the Detroit area. Being able to sleep in my own bed and wake up early without having to frantically snag breakfast or navigate around town is a race-morning bonus.

And I tend to be a big cheapskate when it comes to most races. Although I've broken them to accommodate a few special races, here are my personal preferences for race registration fees:
5ks: $20-30
10ks: $25-35
Half Marathon: $50-60
Full Marathon: $100 or less

3. Check out the course map.
Before hitting submitting your registration, it's a good idea to check out the race course map. Although it's not always a huge deterrent for me, I like to know what I'm getting into with a race.

Things I'll check out when perusing the map:

  • Is the course a single or double loop, or does it go out-and-back?
  • What's the elevation like?
  • Aid stations - how many, and what's available at each?
  • Can spectators line the course route easily? Where can my family see me during the race?
4. Let's talk swaggerific swag.
I do it for the T-shirt. Seriously kind of serious, here. Nothing is higher on my list of All-Time Favorite Apparel than my race t-shirts. They are mini-reminders of what it took to race that day, and I feel kind of cool when I wear them out in public. Yeah, I'm that kind of nerd.

Many events are now offering tech tees with registration, too, which can make a nice addition to your running wardrobe at no extra cost (other than the registration fee, of course).

I also do it for the medal. Or the drawstring bag. Or any one of the other neat little extras being given out at races these days (like the Tiffany necklaces handed out to finishers of the Nike Women's Marathon).

5. Don't rely on popularity alone.
While it may seem like the "cool thing to do", don't always jump to sign up for the races that everyone else seems to be doing. Occasionally, that can be fun (a.k.a., the blogger meet-up that will surely happen in Seattle in June), but I really prefer small, local races to the overcrowded and overwhelming masses of some of the more popular events.

Besides, you remember what happened to the popular kids in high school, right? They all spit out masses of kids way too early and are now working at the local auto mechanic shop or as a "receptionist" at a non-descript "office".

So what factors do you consider when registering for a race? And... #2... what's your favorite race of all time & why?