How to Make the Right Race Choice

Wilson Creek, NC


By: Brian Elder

One of the most exciting things as a runner is choosing which race you are going to run. The problem is with so many choices it raises the question: “Which is the right race for me?”

There are many different factors that can contribute to your race choice. Location, time of year, cost, race expo, race shirt/gifts, atmosphere, etc. Ultimately, you want to run in a race worth your time spent training and money you spend. The process of choosing a race is similar whether you are running a 5k or a marathon, but when attempting to qualify for a race such as Boston, where the field of runners is limited and competitive, even more factors come into consideration. Below are some of the factors I took in consideration when choosing to run the Peak to Creek Marathon to qualify for Boston. Hopefully these will help you in the future when you are deciding on your next race.

1.       Course

-          The first thing that came to mind when considering which marathon to run to qualify for Boston was the course. To qualify for the Boston Marathon, no matter what 26.2 mile course you choose, it must to be a registered USATF course. If you’re interested, you can find more details about the process here: While there are plenty of certified courses, they all have pros and cons. I decided on the Peak to Creek because of the extensive downhill stretch between mile 6 and 15. While most people have to train for hills along a course, I am going to have to do the opposite and train for extended declines on the 2,700 ft. descent. The downhills should allow me to conserve some energy to hopefully run faster and longer.

2.       Time of Year

-          Always consider the time of year. “Marathon season” usually begins in early September continuing through November. In the spring, marathons begin around February continuing through May. The fall offered the best combination of weather and training opportunity with my schedule. The time of year could determine what weather conditions you run in so choose carefully. 

3.       Atmosphere

-          One of the things I enjoy most about running is the atmosphere. No race is exactly the same. Some offer huge experiences and others intimate settings. I anticipate this race to have a personal atmosphere because it caps the registration at 400. The atmosphere along the course will also be enjoyable as the course runs along Wilson Creek and other scenic areas throughout North Carolina.

4.       What am I getting?

-          The last category I considered is really a bunch of things packed into one, but they all relate to what I will receive from the race. Technical shirts and medals are something most runners want to receive. They also want aid stations along the course. I am no different and this race seemed to offer some great benefits for running from the pre-race pasta dinner to the post-race finish line party. 


What factors go into your decision making process for choosing a race? Let us know in the comments below!

Brian Elder is a learner, traveler, and nomadic runner that is going to run until it takes him somewhere remarkable. He is a senior at the University of Georgia studying English and Religion. After running competitively on trails and roads, he fuels through an appetite so big you would swear it’s competitive. Follow Brian's training on Instagram.