The sport of running has been on a steady incline for the past decade. Thanks to fun and themed races, the sport has become more appealing to a broader audience of people than ever before. Dangle a carrot like cool medals, rockin’ music, and costumes in front of people who may not otherwise be inclined to seek out a starting line and the result is something trendy that’s actually really good for us.
In a report from Running USA, “fun” is one of the primary motivators for runners, as is health and stress relief. And that’s the key to any workout, really. Choose an exercise you love and you’ll never workout a day in your life… is a pretty fair interpretation of Confucius’ philosophy. The sport can be as fun, challenging, or intense as you want it to be, and fortunately, there are many, many outlets for you to explore.
Races are kind of the crowning achievement for runners, but no runner ever started with a marathon. Find the race that’s right for your style, speed, and goals and use that to keep you motivated and focused on the days you love it least.
One-Mile Fun Run
This is exactly what it sounds like — a one mile race that’s usually more fun than it is competitive. These races tend to open or close bigger event races so that everyone feels welcome, including kids and strollers. These one-milers are ideal for newbies, families, run-walkers, non-competitives, or those who like the souvenir shirt with the least amount of effort!
This is a 3.1-mile race that has become the gold standard for training new runners, thanks to theCouch to 5K (C25K) and similar programs. Three miles is an achievable distance and starts to give you a taste of what all of that finish line excitement is about! This race is ideal for newer runners ready for their first race or who are working on pace. Also, “those with a need for speed and those prefer a shorter race distance with less training time,” advises Coach Alison Heilig, a runner, triathlete, and all-around fitness enthusiast at AcaciaTV.
This is a 6.2-mile race where you’ll start to feel like a “real” runner. This is a popular distance for bigger race events that are focused on time and competition, as it can help weed out newer or slower runners. These races make great practice runs for anyone with half-marathon plans. This race is ideal for “Those who’ve run a few shorter races and are ready to take it up a notch but not yet ready for a longer-term training commitment,” said Heilig.
As the name implies, this race is half the distance of a full marathon. Just 13.1 miles of pavement lie between you and a finish line medal. At this distance, cross training and nutrition become just as important as pace and form.This race is ideal for seasoned runners who’ve properly trained for at least 12 weeks. Heilig picks this race because “This is the most popular race distance now and is perfect for those with a little more experience running who are looking for a challenge and love the idea of putting in the work for a memorable finish down the road.”
A full marathon is a distance of 26.2 miles, a storied length with roots in Ancient Greece and the 1908 London Olympics. Running in these races can be an all-consuming “hobby,” one that is competitive and intense. Training schedules and nutrition plans rule your days for the 12-20 weeks of training ahead of you. This race is ideal for the most experienced runners, which Heilig describes as “Those who’ve run a few half marathons and are now ready to make a bigger time commitment to training and are prepared to make sacrifices to get the training in.” She warns that improper training doesn’t just result in a miserable race, but can be very dangerous for the runner.
Any distance longer than the standardized 26.2 miles is considered an ultra. At this stage, you’re no longer running for “fun,” running is your life and your body is a machine. You should also have a penchant for adventure, as ultras tend to take place over a lot of trails, too. Save these races for the die-hard veteran, well-seasoned runners. Heileg saves ultras for “Those who’ve completed several marathons without injury and recovered well, those with substantial trail running experience, those who prefer endurance over speed, those looking to experience something life-changing, and those with a good amount of time to train on the weekends.”
For the multi-talented runner, a triathlon is another badge of sporting honor. The race distances vary based on the type of tri you may be competing in, like a sprint or Olympic triathlon. However, the standard is the International-Distance Triathlon which includes a 1.5-kilometer swim, 40-kilometer bike ride and a 10-kilometer run. Ideal for experienced athletes with proper training across the three disciplines.
What a half-marathon is to a full, a triathlon is almost to an Ironman. This intense event may be the most physically demanding of them all. While a Half Ironman exists, the full requires athletes to complete a 3.86-kilometer swim, 180.25-kilometer bike ride, and 42.4-kilometer run (that’s a full marathon after a 112-mile bike ride, in case you’re keeping track!). Ideal for experienced athletes who want the ultimate endurance test.
What’s your favorite type of race?