Distance: The first thing in choosing a race is what distance are you going to do? There are races from 1 to 50 miles, and everything in between. Most people starting out will pick a 5K, but I’m going to argue against it. I think you should pick something that’s crazy. Pull a half marathon out of your hat. Do something that will truly shake things up. Go big or go home.I’ve found that if you plan a shorter race and train solely for that distance, it will end up being an excuse not moving to a longer distance later in the year. You’ll claim that you won’t have enough time to get up to that longer distance and it will get back burnered until next year (unless you live somewhere like California where you can run outside all year round, then you have no excuse slackers). By picking a longer distance you’ll have a goal that will be really challenging and will help your times at the shorter distances. Also you can use the shorter races as training runs for your ultimate goal.
Location: I’ve said it before, I love traveling to run. It’s a great way to meet new people and reconnect with old friends. Most races take you through or by the iconic landmarks of the city, so if it’s a place you haven’t been to before then it’s a great way to see the sights, and if you are returning, it’s a great way to get reacquainted with them. Also the biggest benefit of traveling to run is being on vacation! You’re in a hotel with someone cleaning up after you, cooking your food, and if your planning is good, you’re staying right near the start line so there is no need to worry about getting to the corrals. Plus after a long race there is nothing better than going out, meeting some locals and other racers, and hitting the hot spots the city is known for (or any bar you can find a seat at because no one wants to be on their feet anymore).On the other hand when you run near your home it can be an advantage as well. When you’re training, you’re able to run part or the entire race course. You know how to get to the start line, how long it will take to get there and how to navigate around road closures. Also you can guilt your friends and family in to coming and cheering you on.
There is a give and take with running both at home and on vacation, but make sure you don’t exclude a race just because of its location.
Amenities: Do you want to run while being covered in color? This isn't 50 shades of grey we're talking about. Do you want to run at night with lights attached to you? You can sparkle all you want. Do you want to just run and get a couple of free beers at the end? Drink Up! Do you want to run from Zombies? You know they’re just using you for your braaaiiinnnnssss. Do you want to run through an obstacle course? Yes, yes and…aw hell, there are so many of these types of races now go find them yourself.You can find almost any kind of race out there so think about what you want your race to be and how you want to remember it, but most of all just remember to have fun.
Date: While the date is probably the least important of these five things to consider it can’t be totally ignored. The most important thing to think about in terms of your race date is to be sure that you have enough time to train for the race. Under training can lead to injury and keep you out longer than if you just picked a race a couple of more weeks away.Honorable mention for the date category is weather conditions. Racing and training in different climates can make for a slow race. Trust me, I know. Also running in really hot or really cold weather might not be your cup of tea so the date can come into play a couple of ways.
x-Factor: Let’s face it, some races are just cooler than others. The New York Marathon is the largest in the world. The armed forces marathons help honor those who serve. Some races are put on just to help raise money for charity. These races and many others just have something that the others don’t, and for many people that’s the draw.
What do you consider when choo-choo-choosing a race? (10 points for knowing what I’m referencing, but they won't help you because like “Who’s Line is it Anyways?” the points do not matter here either.)