Choosing running races: How do you pick which races to enter?

This year’s calendar is coming to a close, and like lots of runners, I am filling in next year’s race dates. I’m re-upping for some favorite races, entering some new ones, and leaving some not-so-great events behind.

How do you pick which running races to enter?

Here are 25 criteria many runners consider, when selecting which races they will enter. Maybe you can think of a few more.

  1. Scheduling

The calendar is critical for most runners, when it comes to choosing races. How often are we drawn to multiple events on the same dates? This can be especially tricky during holidays, when fun themed races abound. Experienced runners tend to prioritize their don’t-miss races and real-life commitments, filling in other possible running events after those.

  1. Season

A fair number of runners prefer to enter races in certain seasons, particularly in climates with extreme weather. Do you love or hate running in summer heat? How do you feel about racing in ice or snow or frigid wind-chill? Personally, I try to register for shorter races (like 5Ks and 10Ks) in the coldest and hottest months and save the longer ones in the milder months. I usually join a few half marathons in spring and fall and perhaps add a full marathon in autumn.

  1. Location

Destination races are super popular among avid runners, as many attempt to coordinate such events with personal vacations or even business trips. Other athletes prefer to pick races that are closer to home. Some choose events within a certain mile circumference of where they live.

  1. Travel

Transportation, lodging, meals, and other travel expenses add up fast, making out-of-town races costly endeavors. This is a genuine consideration for most runners. Plenty will do one or two away races each year or so and focus largely on local events. Others seem to travel every week for running.

  1. Race distance/s

This one is simple to see. What runner doesn’t aim to register for races that fit his or her preferred mileages? Most of us mix them up intentionally throughout the year, but we are usually very deliberate about identifying potential events to fit our own distance choices.

  1. Course (scenery / hills)

Organized race courses can be rural or urban, flat or hilly, closed or open (to traffic), paved or unpaved, and basic or technical. Racing runners often consider these features carefully.

Some runners enjoy completing familiar courses over and over, while others love exploring unknown routes. A running race can present a super opportunity for trying out an unknown trail system, getting an up-close look at a monument or special attraction, or checking out an unfamiliar town.

  1. Cost

For many runners, it all comes down to cost. Race fees vary dramatically, and it’s easy to rack up real expenses by registering for multiple events.

  1. Discount coupons/codes

Running clubs, race ambassadors, running stores, race organizers, and other contacts frequently offer early-bird discounts and coupon codes that trim race entry fees. It’s always a good idea to check before confirming registration.

  1. On-site amenities

Running races may begin and end with indoor facilities, park or picnic shelters, or rugged wilderness. Those who care will do well to check about creature comforts that may or may not be provided, especially during the winter months.

  1. Training plan fit

This goes along with the race distance issue. Runners who are training for endurance races (such as half marathons or full marathons) almost universally track their daily and weekly mileage with the longer race goal in mind. When the big race day approaches, they’ll likely look for preceding races offering increasing distances. Sprinters, on the other hand, are more likely to load up their racing schedules with shorter jaunts.

  1. PR quest

Also in the distance department, each runner’s pursuit of a personal record (at any given mileage) may guide his or her selection of a particular race.

  1. Finishers’ medals

Medal-collecting runners enjoy picking up flashy and fun finishers’ awards, which volunteers hang around runners’ necks at the end of each race. Local- and holiday-themed versions are particularly popular. Not all races offer these, so runners who want them generally read the small print before signing up.

  1. Prizes

Very few runners get to stand on the podium (if there is one) to receive top honors in a race. But lots of racers do aim for awards in their own gender/age divisions. In most races, divisions are organized in five-year brackets.

  1. Series points/awards

Race organizers offering multiple events in a given year often track series points (from race to race) for overall points and awards. These may include top performers overall and possibly by age division as well.

  1. Swag

Like kids attending birthday parties, some runners are drawn to races offering cool shirts and goody bags filled with take-home treasures. From shot glasses to socks, keychains to kinesiology tape, and shoelaces to sugar-free treats, swag bags are popular with racers. Plus, they tend to include promos (and often discounts) for upcoming running events.

  1. Food

Traditionally, running races have provided finishing athletes with refreshments like water bottles, bananas, bagels or chips, and frequently beer. Finish-line food has grown more diverse in recent years, with provisions including such treats as bacon, pizza slices, brats, cheese, tacos, toasted ravioli, pancakes, chocolate, ice cream, freezer pops, and more.

  1. Theme

Themed races are all the rage these days. It’s like race organizers are trying to make events extra fun and help runners forget we are huffing and puffing and pounding and hurting and working so hard out there. Charity races, holiday runs, fun runs, and commercial promotion runs abound. And everybody’s got a theme. Neon night-light runs, music races, costume runs, clothing donation races, beer runs, charity races, holiday runs, and many other sorts of festive running events are plentiful.

  1. Race organizer

The organization putting on a running event can make or break it. A well-run race attracts returning runners. Runs that run smoothly beckon repeat business. Punctuality, efficiency, and value are essentials, when it comes to hosting running events.

  1. Number of entries

Some runners are drawn to massive mob-scene races, while others enjoy smaller, more subdued ones. Fledgling racers often flock to the lower-key events.

  1. Friends/team members
How many races have I entered, primarily because people I enjoyed running with were already registered? I know I’m not alone on this one. And I have dragged friends into races I was planning to run also. Entering races with friends is particularly convenient and fun when out-of-town travel is included in the prospect.

  1. Checking past results

Runners: Don’t try to tell me you haven’t done this. It’s not uncommon for a runner to take a look at a race’s posted results from previous years, just to see where he or she might measure up in the field before registering. Yes, this happens.

