The Terrible and Exciting Process of Choosing Which Races to Run

Hi everyone!  Right now Andrew and I are hanging out in Homer for a few days, and we are so excited to be on our first real road trip of the summer!  We really love to travel and it’s something that we can’t really do all that often since we don’t have a ton of money right now.  Moving to Alaska was our big traveling experience this year, but I can tell that we’ll be traveling to the lower 48 at least once a year now to explore the rest of the US.  And since I have a goal to run a race in all 50 states, that means I’ll be looking for a race to run while we’re down there!  The question is, where should I run next?

Races are so exciting, nerve-wracking, and rewarding.  I love running them, which is why I have a goal to run 14 in 2014.  I love training for them, planning for them, and everything that comes with running one – especially half marathons!  But there are so many races out there and because I’m probably the most indecisive person on earth, I hate choosing which ones to race!


This is my usual race choosing process:

  1. Read about a race on Facebook or on someone’s blog and think, “Wow, that sounds like an awesome race!” OR feel bored and decide to look on Running in the USA for upcoming local races and choose one that sounds fun.
  2. Google the race like crazy.  I look for pictures of the course, race recaps, and any info on the swag!  I need to know as much about this race as possible before I sign up!  I won’t even consider a race if it’s expensive or the recaps make it sound terrible.
  3. Check my calendar to see what’s going on in my life during the race weekend.  If it’s an out of state race, I try to find an excuse to travel there during that time.
  4. Become super excited about the race I’ve chosen and start mentally planning for the race.
  5. Tell my husband I’m thinking about signing up for the race.  Listen to him as he sighs and asks why I’m running another race and then frantically tell him all the cool things about it until he’s on board.  I don’t ask for too many big race trips, but he’s never said no  🙂
  6. Go to the registration page, but then start second guessing everything and procrastinate on registering until the race is almost sold out or the price is about to increase.
  7. Register and get super excited again!  Yay for another race!

There are still some races I have yet to register for this year (see step #6), but I love racing and I’m so excited to get the rest of my year planned out!  In fact, I might have a surprise last minute race addition this weekend!  I hadn’t even been thinking about races for next year yet because this year’s race lineup is still all over the place and I have no idea what I’ll be doing next year.  But this week, I discovered Vacation Races, a company that hosts races on the edges of some of the best national parks in the country.  Their goal is to host races in order to get more people to visit these parks and take advantage of their beauty.  I love this concept because it basically guarantees that I’ll be able to visit a national park if I sign up for a race in one of those states, and I’ve got a goal to visit all of those too!  The best part is that they have “clubs” that you can join by taking part in challenges after the race.  You can either do a strenuous hike, or do 3 smaller hikes/activities.  Once you take a picture of yourself doing it in the 72 hours after the race with your race medal and post it to their site, you will get a discount on next year’s race!  I love that these races incorporate hiking into your race experience, and I decided that I’m going to do one of these in 2015!  The hardest part is choosing one to do!  Out of the 7 races they host, I’ve narrowed it down to the following three.  I used the races’ cover photos from their Facebook pages to show you how hard of a decision this will be because they all look gorgeous!

Zion Half Marathon in March:  I’ve never particularly wanted to go to this park, but it looks crazy beautiful and completely different from Alaska.  I think I can handle the temps at that time of year too.  I watched their race recap from this year which is posted on their website and seriously got chills.  It looks like an incredible experience!  Plus it’s a road race and has great recaps so it passed step #2 from my list above  🙂


Yellowstone Half Marathon in June:  I’ve always wanted to go here – it’s basically at the top of my bucket list!  But I read the course description and it seems a bit out of my league with lots of hills and trail components.  It’s also not in the park, so it won’t actually have the views shown below.  But I can’t imagine how amazing it would be to have a medal and a race shirt from Yellowstone, plus the rest of my trip there would be incredible!


Grand Teton Half Marathon in June:  This one is a week before Yellowstone, and it’s also close enough that I could explore both parks after the race (or run both races?  There’s a challenge that involves that!).  It’s the inaugural race and there’s just something about a new race that makes me want to be one of the first people to run it!  It looks so pretty but I have no idea what the course is like so I’d be taking a gamble.


