How to Choose a Race

How to choose the right race!

Half-marathon training is coming up for many of us, and for many of us it will roll right into marathon training. So how do you choose which race to run, and when to run them?

Why this race

I typically only run 1 half marathon a year, and one full marathon. I run the Chicago Rock ‘n’ Roll half marathon every July because I am obsessed with it and will continue to run it yearly. I have never run another half marathon, not because I don’t want to, I just have not had a reason to run one.

The timing of the Rock ‘n’ Roll is perfect because it is at the beginning of my marathon training so it allows me to include it as a long run, while also having a blast.

I suppose the reason I have never run any other half marathon is because I get too consumed with marathon training, and then after marathon training I am mentally tired and need a break from training.

I thought I would share some tips/ideas for choosing a half marathon/marathon! I hope it helps 🙂


A big factor in racing is the cost associated with it. It can get spendy if you run multiple races a year, so it is important to choose wisely.

The Rock ‘n’ Roll costs between $75-$100 (depending when you register). Yes, I think that is pricey but I also consider the insane amount of fun I have running it, the cool stuff I get, and running through one of my favorite places.

The Chicago Marathon was the most expensive race I have run, around $120 maybe, I really can’t remember. Again, yes this was pricey, but it was amazing!

The Des Moines Marathon is a bit cheaper (like half the cost), and is the race I will run this year.

Once you pay the actual race fee then you need to consider the cost of transportation, lodging, and food. I travel for every race so that increases the overall cost of the race.

The next cost is lodging. I always stay at hotels for my races, so like transportation, that needs to be accounted for.

Lastly, FOOD! I love food, and when I travel for races I go out for breakfast, lunch and dinner so that is another expense.


I do not live in a big town, so half marathons and marathons just don’t happen here. Before registering for each race I always think about transportation. Chicago is about a five hour drive so it is not far, or it is a 45 minute plane ride from Burlington so that is usually my go-to option.

I am lucky and always have someone, or multiple people to go to races with me. My family is amazing at going to all of my races and transporting me 🙂

If you go to a race alone just think about the travel aspect, and if you have to drive far! I did have to drive home from Des Moines after a marathon once because my parents drove back to their house and Morgan was not with me… it was a long 90 minute drive after running for so long!

Running Swag

Getting cool stuff at races and running expos is the best! I love going to running expos because I love being surrounded by thousands of other excited runners, trying new GU flavors, and just getting lots of cool, free, goodies!

I love my race medals, so that is another reason I love running races! They (and international coffee cups) are the things I like to collect. Morgan made me really neat medal rack for all my race medals. I am to the point where he needs to make me another one! I’m not sure if I want another Chicago skyline one, or something different.

Race Medals

Choosing a race course

This aspect is often overlooked, but extremely important. Races can vary regarding elevation. For example, Chicago has a flat marathon route, while Des Moines has some hills.

The most important thing to in regards to the course is to look at a course map and check out the elevation. Since I am running Des Moines this fall I know in advance that I need to incorporate more hills into my training so I am better prepared.

I also enjoy the scenery when running, so that is a reason Chicago is so fun for me. There is always something to look at, which helps time go faster for me. If that is important to you make sure to look at the course to see where you run.

These are just a few tips that I take into consideration when choosing races. I hope they help you to make your decisions easier for summer and fall racing!

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