There are lots of factors that go into choosing the right race, especially for our back of the pack runners. Different runners have different needs, and it’s important to keep an eye on the factors that will create the most enjoyable experience.
Check The Race Pace Requirements
The first thing a back of the pack runner should investigate is the race pace requirements. There are races that are “faster” and “slower” than others, and this can make a difference to runners. Compare your pace to the race cutoff to see if they are compatible (be sure to give yourself a little margin of error to account for crowding, water stops, and other minor delays that might slow you down). Also look for “hard sweeps,” meaning time limits on when you need to reach certain points on the course.
Look At Past Results
With so much data available publicly online, it should be easy enough to research your target race’s past results. See how your predicted time compares to past times. If you are comfortable with the placement of where you might finish compared to past runners, go ahead and sign up!
Seek Multi-Distance Events
Some races offer a variety of distances at the same time or on the same day. These are great for back of the pack runners because usually, that means the course stays open for the duration of the longest distance. Not only does this give you more time to complete your chosen event, but it also gives you time to enjoy the post-race festivities. Sometimes it’s nice to get to bask in your accomplishment at the height of the action.
Family-Friendly Runs Are Great
Runs that cater to families are perfect for back of the pack runners. Usually, the field will have non-runners, children, strollers, and plenty of people of all ages and abilities on the course. These are the races with more generous time limits and even more encouragement.
Keep An Eye Out For Fun Themes
Races with fun themes can be a little less strict than others. Look for things like color runs, bubble runs, and other themes. Not only will you be able to go on at your own pace, but you’ll have way more entertainment on the course as you do it.
Larger Races Are Your Friends
The more people on the route, the greater your chances of having more people running your pace. Embrace the crowds on and off the course. Bigger runs generally have a way more impressive spectator culture, too, which definitely helps morale!
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Great tips! For my race this past weekend I was really worried I would be last (I had never run that distance so didn’t know what to expect.) But I was able to look up the results from last year so I could compare my pace, and it was reassuring
I think the main takeaway from your post is that there’s a race for EVERYONE. No one should feel like they’re too slow or “not a real runner.” Races are for all of us.
Lisa @ Mile by Mile says
Great ideas. I’ve had a few runners I coach that have been worried about race cutoff times and it makes the day a bit more stressful when you need to think about that. Sometimes I am surprised by just how strict the cutoffs are!
Darlene S Cardillo says
Great tips. I prefer big races for this reason. It’s not fun to run alone.
Also different distances. The cut off for a half is less strict when there’s also a full.
And if you are not back of the pack normally, for a new distance such a full marathon or ultra, you may now be or for a trail race when you usually run a road race.
Everyone needs to remember that Finishing is Winning. Abd you bat those who stayed home.