What Makes a Good Race?

chicago marathon 2.jpg
Aid Station at Chicago Marathon

For me, running isn’t just for health… it’s a way for friends to get together, a way to explore new cities, and a way to test my limits.  I’ve run many races in distances ranging from the 5K to the marathon.  I’ve loved some races, and hated others.  As I plan my races in 2018, I’m left wondering…


What Makes a Good Race?


I’m big on race organization.  I don’t need inflatables, or fireworks, or even on course music. What I do need in a race…

  • Race day packet pick-up.  I understand that mega races, such as the Chicago Marathon can’t have race day pick-up, but it’s a nice option for local races.  Sometimes, I simply can’t truck across town on a Friday evening.  I love it when I can show up a little early on race morning to take care of everything at once.  Let’s be honest, I’m notoriously early for every race anyway.


  • Plenty of port-a-potties. Race day logistics can cause a little bit of stress. I’m always worried that I’ll show up late to a race and all my race registration money will be wasted, throw long bathroom lines into the mix and it causes my anxiety to sky rocket.  I don’t want to have to wait in line for 30 minutes to use the bathroom before the gun goes off (like in Savannah).


  • Long aid stations. I give the Chicago Marathon a lot of credit.  For a race of 45,000 runners, I never had to stop at an aid station to grab a cup.  Tables spanned almost the whole block; there were never any bottlenecks.  It is so frustrating to come to a complete stop at an aid station.  Buzz kill!

    chicago marathon 2.jpg
    Aid station at the Chicago Marathon
  • Spectators. Big city races have the upper hand with this one. Though, I have run plenty of small local races where people stand on their front lawns cheering on the runners.  It’s a big morale boost when a complete stranger takes time out of their morning to cheer you on.  Plus, I enjoy reading all of the creative race signs along the way!


  • Thoughtfully planned out course. It’s great when loved ones can catch you during multiple points of a course.  I also prefer a looped course, rather than an out and back.  It helps if there is some shade along the course as well.  Blocking traffic is a non-negotiable.  I’ve run races where runners had to stay along the shoulder of a busy road, with nothing but traffic cones between me and fast moving cars, not cool!


  • Post Party. There is nothing better than a cold beer after a hard race, even if it is 8 o’clock in the morning. Bonus if you don’t have to wait around in line to get it.


  • Runner reunite area. This is mostly for large races, but it’s always nice when races have signs set up to help you reunite with your cheer squad.


These are the things that make a great race experience.  Do you agree?  Did I miss anything?

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