Selecting a goal race: things to consider

Recently I ran the Warner Robins Aviation Marathon as my goal race for a sub 3 marathon. Aside from wanting a more flat course, there are a lot of other factors that went into my race selection.  I made a list of considerations.  Some of these items may seem obvious, but I really struggled with settling on the Warner Robins race, so this list might end up helping someone trying to decide on their next goal.

Some really basic things to consider:

  1. Terrain: Do you want for this to be a trail race or a road race?
  2. Distance: Are you looking for speed or distance? Any PRs that you want to chase?  How long do you have to train? What shape are you in, and how soon do you need to be recovered?
  3. Type of run: Is this a goal race, or is this just a fun training run?  If it’s just a fun run, many of these considerations won’t make too much of a difference. But for goal races, it will be nice to focus on what will best help you succeed.

Getting more into the specifics:

  1. Destination: How far are you willing to travel for the race?  Will a long car ride or plane ride affect how you perform?  Will the stress of a new city add to your race jitters or make you feel more motivated?  Is it in your budget to travel, and will you need doggy/childcare if you leave town?  My next race will be a destination race, and my husband and I are really excited about the opportunity to travel. But we decided that my sub-3 marathon attempt was best run closer to home.
  2. Weather: What will the weather be like for the race?  Will you be able to train in conditions similar to race day?  One other element of weather to consider is humidity. Georgia, where I live, typically has really humid weather, but we can typically let that slide in the winter.  This is a really good website when thinking about humidity (and dew point).
  3. Running crowd: Do you like big races or small races?  Big races are great for feeding off of the energy of other runners and using the talent of other runners to push you to run harder. However, the larger the crowds, the more likely that you may have to weave around runners to maintain your pace. I love running Atlanta races, but they are always really crowded. For this reason, I intentionally selected the Warner Robins race so that no one could interfere with my paces.
  4. Fan support: is the race very accessible to spectators and how important is this to you?  Trail races very rarely have many locations for fans to gather.  Out and back races are more likely to have fan support because you get to see the same fans twice.  I did not realize how much I like some fan support when I’m road racing until the Warner Robins Aviation Marathon where there was only one place along the race at mile 13 for fans to stand.  I was fine, but it definitely would have helped to have a few more cheers.  The Boston Marathon is by far the best fan support I have ever experienced!
  5. Elevation change: If you are going for speed, are you willing to sacrifice some of the effort toward climbing hills?  For the right race, it’s always worth the sacrifice!  I really like hills (and the more the merrier on the trails), but for my sub-3 hour marathon attempt, I really wanted to limit the hills that I needed to climb.

It’s always fun to fill out the calendar.  I like to switch between trail races and road races. My next goal race will be on the trails, and I’m really excited to get back out there in my training and focus more on hilly distance over flatter speed.

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Ready to run at the ATC Thanksgiving Half

What races do you have coming up?

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