Monday, March 30, 2015

Tuesdays on the Run: My Dream Race

One of my fave races:
Griffith Park Trail Marathon
As a function of my job, it's important that I "sample" various races. I absolutely have to run the local races because those are the races the majority of my clients will be running. I also need to venture beyond San Diego and see what else is out there, you know, for my job. :) But I also run races just for fun. Really, all races are fun, but there are some that stand out more than others. It would be awesome if I could take all the wonderful-ness of all my favorite races and combine them into my ideal all-time dream race. Imagine the possibilities. Don't mind if I do!

Thanks for reading and if you're here from the Tuesdays on the Run link up hosted by My No-Guilt Life, MCM Mama Runs and Run the Great Wide Somewhere, welcome!

First, I would have to think about the things at races that I don't like. I don't like crowded expos. I just don't. Sure I like to look at stuff and make an impulse buy or two, but after a while all expos look the same. They don't really seem special or stand out when the same vendors are at all of them. I guess this is a problem for the person that runs a lot of races. I also get a bit overwhelmed at these big expos, but that's my own problem. I understand there are tons of folks that love expos and would be sad without one. Therefore, my dream race would have the option of skipping the expo entirely and either have my race bib sent to me or pick it up race morning. You can go to the expo if that's your thing or you can skip it if it's not. More and more races are having this as an option and I'm liking it!

San Diego Half Marathon awesome loop course
(www.sdhalfmarathon.com)
I have to say I'm not a huge fan of point-to-point races. Sure, there are some that I love (NYC Marathon, I'm looking at you) but there are others I did not enjoy because the process of getting either to the race start or back from the finish or whatever the configuration is, was annoying. Worrying about getting a shuttle on time, getting a seat, getting on the right shuttle, etc. Plus you usually have to get up earlier to grab the shuttle, so your nutrition is off. All of it is needless stress for the already stressed out runner. Sure, we could not sign up for a point-to-point race. Well, since this is my dream race, I'm having an out-and-back course. But! But, I would not have any super long stretches where you're running in one direction and seeing the other runners coming back on the other side. I hate wondering where the damn turnaround is. If I needed to do that, it would only be for a mile :) Better yet, I'd do a pretty amazing loop course. And I would make sure that the views were just spectacular. Yes, I know not every race can be beautiful, but there are some races that don't even try. Running down a suburban city street for 10 miles straight is not beautiful. Give me a view of something great, whether it's a scenic skyline, a city park or a great neighborhood, and you'll have me forever.

Since we're having an out-and-back course, we're going to have the best damn parking in the world. For example, at the Griffith Park Trail Marathon this past weekend, the parking was literally steps away from the start/finish. So no need for gear check and you don't have to jump through hoops to get to your car at the end of the race when you're tired and all you want to do is go home. And parking for a race should ALWAYS be free. Also, getting through the finish line should be easy too. This would be a function of the race size and the area where the start/finish is. It should be large enough that there are no bottle necks as you're trying to get through the finish area. But it shouldn't be so large that you hear crickets as you cross the line.

Onto the runners themselves. I really love small races. Well, let me rephrase that. I love races that are small enough where you can actually run without tripping over someone but big enough so that you're never actually alone on the course. You can chat with someone if you want, or target someone to pass, but you will never have to weave in and out of runners. I think the size of the field should depend on the size of the trail/road you have to run on. The more narrow the route, the less runners you should have.

From the 2014
Marine Corps Marathon
So, while I may want fewer runners out there, I want thousands of spectators out there. Really. Thousands. It makes a huge difference, as I talked about last week. Having spectators cheer for you, carry clever signs, tell you you're awesome throughout a race is the shit. Without spectators, it's a lonely place out there! Especially if you're struggling. At my race, there could be a spectator-runner match up where every runner has a spectator just for them (this is important if you've traveled to a race and don't have anyone there to cheer for you). This spectator makes signs for you, moves around the route to be sure they see you more than once and are at the finish to scream for you as you cross the line. This would be kind of like signing up for a pace group, only you're signing up for a spectator group.


Free race pic from
Revel Canyon City HM
Next would be pictures. We all love race photos but we don't love to pay the crazy prices for them. Twenty bucks for a 4 x 6 is not my idea of a deal. A lot of races are now offering their photos to runners for free. They may not be the best quality or they may have the race logo on them, but that's ok. Most photos are just going online someplace anyway; they don't have to be top notch quality. And it's fine if the race logo is on there too. In fact, that's great because it reminds you what race it's from. I know the price of the photos goes towards paying the photographers. I'm not saying they shouldn't be paid. Maybe less photogs or offer one pic free. Hey, it's my dream race. Photos will be free!

