What’s your next race?

Each year in the UK there are hundreds of races.  How do you know which race to run?  Deciding which race to run is a big decision for us runners.  Some runners want to break a PB at a certain distance, while other runners might have never raced that distance before and fancy a new challenge.

I’ve ran races of all distances up to marathon, running a race further than a marathon is a bit bonkers, plenty of folk do it but it’s not for me.  I don’t really have a preferred race distance, maybe 10 milers, they are easy on the pacing maths.

I spoke before about targeting races.  Building your training up for a race.  But also make sure you run the race for a reason.  I love running the smaller local races in Staffordshire where I live.  These small races are mainly organised by local running clubs as their big fundraiser for the year.  These big fundraisers are how running clubs survive.  Each race has about 300 to 500 runners in.  After running a handful of races you begin to recognise faces and if you do enough of these races you’ll meet new friends.

I’m very passionate about local races.  It’s runners looking after running.  Bit like when folk bang on about shopping on your local highstreet, if you stop doing it you’ll have a town full of boarded up shops.  There’s nothing wrong with big city races.  I’d love to run London one day.  I’ve ran the big city races with 7000 plus runners.  It’s good fun.  But there’s something magic about running with friends and running on familiar streets past friends, family and that bloke that you always call ‘mate’ because you can’t remember his name.

I’m not sure whether other parts of the country have such a thing but in Staffordshire we have a thing called the North Staffs Road Runners Association.  Now it sounds very serious and you’re probably thinking it’s for serious runners.  But it isn’t.  It was set up many many years ago by local runners to encourage local runners to run in their local races.  Every year the people at the NSRRA pick 20 local races and put them into a league.  All different types of distance, 5k all the way up to marathons some years.  Anyone can enter the league.  When you enter you’re put in a group with other runners of similar ability.  Then over the course of the year when you run these local races and pick up points depending on where you finish.  The runner in your group with the best average points score wins.  Oh, I nearly forgot you have to do a minimum 12 of 20 races to qualify to win your group.  The races are spread out from March till November.  It’s a fantastic idea and it keeps the interest going in all these great local races.

Last year I did ‘The League’ that’s what we call it.  12 races plus a few extra ones here and there.  I did far too many races last year.  If I’d have had tried to do the league again this year, I’d probably be in the divorce courts, what with parkruns and learning how to be coach!  This year I decided that I was only going to do 4 races.  I was going to pick them wisely.

The Temple Newsam 10 in Leeds.  My favourite race of the year, I’ve ran everyone since it started.  It’s a 10 mile trail race in January organised by a good friend of my wife.  It’s tough, but I always seem to run well there and it’s that magic 10 mile distance.

The Newcastle 10k.  My favourite race of the year.  The Newcastle 10k is my club’s big race of the year.  There’s a team of people at the club work tirelessly for 6 months, planning the race and making sure we sell out our 500 places.  Everyone from the club runs or volunteers on race day.  It’s a tough course as involves a big hill but the support from friends and family round the course is fantastic.

Potters Arf.  My favourite race of the year, it’s the closest thing we have in Staffordshire to a big city half marathon.  About 2000 runners running through the streets of Stoke on Trent.  Everyone around the city comes out on to the pavements to cheer the runners round.  I guess this is what the London Marathon is like. There isn’t a quiet part of the course.  My main thought after running this year’s Potters was I should really stop racing this race and just run it, take it all in and enjoy it.

The Stoke Festival of Running Marathon.  This is a new race to me.  It’s the latest attempt to return a marathon to Stoke on Trent.  Back in the 70s and 80s, the Potteries Marathon was of the biggest races in the UK road running calendar.  Sadly a number of factors meant the marathon stopped a few years back.  The original Potteries Marathon was before my time, I did run the rebirth of the race a few years back before it disappeared again.  I really hope the Stoke Festival of Running Marathon will be here to stay, there’s some very passionate local runners behind it, so fingers crossed.

That’s all my 2018 races(maybe).  I don’t know what races I’ll pick next year.  I’ll probably do my old favorites plus I fancy a big city marathon to have a crack at breaking my PB in front of the big crowds.  

One thing I’ve never done is cross country.  I’d love to do it next year.  In Staffordshire it’s still very tradition, I suppose that’s part of the beauty of it.  But I feel racing on Saturday afternoon is probably a bit dated now.  Some leagues elsewhere in the country now run cross country on a Sunday morning.  Once we start doing that in Staffordshire, I’ll be there like a shot!

So next time you’re flicking through Runners World, picking out your next challenge, choose it wisely.  And please choose local.


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