The Long Run: Picking Races

Photo: Jenny Jurek

Picking an exotic, overseas race can be hugely motivating.

With the increasing number of races we have more options than ever to test our abilities and reach our goals. But that’s both a blessing and a curse, because selecting events can be a tough task, especially when races have early entry deadlines and fill within hours (and sometimes even minutes) of registration opening. To make the process less overwhelming, I’ve broken down events into three categories—goal races, training races and fun races—and offer guidelines for each.

RELATED: The Dos and Don’ts Of Destination Racing

GOAL RACES

Select your goal races and build your season around those key events. Goal races can help you stay focused and motivate you so your day-to-day training has purpose and intention.

Destination: The goal race is special and it can be highly motivating to choose an event that has an inspiring location or legendary course. The location might also have a rich history or reputation like the Boston Marathon or the Dipsea trail race.

Tradition: If you have a tradition of making a local race one of your goal races, you can track your performances (and your training) from year to year, and the familiarity of the event can be a big benefit come race day.

Competition: My goal events are based heavily on competitive fields and everyone can benefit from a little competition. If an extra boost is needed, pick a goal event that has a high number of finishers in your age group or within range of your time goals.

Training Partners: Choose an event that falls around the same time as your fellow training partners’ goal races. Having similar training calendars will make it easier to coordinate training runs.

Dedication: Picking a goal event that is in honor of someone or something special can be a strong motivator in training and while racing.

TRAINING RACES

After choosing a goal race, find places to incorporate training races into your season and help support the buildup to your bigger goal events. These events are usually shorter in distance than the goal event, are often taken less seriously and include minimal tapering.

Tracking: One of the most important benefits of training races is being able to track the progress of your fitness though racing these training events. Include a couple of training races that provide the best insight on fitness (i.e. half-marathons for a marathon goal, 10Ks for a half-marathon goal). Also, consider using shorter events as tempo workouts, fartleks or other speed sessions.

Simulation: Make sure training races simulate goal race conditions and terrain. Training races should also be used to practice hydration and fueling strategies or any other elements needed in the goal race.

Go Local: Training races provide the opportunity to do events in the local community and race against the competition that may not be at your goal events.

FUN RACES

These races may have training race elements, but they don’t have a specific purpose outside of the number one goal for all racing—pure fun. It reminds me that running doesn’t always have to be taken so seriously.

Mix It Up: Don’t be afraid to pick training events that are out of the normal routine or specialty. Hop in a road race if the goal race is on the trails and vice versa. Or if training for a marathon or ultra, hit a 5K to feel the burn of short-and-fast racing.

Charity/Team Racing: Enter a charity event with family or friends, even if it means running at a slower pace, or get a group together to run a team or relay event.

Fitness Goals: Entering races for fun as a way to stay in shape is no less important and a reminder to us all of what matters most.

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About The Author:

Based in Boulder, Colo., Scott Jurek is a seven-time winner of the Western States 100-mile trail run and author of “Eat and Run” [Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012].

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