Onto food. The aid stations need to have real food. Fruit, pretzels, chips, potatoes, you name it. I usually run with real food (pretzels) in addition to energy chews (Honey Stingers), so having real food at aid stations is really appealing to me. At most trail races I do, the aid stations have real food and I've just become accustomed to it. Yes, I'm an aid station snob. I realize this is expensive but local businesses can donate food, the aid station volunteers can coordinate what they bring (this is how trail races do it) or it can be rolled into the price of the race. Runners rely on aid stations and having fully stocked stations will ensure the runners get all they need to have the most success during the race. The food at the end of the race should be pretty rocking too. As I discussed a few weeks ago, post-race food is an art. Fruit, water, coconut water, hummus and veggies, etc. have all made appearances at some of the races I've done, much to my appreciation. A lot of runners run for the food so we might as well have a good spread at the end. Lots of pumpkin bread, fruit, coconut water and sandwiches at my dream race! Oh, and let's not forget the finest craft brews! You've earned one!

Awesome belt buckle from
Griffith Park Trail Marathon
Last but not least: the swag. One race that gave out the best swag was the now-defunct Frederick Marathon in Frederick, Maryland. The first year I did it, they gave you an official tech race shirt, a hat, your medal and also a cotton finishers tee. The next time I did it, they didn't have that stuff (it does get expensive) but that's why you keep a race small! I would make sure the shirts are gender specific, and yummy. No woman wants to wear a man's running shirt. And I'm sorry, unisex shirts are not flattering for women. They need to be soft and designed in a way that would persuade the runners to actually wear them again. Medals are getting more and more elaborate, so I'm not sure I'd even have one. Or I'd have something else entirely. I love races that do the belt buckle thing, pint glasses, hats, bottle openers, wine glasses and bottles of wine (some Napa Valley races do this!) and other unconventional things.

If you could design your own dream race, what would it have? What do you look forward to the most at the races you do?

11 comments:

  1. I like your ideas for a dream race - I love the idea of having your very own spectator. That would be great to keep your spirits up! I hate the crazy crowds of larger races too. And did you say pumpkin bread?? Yes please! Photos and parking are way too expensive and such a pain.

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    1. I may have to explore this spectator-runner match up idea!! Yes! Pumpkin bread! At the Phoenix Marathon a local baker was there with pumpkin bread. It was amazing and really hit the spot after the race.

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  2. I think you've defined the perfect race pretty well so far! I would add:

    1. A large number of porta-johns at the start and finish, and every 2 - 3 miles in between. And, they need to be clean! There's nothing worse than huge lines and bad smells during a time that everyone is already stressing out over getting to the starting line, or getting to the next mile.

    2. Great music at the starting line! Music sets the tone (pun intended) for the race, but above all, it needs to be set at a level that creates no distortion. Not that I'm a music snob or anything. Or maybe I am...

    3. Announcers at the starting line who can pump up the runners, but who are also intelligible. So many times, it is almost impossible to hear and understand what they are saying.

    4. Sprinklers at regular intervals along the race course. I love how great it feels to be just slightly soaked and cooled down by a perfectly placed sprinkler on the side of the road.

    5. Large screen monitors of the runners, in real time, along the route. It would be cool to see yourself and other runners on screen as you approach it. Kind of a pick-me-up and distraction at the same time.

    Maybe I should start a campaign? :)

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    1. Yes! How could I have forgotten the port-o-johns?? An endless supply of clean bathrooms would really be my dream!! I like the music idea too. We should join forces!

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  3. Awesome list! I really love that size race too. I hate running in a big pack, but I worry I'll get lost if I'm all alone on a race course! And I completely agree on the loop instead of an out and back. Asheville had some great food at all the water stops which was a nice perk (even Thin Mints!). Thanks for linking up with us today!

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    1. Ooh Thin Mints. I bet they were really refreshing. I may need to experiment with running with them 😉

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  4. I enjoy large races, large expos, and large bling! I love the whole atmosphere of it all. But you are right all the race expos are starting to be the same! -M

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    1. I generally like large races too but now large races are coming with snafus with parking, high prices, etc. I'm starting to get a little over it. Though I still sign up for them, so I'm a glutton for punishment! ;)

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  5. I agree about the expo...same vendors. Just give me my bib. My own spectator would be so sweet as I go to a lot of these things solo. Someone cheering for me...Yay.

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    1. I really need to explore this idea. Imagine how awesome it would be to have your very own person at the race. Such a morale boost!!

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  6. That might be a fundraising idea for the MCRD obstacle course run. I would raise extra funds to have a Marine running next to me the whole way. My own battle buddy!

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