As we near the end of 2014, I am starting to plan out my race schedule for the upcoming year. I missed many racing opportunities because of my broken arm. I feel a need to make up for lost races. One of the biggest challenges is picking out the races that I want to enter. It is no wonder that it is so difficult to decide on what races to do. According to the website Running in the USA, there are 970 marathons and over 3,000 half marathons to choose from.
The big problem is figuring out a race schedule that one can maintain while allowing for recovery time between races. My big year was 2012. I ran a total of 24 races (various lengths) that year, including 8 half marathons, 3 of which I ran in a 6-week period. While it might seem that I was pushing myself too hard, I found that I achieved a PR in every distance that I ran. I wish I had run a full marathon that year; I probably would have gotten a PR in that too.
My goal for 2015 is to run at least one half marathon per month. I am working on my 50-State challenge and I only have 13 states plus the District of Columbia completed so far. If I ever want to complete the challenge, I have to get running.
Whenever I travel to a race, I talk to other runners about races they have done. I get lots of recommendations from them on races to consider. I also find ideas for races from reviews on blogs and websites like MarathonGuide.com or Halfmarathons.net.
Some people are really into the medal (the bling). The Nike Women’s races hand out a silver Tiffany necklace as the finisher medal. I got one at the Nike Women’s Half in Washington, DC and I wear it all the time. There aren’t many medals that you can or would want to wear after race day. The Miami Marathon and Half Marathon claims to be the first race in the world to have a spinning medal. I have to admit that normally I am not drawn to a race because of its medal. But throw a spinning medal out there and I am in. The Wineglass Marathon in New York’s wine country gives out beautiful handmade-glass finisher “medals” – a nod to Corning, a local glass manufacturer. The RunDisney race series medals are among the nicest that I have received. They are big and usually have a Disney character incorporated into the design.
While the medals and goodies for the runners are important, I look at the course. I like interesting scenery or courses that wind through places that are otherwise off limits. There is a whole race series organized by Vacation Races that goes through National Parks like Rocky Mountain National Park and Yellowstone – arguably some of the most scenic places in the country. The Kentucky Derby Marathon and Half Marathon courses include part of the track at Churchill Downs. The One America 500 Festival Mini Marathon includes a complete lap around the 2.5 mile track at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. While hills can be difficult, there are also challenges to running on a dirt track (you sink in a bit and it can slow you down) or on a race course (the banked track causes one hip to be higher than the other and that can be painful). One of my favorite races was the Detroit International Half Marathon that had us run over a bridge into Canada and back through a tunnel to the US. We had to carry our passports with us during the race. Since I am traveling for many of my races these days, I want to get the most out of my trips. Good courses help make that happen.
I also enjoy races that have funny names like the Flying Pig Marathon (also known for having some of the best runner loot around) and the Mo’ Cowbell Marathon and Half Marathon in St. Charles, MO (all runners get a race-themed cowbell with their entry). I have both of these on my list for next year.
Although I won’t be able to do this one in 2015, I really want to run the Hatfield & McCoy Double Half. This is actually two half marathons that are run consecutively on the same day – one in West Virginia and one in Kentucky. It is crazier than some of the multiple races that I ran this year like the Dopey and the Nut Job. To top it off, in addition to 3 medals, you get a “Mason Jar” trophy. The community goes out of its way to see that the runners have a good time. I like to support races where the organizers are committed to putting on a good event. This is definitely one of them.
The Lincoln Presidential Half in Springfield, IL seems to have it all. The course winds through historic sites including the only home Lincoln ever owned, his law office, the Old State Capitol where he delivered his “House Divided” speech, and his final resting place in Oak Ridge Cemetery. To top it off, the medal is a giant Lincoln penny. How cool is that!
I feel like a little kid with the Sears toy catalog. The more I look, the more races I find to add to my to-do list. Unfortunately, I can only do so many races each month. So many races, so little time!