Wondering What Type of Race You Should Run?

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It might take a couple months, a year or even half a lifetime, but eventually most folks who start running on a regular basis decide to take it one step further by signing up for a full-fledged race. Even for those who don’t consider themselves “competitive,” running in an organized race is a great way stay motivated, test current fitness levels, breaking a sweat and bask in personal post-race glory alongside hundreds, if not thousands, other runners on a like-minded mission.

what type of race should I run

But, if you’ve never touched toe to the start line of a race, the sheer variety of endurance events and unfamiliarity of the “scene” can make it overwhelming and even intimidating to click the “register me” button. The best advice is to seek suggestions from seasoned veterans, poke around to find out what local races friends and family have found to be newbie-friendly. Even then, the “type of race,” should suit your own unique personality and running preferences. Read on to get the high-level low down on some popular “types” of races:

3m half marathon 2017 jen runTraditional Road Race: An old school foot race on paved road is a smart choice for your race debut. With popular distances ranging from 5k to marathon, you can usually find at least one event to pick from every single weekend in bigger cities, especially during the fall and spring. With fields of a few dozen people to those capped at tens of thousands, the traditional road race offers a safe, speedy and social way to race. Plus, most post-race parties are filled with lots of food, music and festivities, making even a disappointing finish well worth the agony. The Rock & Roll Race Series puts on a bunch of half and full marathons around the world that are typically well-supported, lively and perfect for a first-timer in those distances. Also, Runner’s World magazine has a searchable Race Finder that can help you find the perfect match.

track valerieAll-Comer Track Meets: These “everyone’s welcome” track meets bring out runners of all ages and abilities as they test their inner Olympic athlete on the cinder oval. Usually held during the summer, these events feature everything from the 100 meter to the 1 mile and will shape you up for some fast fall season racing! Check with USTAF, local running store or running club to see if these events are held in your area. The Maze Trail Run Jennifer FisherTrail Races: If not one to follow the proverbial pack, running off-road may be your answer to the call of the wild. Not only is trail racing a great way to enjoy Mother Nature’s wonder, you can practice your fancy footwork and navigation skills on all sorts of terrain from tame groomed trails to gnarly paths and rocky ascents. Many of the legendary trail runs like Badwater and Western States Endurance Run  are 100+ mile ultra marathons not meant for first-timers, but there are plenty of shorter, simpler trail runs that will earn your those trail legs. Check out the searchable Race Calendar at Trail Runner Magazine to find races if all distances and types. hood to coast van two getting readyDistance Relay Races: Do you like hanging out with friends, crave adventure and want to make your race experience last as long as possible? Then pack your weekend bag with clothes changes and snacks, an endurance relay race might be for you!  These increasing popular events typically span a couple days and involve a team of runners tackling a race in legs, straight through the day and night. You’ll need a driver with good navigation skills, a van large enough to hold the team and a high tolerance level for close quarters, sleep-deprived quibbling and unusual smells – oh and memory-making fun! The most well-known relay race is the almost 200 mile Hood to Coast Relay in Oregon, but there are other well run ones including the many locations of Ragnar Relay SeriesSpartan Beast Dallas Barbed Wire CrawlObstacle Course / Mud Run: If you enjoy running and are a general fitness junkie, you’ll likely find obstacle course racing to challenge both passions. Testing both cardiovascular stamina and physical strength, this type of race will require you to be simultaneously fleet on your feet, agile and strong. Plan on traipsing through all sorts of terrain including mud, streams, lakes, sand and rocky terrain and tackling 20 to 30 obstacles ranging from rope climbs, sand bag hauls, wall scaling, balance elements and more.  Some of the most well-known around the country are Spartan Race and Tough Mudder, but you can find local races and mud runs at  MudRaceGuide.com.

What is your favorite type of race? What’s next on your list? Please share in the comments — XOXO, Jennifer

16 thoughts on “Wondering What Type of Race You Should Run?

    • Those long relays are fun . . .but exhausting, especially if you’re also travelling a distance to the venue.

  1. Trail for me! The longer, the better. 🙂 Though I do like to mix in the excitement and big crowds of road race from time to time

    • I love all the races too! the long relay races are fun because of the team, but so hard to stay awake that long and race on tired legs — but everyone in same boat

    • thanks Deb . . . frankly, I like road races better too . . .unless there are obstacles on the trail. Oh but the relays fun too . . okay, I like ALL THE RUNS

    • I have don’t TONS of trail races (except trail in spartans), but the ones I have done have been very beautiful and cooler (which is important in texas)

  2. This is such a great breakdown of all the different options. I love road races but am also a huge fan of relays. My next goal is to venture into trail races!

  3. Road races are my go-to, but I’ve been wanting to do a Ragnar Relay and a trail race. Now that I’m in a less urban environment, I think both of those will be more feasible :).

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