Thursday, July 18, 2019

Finding A "Good Race" to Run

Recently I've had a few friends ask me for recommendations on a good race to run. Naturally, I have my suggestions, like the Big Sur Marathon, anything from Brazen Racing in California (all trail runs put on by such a GREAT group of people, especially the Brazen Mt. Diablo trail race (straight up a mountain), anything from the Bayou City Half Marathon Series in Texas, the Woodlands marathon/half marathon/5K, the Chevron Houston Marathon for their typically cooler weather and flat course winding through my H-Town 😎❤, and quite a few others on the list as well. The thing is, not every race is the same, including the same race from year to year. The course can change, the weather can change, the timing can change and you might not be in the same headspace you were in when you ran it last.

That said, I love how every race is different, and in the past year I've come to embrace races with hills and similar challenges. In finding a good race to run, suggestions are always good but a lot of it depends on you - your ability at the time, headspace, training regimen, work schedule and so on. Personally, I like to switch up my races - a tail run here, a nice flat run there, and a huge hilly killer run to cap it all off. They're all "good" races, it just depends on what you want. 😄

Below is a list of what I look for when choosing a race:

1. Time Of Year - Time of year is very important to me when choosing a race, and sometimes it's chosen for you. For example, in Houston most if not all of the larger races (trail racing excluded, the TROT Habanero Hundred and similar races is a traditionally hot run) are held exclusively in the winter, spring and fall. With the exception of a small handful of shorter road races held in the summer months, it's basically off-season for races, crazy heat being to blame. A hot race can be fun, and those come with their own challenges, but even so I will be running a hot, humid and muddy trail race in a week- so obviously summer racing isn't a deal breaker for me. 😋 Personally though, if you are looking to PR, a flat, cooler weathered locale would be what I'd look for.

Hill Running Tips on

2. Complexity/Challenging Aspects - I personally love races that are challenging, hence many of my favorites listed above. A flat, fast course allowing for that top speed time is great, but lately for me, the feeling of accomplishment arrives hand in hand with some very hilly terrain. It really depends on how you'd like to challenge yourself, and not your perceptions of what others think you should be doing. For me that changes as well, with the Summer months being less about speed and more about other aspects to change things up and keep it fun. I'd like to PR again though, and I heard Grandma's Marathon would be good for that (if anyone's run that one I'd love to know more), but for now it's all about hills, baby. 😎


3. Location - Location plays a large part in what races I choose. When I began entering races I ran a lot in my hometown, year after year. After that I got curious about running in different locales, so that interest, and catching the traveling bug, began a love of traveling to races in my 3rd year of running. After that, and because I was traveling, I met my boyfriend and we began traveling together and incorporating races into those travels since we both ran. I had a blast, and I will travel to one or two maybe these days, but taking the time to explore my new city has been a great adventure in itself. Now, traveling to a race is incorporated into a small vacation for the year.


4. Distance - I've run everything from 5Ks to marathons now, and I really love all those distances, but distance matters. Proper training matters. I've known people who have entered half marathons with the attitude of "Go hard or go home." (they actually said this out loud), and after having to walk 99% of it, they wished they had gone home much earlier. The point of pushing yourself isn't to hurt yourself, so if I don't have the time to properly train at least enough not to hurt myself, I always take that into consideration when entering a race. This goes right into my next consideration...

5. Prep-time Required - It goes without saying but I'll say it anyway, marathons take A LOT more time to train for than a 5K or 10K. No matter what I really want to do, I try to be as realistic as possible when considering a race to sign up for. Do I really have the time to train for it? Is it super close to another race I'm hoping to PR in? If you don't have the prep-time, don't sign up. There will always be another race, unless you just have money to burn.

6. Am I Qualifying For Anything/Do I Want A PR? - I touched on this one briefly in some of the above issues, but in signing up for a race I do like to take into account my personal goals as far as time. We all run for our own love of running, to de-stress and for our own reasons. If I want a PR or to qualify I will look up several races and check out their course maps, race re-caps from other bloggers, weather in the area during that date, etc. If I just want a fun race in either my local city or a destination locale I do the same, but without studying the course map or weather too hard. Mostly it's the latter.
7. Scheduling - This one is fairly simple, but an important quotient in your equation all the same. Ask yourself, "What do I have going on around not only the time of the race, but the time I need to train leading up to the race?" Be realistic about this as well, because usually races can be fairly expensive. You can't help needing to pull out of a race because of an illness, getting hurt, or an unexpected work trip or (in my case - sorry, El Taco Loco) a move. However, I always try to minimize scheduling concerns up front because unless someone has a money tree growing in their backyard, mindlessly signing up for a race without taking this last bit into consideration seems like a waste.

And last but not least...
Don't Overthink It! I hate to admit this, but I'm can get a bit timid when it comes to trying new things, and it's something I always try to work on. When I began running I realized that if I didn't sign up for a half marathon soon I would chicken out forever, so a few months after I began running I signed up for the Katy Half Marathon, and a few months later I was a half-marathoner, and SO happy! I did the same thing with the marathon a few years later, and I am now signed up for my third one next year. 😊 Every race can be a "good" race, you just have to find the right one for you. Good luck in your next race guys, you got this!

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