  1. Past participation

Although countless runners love trying out new or unfamiliar races, many of us also lean towards repeating those we have liked most. Maybe we want to beat our times from last year. Perhaps we loved the course. Or we may simply appreciate a well-organized event.

  1. Timing method

Gone are the days when someone stood at the finish line with a stopwatch and clicked as each runner completed the course. OK, maybe those days are not completely gone, but perhaps they ought to be. Chip timing (in which a computer chip is affixed to each runner’s number bib or placed on a wrist or ankle band) is simple and efficient. And immediate results are available. Increasingly, runners are opting out or races that do not offer chip timing.

  1. Start corrals

Large races usually arrange runners into designated start corrals (with the fastest runners in the front), based on their submitted times in previous comparable races. Some events mark the corrals, but expect runners to sort themselves into the appropriate line-up spots. Others simply allow participants to line up at will. Although the start corral is an imperfect system (usually depending on registrants’ honesty about their expected mileage pages), it does seem to reduce chaos and increase safety in a crowded race. That makes it a consideration for runners picking events to enter.

  1. Online registration

Almost all races allow runners to file their registrations online. Some require it, while others may have mail-in or race-day sign-ups (if space permits). The online process is simple, and entrants usually receive prompt confirmation.

Not all runners run through all of these issues before selecting which races they will run. But many of these considerations help them to cull their choices to make their own prime picks.

Adapted from public domain photo

Feel free to follow on GooglePlus and Twitter. Please visit my Amazon author page as well. And I am happy to share my RUNDERDOG ambassador code for 10% off on Bondi Band Athletic Headbands, Accessories, and Fashions. (Simply enter the code at online checkout.).


Running product review - Smartwool PhD Training Beanie

Runderdog readers probably already know that I’m somewhat sold on all things Smartwool for winter. I sport Smartwool socks for most of my winter running, dogjoring/cani cross outings, and trips to the horseback riding stables. (I published a product review of my favorite style here.)

A few days ago, I picked up the Smartwool PhD Training Beanie at an REI store, but it’s also available on Amazon. I was hunting for a suitable winter running hat with the ponytail option. 

Constructed in a three-panel crown design for a snug, but stretchy fit, the moisture-wicking Smartwool PhD Training Beanie comes in one size (for women) and in black.  (Apparently, there is also a men’s version.) It’s made of a soft and smooth merino, polyester, and elastane blend.

I like the fact that this particular outdoor sports beanie features both the ponytail opening (on the back of the crown section) and two tiny side slots for sunglasses. Yes, I’m one of those runners who wears shades on overcast winter days, as well as when the sun bounces brightly off freshly fallen snow.

This little outdoor workout hat is comfortable, durable, and washable.

I won’t say that it’s flattering or that it frames the face in an attractive way. But from a practical standpoint, it’s pretty handy headgear for winter running, although it doesn’t cover my ears as much as I’d like (for the coldest winter outings). Once I put the thing on my head and pull my ponytail through the back opening, the Smartwool running beanie stays put for the duration.

This product reviewer purchased the product described and evaluated here, and the reviewer has no prior or existing relationship (either familial or professional) with the creator, manufacturer or marketer of the product.

The Smartwool PhD Training Beanie currently retails for $32, pretty much across the board. A few loser-priced, past-year, discontinued color units may be available from certain retailers (if shoppers luck out). Dropping $32 on a stretchy little cap sounds a little steep, but if this is my go-to winter running beanie, then the cost-per-wearing won't be much by the end of the season.


Product promo photos – fair use

Feel free to follow Twitter. Please visit my Amazon author page as well. And I am happy to share my RUNDERDOG ambassador code for 10% off on Bondi Band Athletic Headbands, Accessories, and Fashions. (Simply enter the code at online checkout.).


Marathons: Maybe I lied about one-and-done

Honesty is important to me. Truly, it is. But I might have fibbed about never doing a second marathon.

Perhaps I wasn’t fibbing at all. At least, not intentionally.

Before completing the first one recently, I really thought the whole 26.2-mile thing would be a one-time endeavor to me. The marathon was a dragon to be slayed, especially 10 years after my MS diagnosis and one month before a milestone birthday. And I survived the race.

Even after crossing the finish line in Chicago (I know. Jump right in with one of the World Marathon Majors, right? Go big, or go home.), I was pretty much resigned to returning to much more manageable half marathons and shorter races.

But now I am not so sure.

My body is healing. I somehow managed to hold onto all my toenails (even the now-strangely colored ones). My ears have stopped ringing. My multiple sore muscles have begun feeling better.

I’m ramping up my mileage again.

And I’m constructing my calendar for the coming year.

Uh-oh. Did I mention several runner friends are chatting me up about next year’s marathons? 

The marathon is addicting. Maybe I can't stop at just one.

Cue the run-crazed brain waves here.

So, all kidding aside, I’m looking at several different marathons (many months out) and pondering which one to consider. In the meantime, I’m already registered for a few 13.1s, including some pacer slots. And I’ve committed to several 5Ks during the colder months. The longer races will start in the spring – at least, for me.

Living with multiple sclerosis (which includes heat sensitivity), I’ll probably hold off till next fall for another full marathon. But I’m already looking.

And that’s the truth.

Adapted from user-generated image – fair use

Feel free to follow on Twitter. Please visit my Amazon author page as well. And I am happy to share my RUNDERDOG ambassador code for 10% off on Bondi Band Athletic Headbands, Accessories, and Fashions. (Simply enter the code at online checkout.).
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...