Last week the weather was amazing and it had me in a great mood for running. In fact, I got outside for a fantastic 8 miles in shorts on a warm, sunny day. Friday morning I woke up to another few inches of snow and it ruined my running inspiration. So today I am not chatting about my best races or my worst races….I just can’t get into the racing mood quite yet. Instead, let’s talk about what makes for a really great or a really bad race.
Lack of Facilities: Nothing will put you in a bad mood right from the start than feeling pressed to find a port-a-potty. Last year at Grandma’s Marathon, we arrived an hour before the start and spent the whole time waiting in line to go once! There were actually plenty of facilities but they placed them in a bizarre “U” shape that locked many of them out. Runners were furious and many missed their start corrals (including myself). As I mentioned before, it wouldn’t be a heinous crime if it hadn’t been an issue the year before.
Totally Inaccurate Courses: A few years back, we suckered a bunch of family members into running a 15k trail race with us. Not only was the course advertised to be in Chicago and then later wasn’t, but the course was off by several miles! We were supposed to run 3 loops to make 9.3 miles but after the second loop I was already at 8.5 miles. I ended up quitting at 2 loops and feeling like a failure. Only later did I see that most of the runners did the same thing and some were awarded prizes! The only thing making the situation worse was a lack of advertised beer and no apologies for the crappy course.
Nonexistent Prizes: Last year I ran the RAM Racing Northshore Turkey Trot. I actually had a 10k PR and felt incredibly proud of my performance. Even better, I placed 3rd in my age group. I contacted the race officials and was told that I would receive my medal within 4-6 weeks. In January I contacted them again and was told that the medals were delayed and not to contact again, that they would arrive at some point.
As someone who runs a sports program and hands out medals for various events each year, I know that medals are neither expensive nor difficult to purchase. For a 10k, this race is actually on the pricier side. To wait over 3 months to receive an age group award is a major bummer.
Awesome Amenities: I loved that the Run For The Red Poconos Marathon not only had plenty of port-a-potties at their start, but they also had an indoor location with restrooms near the start. The finish was lined with plenty of support and people ready to assist you.
Awesome From Start To Finish: For a complete race experience, to me there is nothing better than what you will find at the Bank Of America Chicago Marathon. From the buzz (and plenty of facilities) at the start, to the crowd support along the entire course, you will have a blast the entire time. Aid stations nearly ever 2 miles keeps you fueled and hydrated (and lubed). When you finish the race you will be handed a sizeable medal and a big glass of local beer. It seriously doesn’t get much better.
Post Race Refreshments: One of our first races a few years ago was the Hudson Valley 15k. One thing that was super impressive was the home cooked spread at the finish line. Eggs, breakfast items, potatoes, and pasta were waiting at the finish catered by a local restaurant. Everyone gathered in a tent to enjoy the spread and receive local food treats for age group prizes.
Make It A Local Party: A race doesn’t have to be big to be awesome. One of my favorite races was in Alden, Michigan set along the coast of crystal clear Torch Lake. Check in the morning of and receive your tickets for post race drawings. The race runs along local roads and even a few dirt paths. As you finish right downtown, the local men’s club hosts their annual rummage sale fundraiser. Scour the unique finds before gathering on a lawn nearby where prizes were handmade by a local artisan.
What were your best and worst race experiences? Do you prefer big or small races?