Thursday, January 8, 2015

Thursday Three: Favorite Races

I'm not racing this month, but I already wish I was.  Now that I'm back in the swing of things and have my 2015 calendar more or less planned out, I'm impatient to race!  And, yes, I know I need to be cautious and build my base slowly and ease back into things, but.  But.

Seriously, unless this is literally your first time reading my blog, I think you know how that "patience is a virtue" thing is working out for me.

Anyhoodles, I've got racing on the brain today, so let's talk about my three favorites.  This is a pretty subjective topic, obviously, but I based my "favorite" status on a couple of factors:  the race course, how well I performed on said course, the atmosphere/race direction, and schwag.  Because I do enjoy a nice medal if there's one available.

1.  The California International Marathon.  You are not surprised that this is my number one choice (unless, again, it's your first time here, and if it is - welcome!).  I freaking LOVE this race.  They call it a "net downhill" race, but there are plenty of hills on your way down to the finish line.  It's challenging, but not crazy difficult.  The weather occasionally cooperates with a really lovely day, or sometimes a monsoon.  It's well organized, the expo is nice and they now offer a free shuttle to the start for everybody (you used to have to pay for it).  I ran my PR at the CIM back in 2010, but have NOT run a PW on this course, so that's cool (never mind the DNF I took in 2013).  On the down side, the t-shirts are hit or miss, mostly miss, and the schwag is non-existent.  Well, they send you a virtual goody bag after the race, but it's all discounts, it's not actual stuff.  Pretty lame.  Back on the plus side, the medals are good-sized, and good looking without being flashy.  What makes this my favorite race, though, aside from the convenience of being run practically in my back yard, is the atmosphere.  This race has fabulous spectators and the perfect amount of runners - just under 10,000.  You're never alone on the course, but you're not running shoulder-to-shoulder the whole way, either.  I've cruised across the finish line five times so far and have already signed up for the 2015 race.  I can't wait!!

First finish, 2009.  So very, very happy!
2.  The American River 50 Mile Endurance Run.  This race had me at hello.  I've run it as a pacer for UltraIronHubs and as an individual racer, and I wholeheartedly encourage you, if you are considering running a 50-miler, to run this one.  The course is challenging, obviously - it's 50 miles long! - but not so bad that a regular runner like me can't tackle it.  It's the second largest 50-miler in America, which means that they've got this thing locked down.  It's a very well-marked, well-spectated, and well-volunteered race.  You are never alone or wanting for anything while you're running here.  There are regular sweepers and medical personnel traveling the course to keep you safe and on time.  The only reason I'm not running it this year is because it's on a Saturday right in the middle of track season, and even though I can't remember the last time I attended an Open House or field trip, I don't ever like to miss watching my kids run!  The party at the finish line and the schwag are quite lovely - the medal hangs proudly in my hallway display and I wear my finisher's jacket all the time.

Seat belt selfie!
3.  The Urban Cow Half Marathon.  Way, way, waaaaaaay back in 2007, when it was still called the Cowtown Half, this was my first half marathon.  I haven't run it again since then, but I've spectated for so many years that it still makes the list of favorite races!  This race is all about having fun and running fast.  The weather here in early October is about as gorgeous as you can ask for, it's extremely well-organized, and you know what?  It's just FUN!  This race has a friendly, come-and-party-with-us vibe, even though it's designed with serious racing in mind.  The course is mostly flat and beginner-friendly.  There are also 5K and half relay options.  My favorite part, though, and one of the reasons I think of this race fondly every time I spectate at any race, is the fact that the medal is a real-life cowbell!!

Half marathon newbies!  Dang we look young!
This year's race schedule has so many new-to-me races on it, I'm already giddy with excitement.  I mean, of course I love my old standbys and I don't foresee a future where I don't run the CIM, but I'm really looking forward to falling in love with a new race, too.

What makes a race your favorite?  Are you all about the PRs and the bling, or are you swayed by course features and organization?


Coach Dion said...

I dout very much that I will be in PR shape this year, so none of my races are based on speed... That said I love any race I find myself on the start line for...

Laurie said...

Looks like a great schedule! My friend Heather and I were really pushing to make AR50 our first 50 but because it's Easter weekend, we just couldn't make it work out. I definitely have it on my radar...hopefully next year!

Although I love PRs, the course and organization play a much bigger role in determining my favorites...that and the swag, I love races with awesome shirts and usable awards, like pint glasses. :)