Five Factors to Consider When Choosing a Race: What Should a Runner Look For in Their First Event?

After weeks or months of building a base of running miles, new runners may choose to branch out of the ordinary routine by scheduling a race. The 5k (3.1 miles) is the most popular event for newer runners, but there are many from which to choose. A runner should evaluate the possibilities based on several factors, including location, size, support, atmosphere, and the reason for the race.


Location of the Race

Runners often choose to participate in a local event as a way to control those race day jitters. A familiar location and a short commute to the race, along with the opportunity to drive or run the race route before the event, can all help a nervous runner at his first race. However, many people find a destination race (an event in a city known for tourist attractions or a spectacular race day atmosphere) more to their liking. Choosing an event in another city or state will reduce the chance of running into a familiar face for those runners who are still running “under cover”. Running a race in another city also gives the runner the opportunity to create an event around the race itself, whether it’s a weekend getaway or the chance to spend time with friends.

There are several websites that allow runners to find upcoming race events based on location, including Runners’ World and Active.


Size of Running Event

Running events can vary from five participants to thousands, and each runner should think about what size of race is a good fit. Runners who are partaking in their first race may be intimidated by a large crowd. Larger events add complications to race day preparations, including worries about parking and jostling at the start line. However, larger events often have benefits, including well-stocked aid stations, more experienced organizers, and the energy of a crowd to feed off of when the miles seem hard.


Support Along the Race Route

Newer runners and racers may benefit from organized support along the race route. Larger races will typically have at least one aid station, providing water or a sports drink. Events longer than 3.2 miles will have more than one aid station, with additional nutritional items at each station. Mile markers should be well-marked, and some races may have volunteers positioned at the markers shouting out official pace times. This support can be encouraging for runners participating in their first race, so runners participating in their first event should ask about the support available along the race route.
Atmosphere at Races

There are races with a party atmosphere, with music along the race route and a spread of food and beverages at the finish line. There are peaceful events that run along scenic byways, with little fanfare other than the chirping of the birds. There are city races and country races, events for serious competitors and for the weekend runner, and every situation in between. Those signing up for their first race should consider the atmosphere before choosing an event, selecting the mood and environment that best fits their running style.


Support a Charity by Running

There are 5k events with registration fees that benefit breast cancer, heart disease, and lymphoma. Runners can choose to participate in events that support local charities or educational foundations, raise money for medical fees, or fund the maintenance of area trails. As more people turn to running, more organizations are sponsoring a 5k event as a fundraiser. Those new to the racing scene should look to see if there’s an upcoming event with a cause that seems worthwhile, giving the runner yet another reason to feel good after the run.

There are races held every weekend in cities around the world. Runners should carefully evaluate the options and choose the right race for their first running event.