Tuesday, October 30, 2018

If You Could Run the Perfect Race....

If you could run the perfect race, what would you look for? After running many races over the years, there are certain things that, while not necessarily deal breakers, make me think twice about registering for a race. And there are some races that almost offer everything this runner could ask for!

One of my favorite races, the Lakefront 10 miler which is organized by the Chicago Area Runners' Association, comes about as close to perfect as it can be, at least for me. With the exception of a garbage hill in the middle of a park that runners have to run up, this event has just about everything I'm looking for in a race. I have no doubt that is because this race is organized for runners by runners.

Here are some of the things I look for when I'm considering whether or not to run a race.



Course: One of the first things I check out when considering a race is the course. Living in pancake-flat Chicago, I look for a flat course with minimal hills. It's what I'm used to. A gentle downhill slope would also be ok. Scenic views along a waterfront are appealing--I hear Grandma's marathon is run entirely along the shores of Lake Superior, which is why I've considered running it several times. I like a point-to-point or a looped course. Out and backs always mess with my mojo. The course should be closed to cars and cyclists.


Time of year: I prefer a spring or fall race. Summer running just takes so much out of me. Winter weather is too unpredictable and icy conditions can be dangerous.

Weather: While in real life, I have no control over the weather, this is my dream race and I get to have it how I like it! I'd prefer sunny and 50 degrees with no wind.


Start time: As long as my cool weather race starts by 9 am, I'm good.

Start line: Corrals well monitored with runners lining up where they are supposed to--a runner can dream, right? My perfect race would not allow strollers or dogs. The long-distance race (15k, 10 mile, half marathon, and/or full marathon) should start before the 5k.

Aid stations: The aid stations never have my fuel of choice, which means I carry my own fuel. My dream race would have Tailwind and Water at all the aid stations. There would also be an abundance of clean portapotties, with 2 ply-toilet paper. Give us the good stuff.

Finish line: The volunteers at the finish lines would wrap the runners in heat sheets and drape the medals over our necks instead of just handing them to us.


Post-race festivities: I'm sorry, but I'm over bagels and bananas. My favorite races serve craft beer, real food, and there are picnic tables or regular tables and chairs for the runners to sit on. I've never gotten a post-race massage because the lines are so long, so while I'm dreaming, let's have plenty of access to those massage therapists and PTs.

Perks: I love free race photos as long as there are photographers scattered along the course. I'd want a race packet mailing option so I could skip the expo. Or at least have race packet pickup at locations scattered around the city and suburbs for Chicago races. My dream race would have free parking that is within walking distance from the start line.

Am I asking too much?

If you could run the perfect race, what would you like to see included? Do you have any deal breakers that would make you avoid signing up for a certain race? Have you run a race that you would consider "perfect"?

I'm linking this post with Marcia, Erika, and Patti for Tuesdays on the Run.








43 comments :

  1. I agree with most of your dream race, but I need it just a tad cooler. And having worked 3 finish lines this fall, it's amazing how many people don't want the medal placed around their neck. That seems to work best when runners have space to walk after the finish line. So add that to your description - space to cool down a bit before the heat sheet and medal. LOL

    -MCM Mama

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    1. It does tend to get a bit congested at the finish line of most races, so yes, I'd agree with that!

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  2. sounds like a real dream. if you find this race, let me know so that I can sign up! (but then they should also have High5 gels at the aid stations...)

    deal breakers - ones I won't do again: not enough spectators on the long distances, not enough portapotties in the starting corrals (Amsterdam was ridiculous, Paris even worse, but I can forgive Paris :)). TOO much elevation (I can handle a hill or two), course change with no real "touristic" views (Dublin RnR this year - what's the point?)courses that are partially on dirt paths and it rained like hell the week before, races that are just too far away from home but close enough to still be in the country (Egmond aan Zee... can't deal with that one anymore).

    deal breakers on courses I haven't run: cut-off times. that's pretty much it. I won't sign up for a race I know I can't do in the time specified.

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    1. I guess they have to cut the races off somewhere so the volunteers can go home! When I ran Big Sur, it was a 6 hour cut-off time and with my poor training, I hoped to make it! They close the PCH for the race, so it makes sense to have a cut-off time.

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  3. I actually prefer some gently rollings hills and a fresh bakery bagel and banana are perfect for me post-race. Other than that, I'm with you. When is the Lakefront 10K? I should keep it in mind ....

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    1. You should! It's usually in April. I'll watch for it and let you know!

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  4. For me the Grand Rapids Marathon and half is the perfect race. although I've recommended it to some and it was not theirs because it doesn't have the most spectators ever. What it does have is mostly flat terrain, weather in the 40-55 degree range, raging fall colors (its run mostly in a forest), super supportive course volunteers and water stops, and chili, beer and frozen custard at the finish. I didn't want any when I got there but I appreciated the novelty. Maybe most important, especially to newer runners is the weekly email you get from the race director the entire training cycle that really encourages. He's run 350+ marathons so he knows a little bit about the things that run through our minds.

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    1. I've heard you talk longingly about GRM and it makes me want to run it (the half now, I guess--LOL!). Sounds pretty near perfect to me!

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  5. My perfect race would have to be a trail race. I love the smaller size, the laid-back atmosphere and the FOOD, both during and after the race.

