I'm not really sure what variables make a race great. Personally, I have great races when I run well and feel strong. But what about the actual race itself? What sets certain events apart from others? It can be the scenery, course profile, crowd support, or exceptional volunteers.
There are some races I do every year due to the convenient location, but I don't necessarily love them. Then there are other races I rave about and make a point to try to run each year. Here are a handful of my favorites:
1. George Sheehan Classic. 5k, kids' races, 6/16/12, Red Bank, NJ.
This used to be a 5 mile race, but this year it's turned into a 5k. It's my 5k goal race. I ran the 5 mile version in 2007 and 2009.
What makes it great: It's a large race through the beautiful neighborhoods of Red Bank, NJ. The atmosphere at the start of this race is incredible. "Born to Run" by Jersey boy Springsteen blasts and you can literally feel the energy of the runners around you. The course is challenging (at least the 5mi course was) and it's usually hot. But there are plenty of water stops, shaded areas, and people who live along the course who turn their sprinklers and hoses on so the runners can cool off. There's also a yummy post-race picnic down by the water.
2. Turkey Swamp Race Day. 10 miler, 25k, 20 miler, 50k trail races, 8/19/12, Freehold, NJ.
I ran the 10 miler in 2009 and the 20 miler in 2010. I'm not sure if I'll get to run it this year, but I hope I will!
What makes it great: This trail race is a completely no-frills race. I usually love running fast and going all out, but the laid back atmosphere of this race is just so appealing to me. You run multiple 2.5 mile loops through trails, dirt roads, and grass. Unlike other trail races I've done, this one feels safer. The trails aren't too narrow and you're not on them for the whole loop, so you don't have to constantly be on the lookout for branches. I love that it's a loop. Many people may find this boring, but with a trail race, I like knowing where the obstacles are. Plus, it's nice to see your cheering squad often and know exactly where they will be.
3. Spinx Run Fest. 5k, half marathon, full marathon, 10/27/12, Greenville, SC.
I ran the half marathon in 2008 and 2009, and the full marathon in 2010. I'll likely do the half this year.
What makes it great: Downtown Greenville is just gorgeous so it's always a treat to run a race there. This race is large enough that you never feel alone, but not crowded enough that you can't get by people in the beginning. It's definitely a challenging course, so if you don't like hills, it's probably not the best race to choose. I prefer the half marathon to the full marathon because the full takes you through less scenic areas. An added bonus: the race finishes in the Greenville Drive's baseball stadium. So much fun!
4. Walt Disney World Marathon weekend. 5k, half marathon, full marathon, half and full (Goofy challenge) kids' races, 1/10/13- 1/13/13, Disney World, FL.
I ran the full marathon in 2009 and half in 2010. I'm going Goofy in 2013!
What makes it great: Umm because it's Disney! Seriously, Disney prides themselves on making things magical, and this event is definitely a celebration. From fireworks at the start, to running through all the theme parks, to characters, bands, cheerleaders, and choirs lining the course, to the awesome finisher medals, this race has it all. The full marathon sometimes gets a bad rep for being too crowded and boring at times; the roads between the parks are not really that exciting. For the 2013, 20th anniversary marathon, though, Disney has changed up the course. Runners will now run around the Speedway and through the Wide World of Sports Complex to minimize the so-called boring parts. But the best part of this race? Except for a few overpasses, it's completely flat!
What are your favorite races and why do you love them? I'm always keeping my eyes peeled for new races that are guaranteed to be fun!