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Downtown Temple,NH

Friday, May 16, 2008

Why do we run the races we do?

I was having a discussion with some friends the other day about what race we were all doing next...and it got me thinking: What the heck drives me to pick the races I do? I'd like to think I have some logic to it all, whether it's cost, location, size of field, etc... but honestly, I'm not sure if I actually use logic. In fact, I bet if I thought about all the races I've done and why I'd come up with different reasons for running almost every time. I think there's two ways to look at it though.

How do I select a NEW (to me) race?
This one has a lot of variables. It also depends on the season and what I'm looking for. Some of the criteria that comes to mind are as follows:
  • I can't think of a lot of races I've done that were in their 1st year of existence. There are soooo many choices out there that I rarely take chances on 'start up' races. With everything, there are exceptions though. I'll run a new race if it's for a cause I want to support or if it offers something 'new' or challenging. A new 5k in the city? Highly unlikely. A new 1/2 marathon in a scenic area? Probably.
  • I prefer Saturday races to Sunday races.
  • I like a race that provides a lot of information. I like races with dedicated websites, course maps and descriptions, elevation profiles, past results, pictures, etc..
  • Word of mouth helps. If friends of mine have positive things to say about a race then I'm more likely to run it.
  • Location is sometimes a factor. I've driven 2-3 hrs for a race before but it has to be something that isn't offered locally. In other words, I won't drive 2 hrs for a 5k but I would for a 14 mile trail race. I also prefer to run in New Hampshire if possible. More because it's familiar territory. I prefer not to run races in major cities or even minor cities for that matter. It's easy to avoid cities when you limit your racing to New Hampshire.
  • Sometimes I just 'feel' like racing or just want to test my current fitness. Like my training, my racing sometimes is based on how I feel at the moment. I generally do not sign up for too many races in advance. If I'm feeling good and just want to race I'll search Coolrunning for whatever is available.
Why do I do a race more than once?
This one is a bit easier to answer and has more logic applied to it.
  • I had a good race experience the first time. Kind of general but enough said.
  • I like the course. I typically do not like pancake flat courses...any distance. Some rolling hills and I'm good. Too many turns or 'out and backs' are not for me either.
  • A scenic course is sometimes nice but rarely enjoyed. However, if I do have time to look around I might as well look around at some nice scenery.
  • Near the top is a well organized race. This includes registration, starting on time, well marked course, traffic control and friendly volunteers. This would also include posting of race results in a timely fashion, both at the finish and online.
  • Post race food and drink can be a factor but not that important in the grand scheme of things. Some races do have some incredible eats and this does play a small part in me coming back. Others are not so good but I like the course so I'll do it anyways. The only time I'll complain about food is either there is very little compared to the cost of the race OR there is not enough for all competitors. Sometimes I do get the sense the RD is only looking to make money and doesn't care enough about the actual runners doing the race. It's definitely a fine line though. If the RD crosses it, I'm done and won't come back.
  • Sometimes I run races just because I've run it before. I love data, I time everything and I always want to improve. I race against myself. I want to constantly improve so it's nice to be able to measure performance with a known distance and course.
I rarely run 'because' of the t-shirt but I have to admit there are some that I like more than others. I would love two things to happen though. I'd like to see race directors provide an option of running the race without a t-shirt (at a reduced cost). Even I have to admit I have a t-shirt collection that is totally out of control. I really do not need anymore. The other thing I'd like to see is a switch from cotton t-shirts to tech shirts. I rarely wear t-shirts anymore and LOVE tech shirts. Some races have done this (both provide a t-shirt as on option and/or supply tech shirts). Lets keep this trend going (although I'm not sure how much of a trend it actually is...).


Jim Hansen said...

What about racing where your competition (friends) are racing? I like to race where I can see the same people (teamamtes) and key off of and push each other.

Steve W said...

Although I also love competition, especially among friends, I also need to enjoy the race itself. Thankfully most of us are creatures of habit and tend to run the same races anyways!