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    1. I've never run a trail race, but it's so tempting--I think I'd love it!

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  6. I'm typically not terribly hungry after a longer race, so a goody bag is good. :) I do love me a post race massage. My most recent race they did wrap you in the heat blanket, but handed you the medal. And water was after all that -- give me the water stat!

    I'd probably like it about mid 40s, with sun & clouds. No wind. Definitely no rain. :)

    Since it's my dream race, real bathrooms! My last 3 longer races I stayed within walking distance of the start & never had to use a portapotty.

    I don't want a race tee -- give me a jacket, or a hat, or cool clothes. Something useful. I also love a pint glass or a mug.

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    1. Real bathrooms would be a plus but not a deal breaker for me. I can do the portapotty if I have to...

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  7. Yes! I'd love a flat race in the 40s, no wind, with a breakfast buffet at the end. Also, somewhere warm to wait with clean bathrooms and unlimited fuel options for us to stock up on. :)

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  8. You would like the Houston half marathon - tons of spectators, fantastic expo, full breakfast, ice cream sandwiches, all kinds of food post-race, with tables and chairs (!) - for me it's the perfect race when I'm up to running a half marathon.

    That said, even though the race is in January, you never know with the weather. One year we were under a heat advisory. One year it rained. Last year it was perfect weather...but no matter what the conditions, it's a huge event and a lot of fun.

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    1. I always think of Houston as humid! January might be tolerable, tho.

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  9. I love all yours.

    Real bathrooms before & after.
    Chocolate milk post race
    Corrals by finish times
    No race tees. A jacket.
    No medals as AG awards. Pint glasses
    50 and no wind with some sun.
    Minimal hills.
    Water at least every 2 miles.

    Am I asking too much??

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    1. Not too much. I do love a pint glass award!

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  10. Why can't all races have these? I like a flat fast course where the weather isn't too hot. Where there is nice swag and goodies at the end.

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  11. These all sound great! Like someone else mentioned earlier, generous cut off times are nice. The Columbus Nationwide Half/Full is one of my favorites and the other thing it had was an inspirational charity that was really involved. It was for the children's hospital and they were really present throughout the race, which was wonderful.

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    1. That sounds like a great organization! Those are my favorite kinds of races.

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  12. Hi Wendy,
    We would love for you to join us at Grandma's Marathon on June 22, 2019. We have a fast, flat point-to-point course with the temperature at the 7:45am start averaging 56 degrees. Our Saturday marathon allows participants and spectators to celebrate at the Rock the Big Top post-race festivities that take place just beyond the finish line. Anyone that registers for Grandma's Marathon prior to January 1st will receive a free full-zip jacket included with their entry fee. Feel free to email us at grandmas@grandmasmarathon.com if you have any questions. We'd be happy to answer them!
    ~Grandma's Marathon

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    1. I'm thinking about it! I DNS'd a few years ago after my diagnosed with RA. Regrets? Yeah, I have them!

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  13. You just described my perfect race! So if you ever decide to leave the medical field I think you would make a great race director! I be happy to come to your race!

    Grandma’s is great! The only issues is you don’t know what you’ll get for weather! The year I did it the temps were perfect but it rained. But if you want really flat do Fargo, ND! The only “hills” are the underpasses!

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    1. That sounds like Florida--but of course there is that humidity to deal with!

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  14. I agree with a lot of this! I'm ok with some gentle rolling hills because I run on hills all the time except on the treadmill. I would definitely want something in the fall or spring when its not too hot. And making sure people line up where they are supposed to would be really helpful!

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    1. I'm just not a fan of hills. But they aren't a deal breaker.

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  15. I've run several races lately where the volunteers drape the medals around our necks. It's a nice touch. And at my race on Sunday she even wrapped me in a heat sheet!

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    1. When I ran Chicago, every time the volunteers put the medals around our necks. They always made me feel like I won the whole thing. And isn't that what's it's all about?

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  16. Your perfect race sounds great! I don’t mind some rolling hills (usually means nice scenery) and maybe a 0700 start time, but otherwise spot on. :-)
    I love a convenient start/finish lines. SB half shuttles runners from the finish line to the start so when your done you can walk to your hotel.

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    1. Rolling hills wouldn't be a deal breaker if it comes with lovely scenery!

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  17. Your perfect race sounds similar to mine! I also like Saturday races versus Sunday, which are fairly common here in Indiana.

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    1. I actually prefer Sunday because I work so many Saturdays!

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  18. I pretty much agree, though I'm not a fan of point to point because of the bussing involved. Though my next race is point to point, but that's worth it for the downhill course. And I'm with you on the post-race massage! It would be great if they have some stretch therapists too!

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    1. Point to point is not my first choice, but I'll take it over out and back!

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  19. I'd have to go with a winter race. As long as I'm designing the race, I can specify no ice, right? I know you supposedly slow down once it's below freezing, but I run best when it's super cold. Cold, sunny, no wind. Now if only I could control the weather.

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    1. Right? That's the problem with winter races. Ice-especially black ice--is always a possibility.

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  20. I'd agree with these except I love an out and back because I can see loads of people and cheer them on!

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  21. You should really plan a race! Sounds like the perfect one to me too!

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  22. I love when races offer free photos because I feel like that's so rare these days!

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