Posted by: Joe English | February 5, 2008

How do you pick your races?

I was flipping through the Race Center Event Guide today — which is a Washington/Oregon publication that lists most of the 2008 races coming up. I found a dizzying array of marathons, triathlons, duathlons, pole-pedal-paddles, running events, and relays. There’s off-road, on-road, cross-country, and trail. There are sprints, intermediate distance and long-distance. And flat, rolling, hilly and mountainous.

By the time I hit page 20 I was thinking to myself, alternately, “I’d love to do all of these races” and “how the heck do you choose?”

I thought about writing a piece on how people can choose races, but instead I thought I’d ask you.

How do you pick your races?

Is it a matter of geography, scheduling, or history? Do you try out different races or do the sames ones over and over.

I’d love to hear what you have to say on this so please comment and let’s get a discussion going.

Coach Joe



  1. Joe,
    My first consideration is to prioritize my year or season. Am I focused on the marathon or 5k? Do I want a special time (i.e. Boston Qualifier or All-American 5k mark). All other races will have to fit the main goal and not detract from it. If regular racing takes me away from training for the “big” event then I shouldn’t be surprised that I also don’t meet my goals.

    Next, the races need to support my conditioning for that main goal. A 10k race will definitely help my conditioning for the marathon but that same 10k only marginally (if at all) helps my 5k.

    Then, I look at variety and fun. Some races are just to get my mind off training all the time. I love doing relay races for that reason. I “train through” these. I don’t have a lot of rest before or after. Instead I use them as one quality workout and mental health.

    As you elude to, it’s too easy to enter races every week. If your goal is to run races regardless of times and only for their enjoyment then go for it. Many runners do so. Just remember, that isn’t a very good path to improvement if in fact that is what you are trying to do.

    Coach Dean

  2. Joe,
    I remember struggling with the same issue until a runners club here in Arizona started up a Grand Prix competition. The person who organized it selected 13 races throughout the year to make part of a Grand Prix competition. If you sign up you compete against other Grand Prix’ers for points in each race. The races range from the mile to the marathon. There are two trail races, one hill climb, two half marathons and even a 10 miler. Since the same Grand Prix’ers are showing up to these races you have a relative measure of how you are doing. All in all this has been terrific in giving me a year long set of races to take part in.


  3. Good question, Coach!

    For me, I pick races fairly close by just because there are so many nice ones. The Tennessee Parks Running Tour is a series of races in my area. I’m fortunate to live in close proximity to some wonderful parks. I run these races every year. The distances vary nicely.

    When it comes to marathons, I like to schedule vacations and trips around the races. What better way to see a new location? I sometimes run the same races, but it sure is alot of fun to run fresh ones as often as possible.

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