How to Choose Your Next Race

Have you ever noticed that when spring rolls around, your local running trails (and sidewalks) suddenly begin teeming with runners that you never knew existed?  The onset of spring weather motivates and inspires a lot of runners to resume running and add some races to your calendar.

If you watched any of Monday’s Boston Marathon, I can almost guarantee you felt inspired by that as well.  Seeing Meb become the first American winner in 31 years, feeling all the heavy emotions and honored memories of last year’s tragedies, and seeing all those runners stream across the finish line.  I’d venture to guess that many of you started thinking about adding a race to your calendar for the coming months.

If I’m right, then I hope these 7 tips on how to choose your next race will be helpful!  And remember … now that I’m a certified running coach, I’m happy to help you out in selecting and training for your next race! Email me at or fill out a request form on my Health Coaching page to get started! 7 tips to choose your next race

  1. Consider your current running fitness.  If you don’t run at all right now, it’s probably not the best idea to set your sights on a half marathon in a few months.  Even if you work out regularly, running has a different impact on your body, and you need to build up your mileage carefully to avoid injury.  If you’re just beginning on your running journey (or coming back after years off), I’d recommend a 5K or a 5-mile race to get started.
  2. Consider your long-term goals.  Do you want to run a marathon, eventually?  Or, are you really hankering to break that 25-minute barrier in the 5K?  Or, do you have another goal all together?  While you don’t always have to be training for your long-term goals, it’s worth considering your progression to get there – you’ll never be appropriately trained for a marathon if you fill your calendar with only 5Ks year after year.
  3. Consider your time horizon.  How anxious did the marathon (or the spring weather) make you?  Are you looking to add something to your calendar in the next few months?  Or do you want to dedicate more time to your training and prepare to conquer a fall or winter race?  Your chosen race distance and time goals should take into account the time you have to achieve them.
  4. Consider specific dates.  Once you have a season picked out, consider specific dates.  Are there family trips, holidays, big work projects, social events, in-town visitors, or other reasons to avoid particular dates?  Be sure to double-check your calendar before committing to a race date!  (At the risk of being “TMI,” some women also like to consider the time of the month, which is not a bad idea according to Coach Jenny).
  5. Consider location.  Do you want to go for the convenience and low-stress of a local race?  Some of my best performances have had starting lines within a few miles of my house – so that I actually ran to the race as a warm-up and avoided parking!  Being able to stay at home reduces the worry of sleeping in a foreign bed, eating unfamiliar food, long days of travel, and more.  At the same time, choosing a “destination race” can be a great way to celebrate your accomplishments, enjoy a new location, and include other members of your family or friends.  In the end, you have to decide what is best for you, your budget, and your family.
  6. Consider the weather.  Sadly, it’s impossible to predict exactly what the weather on race day will be like, but it’s helpful to take a look at average temperatures and aim for moderate weather.  I think my ideal race temperatures are in the high 40s, but this will vary by person.  Check out my tips on how to dress for cold weather exercise, my reminder to hydrate even when it’s cold, and my tips for running safely in the heat if you’ll be running in potentially extreme temperatures!
  7. Consider race reviews.  Check out the course elevation profile (especially if you don’t regularly train on hills), what others had to say about crowd support, on-course water stops, race organization, and more.  You can learn a lot about a race simply by Googling it, so do your research before you commit to a major goal!

If you’re ready, go ahead and choose a race, and start planning to achieve your goal!  I like using, Runner’s World Race Finder and Competitor to search for races, although there are many other good options, too!

So tell me in the comments … When is your next race?  What’s your best tip for choosing a race?