Friday, August 23, 2013

I Want To Race!

Wednesday: Rest Day (Enjoyed a much needed extra rest day this week)
Thursday: Yasso 800 x 3

So you have decided that you want to participate in a race event. Well, where do you begin? You have your eyes set on a popular race but is it the right fit for you? Here are a few tips I suggest when searching for a race worth participating in.

Time & Distance: Think about what your goal is, how far do you want to run and how much time are you giving yourself to train. Always allow yourself at least 3 months for a half marathon and 6 for a full. This allows you plenty of time to safely train for a race of that distance. Think about your commitment level and how much of your time you are willing to train for the distance you have your eyes set on.

Variety of Races: Reach out to friends, family and co-workers, asking if anyone has participated in a race that they truly enjoyed. Check out local race websites for options. There are a variety of races, some themed, some to raise money for charities and others can be much more competitive. Here are a few common races first-timers choose:

  • Themed races such as The Color Run or The Zombie Run are usually a 5k (or about 3 miles) distance. These races offer a fun and energetic atmosphere, drawing both runners and non-runners alike. Be aware of these "fun runs" as many of them are extremely overpriced and may not offer  the most scenic running route. However, these events attract many unexperienced runners due to it's non-competitive atmosphere. It allows people to become interested in racing without the pressure of committing to a longer distance. I have heard mixed reviews about such races but many enjoy the atmosphere and experience itself. 
  • Charity-based races are usually filled with friendly volunteers willing to cheer you on with signs and high fives throughout the course. However, depending on the organization, some races are not always as organized and perhaps may not have as many volunteers as you may assume there to be. Because much of the money is coming from fundraising or entry fees, larger, sponsored organizations will go much smoother than a smaller, fundraising-only based race. Many of these races are fairly priced and a large portion of the money raised supports a great cause. This is always a great route to go because there are so many out there, Race For The Cure is one example. Giving your running a purpose feels extremely rewarding when you choose to run for a cause dear to your heart. 
  • Destination runs are typically pretty pricey but offer a unique experience. These races tend to have a lot of additional packages that you can add on to your race entry such as a pre-race meal with a guest speaker or other events put on throughout the weekend. Be aware of the (at least) $10 processing fee on top of your already $100 entry fee that many of these races require. Destination races make their money by offering a "first class experience" to the racing world. Most of them take place with a beautiful backdrop and usually have some sort of weekend getaway idea behind it. If it is your first race ever, I would consider a local race first. So many things can go wrong when you travel and especially if it is your first race, you don't want anything to derail your training. There are time changes, jet lag and all other unexpected situations that can occur when you travel. It's best to choose local for your first ever race for these reasons. 
  • Relay Options: These races can be a lot of fun because you run with one or more individual(s). Relay races are usually fast-paced but high energy. Make sure that you put yourself in a team that are willing to work as hard as you are and are committed. Life happens and sometimes people drop out days before the race, be aware and have a back up plan. This happens often.
So again, research and evaluate what you are looking for.

Route: Consider the route before you decide on a race. Once you find a race that interests you, look into the elevation and route itself. Are there hills? Think about your commitment to train for hills. And if there are hills, how many are there and how large are they? Is the terrain flat? Are you running through a city or the country and where is it located? Consider what you would like to see while you are running. Imagine yourself running that 26.2 miles through flat and dry desert, is that appealing to you? No? Then reconsider that race and look into others. If you are participating in a half or full marathon, take a look at the water and fueling stations, how far apart are they and does that fit with your individualized training plan? *And side note--consider the route in the season the run is taking place. They're all things to consider before settling on a race.

Training Plans:  You can find resources on the race and other running websites. There are many different methods to training but I think that is the fun of it all. Running is such an individual sport that you have to find what is right for you. Look into a few different options and ask others around you what they have used in the past. Make sure that the plan meets the timeline you have set for yourself to compete in the race.

Although this may seem lengthy, these are things to be aware of when choosing a race.

What has been your favorite race and why? What do you look for when signing up for a race? 

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