I thought it would be fun to share a few of my tips on how to pick the right race to run. While, there is absolutely nothing wrong with just picking one at random. Depending on what type of runner you are. There are definitely a few things you may want to consider first. So you don't accidentally find yourself part of the 20% who for some reason or another don't show up to the race, or are unable to finish.
#1 Check the finisher time requirements
If you are a faster runner, you may not have to worry about this. But those who may have a slower pace, or plan to walk most or all of a race. Should check the race website and look at required finisher time. If you know you can come in under this time then go ahead and register. But if you are worried you may not, or aren't quite sure. It would be better to pick a different race with less strict finish time.
The reason for this, race director choose time requirements based on what the cities/counties permitting can allow. If you can't finish under those time, not only can it be risky when the race support is pulled, but you risk getting picked up with the swag bus, unable to finish.
But don't worry, there are several races around the country who are quite generous with their finisher time requirements.
#2 Consider the distance
Make sure the distance is something you can train adequetly and properly for. So often runners will select race and realize later that its coming up too soon and they aren't going to be able to train for it in time. Or they will select a distance that is much greater than anything they have done before, not realizing the time commitments it may take to train for it.
Running a race you are not trained properly for, can cause injury or even in rare cases believe it or not death. So when you select a race, think about it before you enter and make sure it is something you have ample time to train correctly for.
#3 What race/finisher items are important to you
For many runners just finishing a race is reward enough. But if you are a runner who likes a medal to add to the accomplishment. Double check what the finishers will receive ahead of time. If you want a race shirt, check to see if it is a participant shirt or finisher shirt. So you will know ahead of time if the money you are putting towards the race is going to be getting you what you want.
#4 Check the course support information
Although you may not have to worry about this for shorter distances. For longer distances, Marathon/Ultra's etc. its definitely something to look into.
Most street races have course support and plenty of water stops. If you are running a trail race, or ultra's, some relay races and even occasionally some of the smaller races you may have to supply your own course support at times. Double check these things ahead of time, so you know if they have what you are looking for, or if you need to prepare in advance to bring your own.
#5 Consider the drinks in the race
For a shorter race like a 5k or 10k it likely won't matter as much. But if you are planning on running a distance race and you enjoy drinking sports drinks. Check the race website ahead of time and see what they will be serving. If it's not something you're used to. It's definitely something to consider as you train, so you can begin using them in your training runs. Why is this important? Well in the chance the new drink doesn't mix with your stomach well, you will have less risk of spending more time in a port-o-pottie than running in the race.
#6 Look at the start of the race, and consider transportation.
Some races may have you meet somewhere and then bus you to the start. Others allow you to park at the start or finish. If you are alone, or planning to take yourself looking at this information before you register is a plus. Especially if you want to pick a hotel that you can walk to the start or finish. Or so you can plan for a ride after a race to take you back to your car.
#7 Check the races estimated weather
While most runners including myself would tell you to train for any condition when you are race training. Not everyone understands what a difference heat, humidity, cold can do to you if you are not accustom to running in it. While you don't need to be discouraged entering a race that is different than you are used to. Knowing a head of time what to plan for temperature/weather wise will help you better prepare, especially for destination races.
#8 Check the course
If you are a runner who trains mostly at lower elevations on flat surfaces. Before you enter a race in a new area it is a good idea to check the course map and elevation charts. Not to discourage you, but so you can better prepare and know in advance if you need to take a few weekend trips to get some additional hill work in.
#9 Check the day requirements to pick up your bib info
Some races have race day packet pick up, others do not. If you are traveling in, it is a great idea to check in advance and make sure you can plan you trip to arrive in time to pick up your bib info especially if you must be there the day before. If you know you won't be there at the expo times, knowing in advance what you can to do either have someone else pick up your bib for you, or even if possible you can have it mailed to you so you won't have to worry about it come race day.
#10 Check what items you can or cannot run with
A lot of races are starting to ban things like headphones for runners own safety. Other races have very strict no littering policy's along the courses. Some races ban certain items just for the safety of others, and may not allow backpacks, larger water containers, selfie sticks, glass items props, strollers, bikes, pets. Because of the safety of other's you'd be surprised at a lot of the banned items in races, especially the larger ones.
Additionally, some races let you know ahead of time if you veer off the course, or decide to run on the wrong side of the road, you will be immediately pulled from the course. They do these things for a reason, it's best to respect the requirements and go with the rules for yours and others safety!
Races can be a lot of fun. But the fact is, not every race is right for every runner. If you want to have the best experience possible, check into these and any other thing that is important to you before you pay the registration for a race and discover later that it wasn't what you thought it was going to be.
What is one thing you check on when you go to register for a race?