We are one twelfth of the way through 2014, so it’s probably time to plan my racing schedule for the rest of the year, right? Right!
If only it was that easy!
Besides the fact that there are just soooo many amazing races to choose from, there really are only so many weekends in a year. Factor in other responsibilities (wife in law school, two amazing sons to get through the perils of middle school, etc etc) and each month can pass by in a flash.
You also have to consider the growing cost of race registrations (especially for the larger events), the proximity of the races (hotels, food and gas add up quickly) and perhaps most importantly, burnout – mentally and physically.
Here is how I tend to choose my races;
1) Convenience – If there race is happening here in town or within a half hour drive, I am going to look long and hard at signing up. With a lot of races starting early in the morning (8 am or 9 am starts tend to be the norm around here), knowing that I don’t have to alter my wake up time is always a plus. I’m a creature of habit. I’m very lucky to live near Amherst, Nova Scotia where there is a PHENOMENAL group of runners (The Amherst Striders) who are super involved in making local races happen on a regular basis. Having a good local group also means carpool opportunities, which can be very helpful AND help save money, which leads me to…
2) Cost – As I mentioned, even in the brief period of time since I’ve returned to the running world, there has been a noticeable increase in registration costs. It’s not altogether uncommon now to see 5 km races cost forty or even fifty dollars. Local races are just as good for testing how your training is going and tend to be less expensive – ten or twenty dollars – which is reasonable, plus you’re often directly supporting awesome local charities or groups. I know bigger races have a lot more cost involved, but the reality is that for most runners registration fees are always going to be a factor.
3) Accommodations – This can be related to cost, but it’s more “Do I have somewhere cheap to stay?” and “Will they mind me bringing my entourage (aka family)?”. I don’t sleep all that well away from home at the best of times. Nerves the night before a big race don’t really help either. Plus, if I’m crashing at a friend’s house, they may also be put off by my routine (did I mention being a creature of habit? Because I meant OCD. Very.) This means I will be eating specific things at specific times. Stretching at specific times. Going to bed and getting up and specific times. I must be a joy. Or a cat. Possibly both.
4) Recommendations – Another HUGE bonus of being involved with a running group as well as with the online running community is learning from those who have been there. What this means is that if you are unfamiliar with a race or a geographical location, you don’t have to go very far to get information from someone who has firsthand experience. Travelling and looking for a race? Looking for a place to set a PB? Trying to find something super crazy and challenging? It’s all there at your fingertips!
5) Swag – This is probably just because I am only beginning to stockpile medals, shirts, etc for only 18 months now but I have to admit…I am a swag hag. Is that even a term? Is it bad? Let’s say no, because I only use it in self-reference…anyhoo…Races with great looking medals, nice quality shirts (tech shirts) or other interesting and practical things are always more tempting to me. Last year at the Hypothermic Half Marathon in Moncton, there was a beautiful medal for finishers but also a super useful gym bag with a separate pocket for your shoes and other neat features.
How about you? Are there other things that you consider or does this list hit upon what you think about as well? Post a comment and feel free to make other suggestions/additions to this list. I’d love to hear from you!