Is there anything more exciting than looking at a fresh calendar and plotting out your races for the upcoming year? It’s tempting to give in to FOMO and register for all the races, but that could make for a pretty stressful year. How do you choose which races to add to your list? We’ve gathered our best tips plus advice from a coach on how to pick your races for 2020.
Do a Reality Check
Before you take a deep dive into which races should be on your 2020 calendar, do a quick reality check. Do you have kids? Is your job particularly demanding? Has your runner’s knee been acting up?
Another big factor to keep in mind is the size of your travel budget. It’s not just the cost of race registration that you have to think about. How expensive are the hotels in the area? Will you have to fly? What about food?
It’s exciting and motivating to plan out your race calendar for a new year, but before you drop dough down on a race, take an honest look at what is going on in your life and how much time and money you will have to dedicate to training and racing.
Focus on Your Goals
Is a BQ on the table? Do you want to knock a few races off of your 50-state list? Do you want to explore a new area? Solidify your goals now to clarify your race choices for the new year.
Road Runners Club of America–certified run coach and BibRave Pro Vanessa Junkin recommends that runners choose one or two-goal races for the year and then plan around those. “Think about what your goals are for your race or races, too,” says Junkin. If your 2020 goal is to nail a new distance or time, Junkin cautions that you should avoid wearing yourself down by racing too often.
Are You Ready for This?
One factor that often gets overlooked when training for a race is how well you will be able to prepare for the weather and terrain of your goal race. During the cold winter months, we all dream about warm weather race-cations. However, will you be able to properly train and prepare for a hot, humid marathon while you are logging your miles in the snow? The same rule applies in reverse, although it is easier to pull off a race in cooler temps even if you’ve been training in the heat. If you’re running for fun, it’s less of a factor, but if you are trying to hit a time goal in Miami while training through the winter in Chicago, you may be setting yourself up for disappointment.
It’s the same story when it comes to the racecourse. If you’re only able to train on the roads or on a treadmill, this may not be the time to add a trail race to your calendar. Will you be prepared for a race with hills? It’s possible to train for hilly courses even if you don’t have a hill nearby (think bridge overpasses, stair running, and indoor stair climbing machines), but it’s important to know how you will handle the training before you sign up.
Finally, do you have enough time to safely train for the races on your calendar? That February ultra is an intriguing thought, but if you don’t have the miles under your feet by now, it’s a bad idea. If you’re starting from scratch, Junkin recommends taking at least two to three months to ease into a running routine before you toe the line at a 5K. Add about four months onto that training if you’re shooting for a marathon.
Check the Rep
Now that you’ve narrowed down your goal and how many races it will take to get there, it’s time for the fun part—choosing your races. But with so many races out there, how do you know which ones are worth your time and effort?
One of our favorite resources is The BibRave 100, the definitive list of the best races in America. Whether you’re looking for a fast and fun 1-miler or a gorgeously scenic marathon, The BibRave 100 is your guide to the best of the best. Another great resource is BibRave.com, where runners write and share reviews for hundreds of races. When in doubt, ask around on social media to find out if a race is worth adding to your calendar.