After two years of running and suffering some race-burnout this spring, I think I finally have a good grasp on what kind of races I like. I want to trim down the amount of times I’m racing in a year because, although I really enjoy it, running 2-3 races per month really eats up your weekends. And if those races aren’t really the kind you enjoy, what’s the point?
I want to save my time and money for those events that I actually have a lot of fun at. So far, the top five races I’ve enjoyed the most would be:
- Walt Disney World Half Marathon
- Kentucky Derby Festival miniMarathon
- Hot Chocolate 15k
- Go Commando 5k
- Country Music Half Marathon
So what do all these races have in common? Most of them are urban, running through the city streets. They all have great crowd support. They mostly are fairly large races (Go Commando being the smallest with around 1k participants; all of the others have over 5k and most over 10k). All of them hand out medals.
It’s not to say that I don’t care for small races. I have ran some great smaller races. But they usually don’t bring out crowds, which I really, really like.
While I’ve never ran a race that I outright disliked, I do notice patterns in things that I find annoying. I don’t like courses that take runners doing a longer distance past the finish of the shorter distance (one of the reasons I would never run the full Country Music Marathon). I don’t particularly enjoy completely rural races; once you’ve seen one cow in a field, you’ve seen them all. I don’t want a cotton t-shirt.
Price also comes into play. Even though Cedars Frostbite is in the middle of nowhere without crowd support and doesn’t hand out medals, I still had a good time. Of course, it was only $8, so I had no real expectations of anything. But when you pay $40 for a race and get a cotton t-shirt and a boring course, it’s much more disappointing. On the other hand, Go Commando is high up because, even though it’s smaller and contained in a park, it’s cheap and you get a ton of good food, a tech shirt, and a medal.
Thus, here is my criteria for future races. Ideally, I would like for a race to meet four out of five, but I would make exceptions for anything particularly unique or one where I know lots of people that are participating.
- Lots of crowd support.
- Interesting location.
- Good food.
- Nice swag (shirts, medals, etc).
- Good value.
What do you look for in races?