It’s a big dilemma for me because I can probably only get out of Alaska once a year, so doing one of these races would be our big vacation for the year.  I’ve never been anywhere near these parks so I’m not sure which to pick, and neither does Andrew!  We’re going to work on doing some more research on the parks before next Wednesday when race registration opens up for Yellowstone and Grand Teton (Zion is already open but not sold out yet) but we’re totally struggling with the decision.  Which one would you choose?

Do you have trouble choosing races?  How do you choose between a few that you really want to do?  Have you ever been to any of these parks?

29 thoughts on “The Terrible and Exciting Process of Choosing Which Races to Run

    1. That’s how I felt back in Philly! There were way too many races to choose and it was overwhelming. Alaska doesn’t really have that problem so now picking races is such a big deal!

  1. I can’t afford any race trips right now, so I have to choose in-state races, and as a small state, Vermont doesn’t really have a whole lot to choose from. There are a couple of scenic half-marathons that happen throughout the year, and some fun themed races like Turkey Trots and Santa 5ks, but I don’t really have trouble picking from such a small list. I can’t wait to run races in some other states!

    1. That’s a good problem to have though – you won’t be tempted to run so many races like I was in Philly! You should definitely come run in Alaska someday 🙂

    1. Yeah it’s definitely tough being able to run in other states. I have to make every vacation into a racecation!

  2. How I sign up for races is very similar to you! I’m in the process of crafting my spring schedule and I just got my hubby on board for a few of the options.
    Those races look incredible. I’ve never been to any of the parks, but I’m sure they’re all fantastic. Can’t wait to see which one you choose!

    1. Haha I’m glad I’m not the only one that chooses them this way! Congrats on getting the husband stamp of approval, that’s the hardest part!

  3. I have the same problem! I pick them first by location, then what race it is and their reputation (I love J&A races here in VA), then based on scheduling with other races or life in general, then based on cost. I am a sucker for good organization, good swag, and a great after party.

  4. Vacation Races sounds like a great resource! And I agree, that Zion Half looks fantastic – I also like that it’s a road race – the trails kind of intimidate me 🙂

  5. These are all great choices! The Zion Half is a beautiful race, and Zion National Park is an absolutely breathtaking park, I live in Ut, so I visit it often so I guess I am partial:) But Teton’s and Yellowstone are also great! One thing to think about is Yellowstone and the Teton’s are literally right next to each other, the Teton’s start right as you leave the southern end of Yellowstone. So if you picked that one, you could even do both races if you can vacation the week! Even if you didn’t want to do both races, you can still easily see both parks on the same trip!

  6. Vacation races sounds so cool, I’m definitely checking it out 🙂
    My parents went to Zion National Park last year, and I couldn’t believe the amazing pictures they took. It’s absolutely gorgeous there. It would totally be my first choice, but I’m also obsessed with the southwest.
    The idea of 2 races a week apart sounds like a fun challenge (and certainly an epic vacation). Decisions, decisions…

  7. Wow! Those races sound awesome!! I’ve been to Zion and loved it! Hubby would love the idea of going to a National Park because we both love hiking. I will definitely be checking out Vacation Races! Thanks! 🙂

  8. Zion sounds incredible. Kind of bummed me out, too, when I read the Yellowstone race isn’t in the park. Seems like no matter what you can’t make a wrong choice 🙂

  9. I have yet to go to any of those national parks, but I can imagine that racing there would be absolutely beautiful. When I am choosing a race, I tend to stay somewhat close to home if possible. We have a lot of great races in the Pacific NW so I figure I will make those a priority. I do have a couple bucket list races including Disney and Boston, but otherwise haven’t thought about what else I would want to do.

  10. I use pretty much the same process – I LOVE reading recaps and googling them. Then I sign up for a bunch and I say “what did I just do?!” Thanks for introducing all the National Park halves… look so pretty!!

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