5 Tips to Choosing the Right Race for You
There are several factors to consider when choosing your first race.
By Susan Paul, Runner’s World
You are not alone in your surprise about lottery entries or early close outs. Unfortunately, I hear this all too often from many new runners who simply have no idea that signing up for a marathon sometimes requires a long-term plan.
It depends upon the popularity of the marathon you are considering, but doing your homework is essential. Visit the website of any race you are interested in as soon as possible and check out the dates and logistics of how and when to register. With three of the largest marathons—Chicago, Marine Corps, and New York—now lotteries, it’s important to know and understand their sign up process. But don’t despair, not all marathons are lotteries or close out early.
Here are my suggestions for a list of priorities to consider when searching for a race. Pick and choose what seems most important to you. What’s interesting is that your priorities change over time too, so it’s fun to keep re-arranging this list.
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1. Budget: The cost of running a marathon varies tremendously. Entry fees are just one cost factor. Airfare, hotels, meals, and other transportation costs add up quickly and can get quite expensive. Deciding ahead of time how much you can realistically afford to spend as you begin your search is essential. If you are on a budget, look for races that are close or within driving distance. Smaller races, or races in smaller towns are typically less expensive than big city races. Also, small races can deliver quite a bang for your buck and a wonderful experience. If cost is not a factor, then you are wide open.
2. Time of year: Look at the time of year that you would like to run a race and then back it up by 4 to 6 months for training time. Fall races are very popular, but that means you will be training through the summer. Depending upon where you live, summer training can be challenging. As a Florida runner, I prefer to pick spring marathons and fall half marathons. Summer also means vacation; could travel potentially disrupt or even derail your training plans? Consider your work schedule too, as it’s ideal to minimize disruptions, if at all possible, especially for your first race. Time of year also includes looking at the weather on race day. Weather impacts performance, so if you don’t run well in hot, humid conditions, look for races in cooler climates. What type of weather conditions do you prefer for running? While there are no guarantees for perfect race day weather, set yourself up for the best conditions possible.
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3. Race registration: Know the process and the important sign up dates for any race you are considering. It’s not uncommon for popular races to sell out within just a few hours after opening, so don’t procrastinate. If the race is a lottery, pick a back up race in case you don’t get in. Another option when races are lotteries or already full, is running for a charity. Many races offer a number of entries through various charities. A charity entry means you must raise a certain amount of money for that charity, so be sure and check the amount required and decide if that is doable for you. There can be perks associated with charity entries too, like transportation provided to and from the race, or special meet up areas, so it can be a good option and you help fund the designated charity.