TotR | How do you choose your races?


I’m linking up with Erika, Patty and Marcia again for Tuesdays on the Run and today we’re talking about the thought process behind choosing races. 

Again, since I don’t have much race experience yet, this is a difficult question to answer. When I signed up for my first 10k last year, I signed up because my friend Susi dared me to do this with her. It was a local (to her home) race and it was really just all about being able to say “we did this”. I didn’t really anticipate races to become a regular thing.

However, the racing bug definitely bit me after that first 10k and prompted me to put 4 races (maybe more) on my 2016 calendar. 

For most races that I’ve considered (and participated in) so far, the following criteria in order of (current) importance were employed (these might change in the future):

+ Date. Does it fit into my schedule and do I have time to train for it? I like to set new goal races to keep me motivated to train throughout the year (yes, I admit, I like having a goal on the horizon to work towards.)

+ Location. I’ve been choosing races close to home so far, or within driving distance, but I have yet to do a destination race.

+ Sign-up fee. Yes, unfortunately that has to be taken into consideration. Running is a fairly cheap form of exercise, until you start signing up for races. Ha! I was quite shocked to learn how expensive some races are (but then again, a lot of planning goes into races, so I guess I understand that the full package comes with a steeper price and that the bigger the race, the higher the price). But this, plus any associated travel expenses must be taken into account, especially since this is a hobby that my husband does not (yet) share.

+ Distance. I’ve only done 10ks so far and have my first half coming up soon, but I would also consider 5ks and 10-milers at this point.

+ Practicalities. Does the race start really early? I am usually not an early morning runner, so if the race has a later start date (say, 8 a.m. or later) or takes place in the evening, I am all for it. And then, what’s the temperature that time of year? (We have very hot summers where we live, so temperature will play an important role in my decision making process.)

+ Race swag. I can’t deny that t-shirts and medals kind of get me excited. I’ve only collected two t-shirts and two medals so far, but I think I can already tell that  I am more of a medal person. I was very excited about t-shirts first (because, hey, look, I have a t-shirt which means I ran this race!), but I can see how with time, t-shirts will become less exciting swag items. They’re fine and all, but a) you never know what they look like (beforehand) and how they’ll fit and  b) I’d rather pick my workout shirts myself. I’d much rather earn a finisher’s medal for participating. I mean, that is something that you can display on your wall and which will hold memories for years to come.

+ Size of race. Not that important to me yet, I have done a small one, a bigger one, and a virtual race and  they were all fun in their own ways, but this might become a factor in the future.

+ Have I already done it? I haven’t participated in enough races for that to be a deciding factor, although I am contemplating if I’d re-race the ones that I ran this year again next year.

In terms of the races themselves, I prefer races that a) promise nice scenery on my run and/or b) are organized for a good cause (one that in the best case scenario I can personally identify with). I’d love for at least a portion of the sign-up fee to be used to make a difference in someone’s life.

I know a lot of people go into races with the goal to set a new PR and I can see how that can be a motivating factor. Well, maybe that is something I’ll consider down the road (with more races to show for), but for now, I am mostly just signing up with the intent to finish and have fun.



  1. I am the same way about goals. When I don’t have a goal to train for, I feel like I don’t always get quality runs in. And, I’m more likely to skip runs too. You have great points! They are all definitely things to think about when choosing a race. I’m with you on the medals! Good luck on your first half! That is my favorite distance, and it is definitely addicting!

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Tara, and happy to hear that we have similar criteria when we choose races. I am really excited about the half!

  2. I picked my half marathon, which was my first race because it was near my home town so I got to go home and visit my parents close to Christmas. My 10k was picked because my husband could run it and have it count as a paid day of work. We also liked that one because the course let us run through Paramount Studios, which was pretty cool. I’ve also signed up for a 10k this November because we get to run the Las Vegas strip at night. It just happens to coincide with a family member’s milestone birthday, so it should be extra fun.

    I like to have races scheduled because of the motivation factor for sure. I also like to pick ones that give me a run experience that I wouldn’t normally have access to. And, so far every race has been run with at least one family member, so using them as a reason for a small family trip is also fun.

    1. Oh, I love how you combine races with family time! I wish I could run some races with family members!!

  3. You have a great thought process. I’m not a PR runner at all, so that’s not on my radar either. Maybe someday, but not anytime soon!

    1. Phew, I thought everyone was just all about the PR… glad to hear I am not alone in this!

  4. For shorter distances (5k and 10k), I prefer local races because most of them support local communities or non-profit agencies through their registration fees. I think they are a lot more fun because they are smaller, easy to get to, and less strict (allow dogs and strollers). Race swag is not a deciding factor for me (I’ve got way too many t-shirts from races; most I use for painting or end up donating). However, I do appreciate when half marathons have nicely designed medals. They are great keepsakes and you can display them at home using medal racks. I recommend running a trail race! They are awesome! It’s like combining running and hiking into one event!

    1. Yeah, I think that makes sense… local races are nice for shorter distances, half-marathons warrant a longer trip! :) And I definitely agree on the keepsake factor or medals!

  5. I definitely consider the cost when signing up and for local races, I consider the organizer because there’s one local organizer that is kind of shady (like they made very misleading statements about how much of their revenues were donated to causes when a race was branded as a breast cancer run, for example).

    Time of year is really important, too, as I am not good at training for races in the summer as that requires me to train during really cold months here and I’m just not a cold weather runner! I also consider the course because I need something somewhat scenic and I prefer loops as opposed to out-and-back races. For destination races, we usually consult websites that recommend the best fall races, or we talk to someone local, which is what we did when we picked our San Francisco trail race in 2014!

    1. Yes, I agree… I also pay attention to the organizer of races and wanna make sure that if it is for a good cause, at least part of the signup fee will go to that cause!
      Time of year is definitely important (I can see how that is also a factor in Minnesota.

  6. I think it’s so awesome you’re super into running now! I’m not really running while I’m pregnant, otherwise I’d totally sign up for a 10K with you.

    Good luck on the rest of your half marathon training! Can’t wait to hear how it goes!

    1. Thanks Gina.
      I can totally understand that you’re not going to be running much while pregnant, but if you’re ready again to sign up for a race… let me know :)

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