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.