Running: How to pick your next race

Posted: December 02, 2013

Now that fall half- and full-marathon season is behind us, it's time to start looking ahead: What will the next race be?

I've been thinking about it since September. I didn't do a full marathon this fall, and I'm itching to get another one in the books early in 2014.

So how did I decide? By looking at five criteria.

Race distance

That's the easy one. How far do you want to go? Do you want to repeat a distance you've done before with the goal of running it faster? Do you want to push yourself to the next distance step? Or maybe you're looking at a crowded work or personal schedule and want to scale back your training, or you're recovering from an injury and want a goal race to motivate you to get out the door. After running a half this fall without rehurting my foot, I decided I'm ready to tackle another marathon.

Travel

Do you want to run a race in a faraway city and couple the trip with a mini-vacation? Are you visiting a different city anyway and decided to tack on a race? That's how I ended up running a half-marathon in Canada in 2011. I prefer races where I can drive to the race location - not necessarily to and from in the same day, but enough that I'm not tacking air travel onto my marathon trip. So that narrowed my search down to a five-hour driving radius. That knocked out the St. Louis Marathon.

Running weather

And I don't just mean weather for the actual race. My marathon training takes 18 weeks. I'd rather not be miserable during that time and risk a warm-ish race than train through the misery of summer and cross my fingers that an October or November race will be cold (which didn't happen for the Philadelphia Marathon this year). This narrowed my search down to late March and early April marathons, so that I could put in the bulk of my training in December, January, and February. Goodbye, Pittsburgh and Delaware Marathons, both May events.

Race goal

If you're trying to set a new personal record (PR), you're going to look for a flat course. If you want a pretty race, you're going to look at scenic routes. I'm not trying for a PR this spring, but instead, I wanted to try something different from my previous marathons, which were mostly flat. So I was open to hilly courses, or those that might include some trails. I don't want to repeat a marathon I've already run. So there went the New Jersey Marathon off my list, as much as I loved that race.

Intangibles

I asked some of my running friends what races they were looking at this spring, or looked at experiences at marathons on my list. That ruled out Ocean Drive (too windy, though I'll be back for the 10-miler this year). I don't like huge races, either. I've paid big bucks in registration fees, but I'm keeping a tighter budget these days. A D.C.-based friend suggested a race at which she'd run the half-marathon portion before, and offered me a free place to stay.

In the end, that's the race I chose: The Charlottesville Marathon in Virginia on April 5. It's a full marathon within driving range; held at the right time of year; and it's both scenic and hilly, the kind of challenge and scenery I'm looking for. It's also small and cheap. My friend even gave me a coupon for the registration fee.

An early April race also leaves me time to add another shorter race later in the spring. Maybe I'll come back to Broad Street again for the first time since 2011. But first: It's time to start mapping out hill training.


Running:

Racing Schedule

Sunday

Bucks County Running Club Series. Every Sunday through Feb. 16. Race-day registration: boathouse at Tyler State Park. Races: 9:30 a.m., except for the Cham-Pain 5K on New Year's Day (noon).

The Loop Race (8.4 Miles), 10 a.m., Online $25, Day of $30 More info: brynmawrrunningco.com

Saturday

Winter Wonder Run 6K at the Institute Woods, Princeton Friends School. Check-in 8:45 a.m. 6K starts at 10. Limited to 150 participants. Walkers welcome. Day-of registration credit card only, $35.

Light Up Lansdale 5K & 1-mile Fun Run. Penndale Middle School, 400 Penn St. Lansdale. Registration: 7:45 a.m. Fun Run starts at 8:30, 5K at 9. Register at pennsuburban.org. $25 before 12/1, $30 after.

Sunday, Dec. 8

Plymouth-Whitemarsh High School Baseball Jingle Bell Jog 5K/1-mile. At the high school. Onsite registration begins at 7 a.m. Race at 9. Fee: $25 preregistration, $30 after

Dec. 1. brynmawrrunningco.com

BCRR Winter Series: Covered Bridge 5K, Bucks County Running Club. The Boathouse, Tyler State Park, Newtown, 9:30 a.m.

Reindeer Romp, 5K, fun run/walk, 3 p.m. The Oakmont School Darby and Eagle Rds., Havertown. Fee: $25 adult, $10 children. reindeerromp.org

Browning Ross Winter Series. 5K every Sunday, through Feb. 23. Rowan University parking lot on Bowe Blvd. Race: 1 p.m. Race day registration only. Age group awards. Contact Ringo Adamson 856-904-3543 or tuffgangrunning@yahoo.com

Dec. 14

Rivalry Races - The Nation's Race,

8 a.m., Team Army vs. Team Navy, 10K/5K obstacle points races. Art Museum. www.rivalryraces.com

Dec. 15

Freezer 5K run & 1-mile family fun walk. Horsham, along the power-line trail at Simmons Elementary School. Fun walk, 9:45 a.m., 5K at 10. Online registration: $25 at Freezer5K.com, ends Dec. 11. $30 race day.

BCCR Winter Series: Jingle Bell 5.3-mile race. 9:30 a.m. The Boathouse, Tyler State Park, Newtown. Contact race director Steve Cickayat scickay@comcast.net or bcrrclub.com. Fee: $10.

Christmas is for Giving 5K, sponsored by NorthEast RoadRunners Club&Ancient Order of Hibernians Division 61, 10 a.m., PennyPack Park, Rhawn St. entrance, Northeast Philly). Contact Mike Clavelli 215-624-6715 of mikec48@verizon.net.

Browning Ross Winter Series. 5K every Sunday, through Feb. 23. Rowan University parking lot on Bowe Blvd. Race: 1 p.m. Race day registration only. Age Group awards. Contact Ringo Adamson 856-904-3543 or tuffgangrunning@yahoo.com

Dec. 22

BCRR Winter Series: Tyler Challenge 10K. The Boathouse, Tyler State Park, Newtown, 9:30 a.m. Contact Janet Lewis ( janet.lewis@alumni.duke.edu) or bcrrclub.com $10 per race.

Browning Ross Winter Series. 5K every Sunday, though Feb. 23. Rowan University parking lot on Bowe Blvd. Race: 1 p.m. Race day registration only. Age group awards. Contact Ringo Adamson 856-904-3543 or tuffgangrunning@yahoo.com

Jan. 1

BCRR Winter Series Cham-Pain 5K. The Boathouse, Tyler State Park, Newtown, noon. Contact Janet Lewis ( janet.lewis@alumni.duke.edu) or bcrrclub.com $10 per race.


E-mail date, name of race, site, time and fee, plus registration information, to sports editor John Quinn at jquinn@phillynews.com. Put Running calendar in re: field.

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