literally hundreds and hundreds of half marathon races across the
country and around the world to choose from, how do you pick the one to
run that's right for you, particularly if you are a beginner? For most
people, the answer is most likely driven by their work and vacation
schedules, but it's a good idea to consider as wide a selection of
possible choices before committing to a race.
Especially if you're a beginner and the only race near your local area
is a difficult race designed for experienced runners, you'll want to
consider running your half in another city, to make sure your
experience is a positive one. Here's a few points to consider when
choosing your race:
No doubt, this is the number one factor for most half participants in
most areas. And it's usually a good guide for selecting your race,
especially for beginning or intermediate runners who don't want to take
on the travel and lodging expenses of running a race in a faraway city.
However, consider additional factors when you're selecting the location
of your race, including the number of participants, the course views
and the level of organizational support. Running a race that is
well-attended will be an enjoyable experience that will offer plentiful
fan support along the course, especially through the difficult later
miles and the finish line!
Because nearly all marathons and half marathon races take place in the
fall, winter and spring months, participants usually don't have to
worry about excessive heat during a race. Particularly in Southern
climates, race organizers are careful not to schedule their events
during the often brutally hot summer months.
But rain, snow flurries and other inclement weather can put a damper
(quite literally) on your race, so it's best to check the average
temperatures and rainfall for the area you're considering for your next
half well in advance. This writer has run a couple of events in the
rain, which can slow down your time significantly and make the entire
event a dreary affair, so the advantages of planning for wet weather
(bringing a rain jacket or poncho) are clear.
Also, consider running your half in climates that get little or no
rainfall, such as the Southwestern states, where many races also offer
beautiful, scenic views all along the course.
or trail race?
Road races are by far the more common variety of running races, but
trail races (including 10K, half marathons, full marathons and even
ultra-marathons) are rising in popularity in recreational (and
especially mountainous) areas across the U.S. It's important to note,
however, that trail races generally attract much more experienced
runners and are designed for participants looking for very challenging
Trail running calls for different kinds of shoes and gear, which you'll
need to own and have experience running in before you want to consider
a trail event. For that reason, a road race is probably a more suitable
choice for most runners, unless you feel you have the stamina and
commitment to run a trail race.
This is probably the most difficult element of a half to gauge if you
aren't already familiar with the terrain and the city/area of a race
you're considering running. Some half marathons can have long, steady
elevation changes (such as the marathon & half marathon at the
Bermuda International Race Weekend, which challenges participants with
a steady incline about halfway into the race), while other races
feature almost entirely flat race courses.
You can get some idea of elevation changes on race websites, many of
which offer both course layout and course elevation maps and diagrams.
The best way to get an accurate sense of how "up and down" a particular
half marathon is for runners, however, is to call the race organizers
and ask to speak with someone who's actually run the race herself. Be
sure to ask about particularly difficult spots or rises in elevation,
and recommended ways for runners to tackle them.
Another difficult element to figure out until you actually run the
race, the "fun" factor can mean several different things: How many
people turn out for the race? How many participants take place? Do the
race organizers permit "characters" in the race (people running in
costume, participants running backwards, etc.)? These can make for some
great memories and help take your mind off your run during the race,
which is particularly helpful the further you get into a race.