A blog by runners. For runners.

The benefits of racing close to home

racing-close-to-home

Something occurred to me after I ran my most recent race. And then again, it happened after my husband smashed his 5K PR (breaking 16 minutes!) — within walking distance of our house. Local races are where it’s at when it comes to satisfying my competitive spirit, but there are many other compelling reasons to lace up locally.

You sleep in your own bed. Living within close proximity to the start line means no travel added to the equation. In my pre-kids days, I enjoyed travel every now and again, but with finding childcare arrangements and figuring out hotel sharing with a toddler, I’d much rather stick close to home. Plus, there’s no better way to ensure a good night’s sleep than by snoozing in familiar surroundings.

You stress less. Doing smaller local races means you likely know how to get to the start and have plenty of time to do so. Parking? You get an advantage here, too! If the lot near the race is full, there are probably several other backups that only you and other locals will know about. Eliminating the added stress means more energy targeted toward a PR.

You know your competition. If you stick to your stomping grounds, you’ll see lots of familiar faces out on the course. Whether you decided to run in a friendly group with your regular training partners or, instead, go all-out against your rival neighbors is up to you. Either way, it’s extra motivation.

You train the course. The course of my favorite hometown half marathon winds through my neighborhood. As a result, the entire season, I’m able to experience the dreaded hills and learn where I can gain speed — practicing critical features I’ll need to master to perform my best on race day. To prevent course-fatigue I try and run portions backward as race day approaches, just to keep it fresh.

You enjoy your own cheering section. Running in your area also means that more friends and family can show their support. When we do races out of town, our daughter often doesn’t join us, but the icing on the cake of my most recent PR was seeing my daughter clapping from her stroller at the finish line.

You support your community. Races originate for a variety of reasons, increasingly so for charities or other local causes (SPCA, natural disaster relief, cancer funds, etc.). Add some more hometown races to your calendar to show your support — all while getting in a good workout and connecting with your community.

You’re rewarded for your effort. Let’s be honest here, smaller races also mean more opportunity to shine through the crowd. Don’t get me wrong, I like good competition and the intensity of huge events, but at gigantic races, I sometimes feel lost and anonymous. It’s pretty great to occasionally come in second in my age group or finish in the top 20 of the entire field.

You track your progress from year to year. We’re not usually able to spring for hotel, travel, and race fees for the big races every single year. But the local ones? We make a point to get out there no matter what. It’s fun to see progress or, conversely, pinpoint training problems by comparing times on the same courses from year to year. Plus, it’s inspirational to hear that some guy has done a race 30 years in a row!

You run more races or pocket the savings. To state the obvious: Running local races saves money. Usually there’s some savings involved with race fees if you’re a member of your runners club. Plus, most smaller races cost less to begin with, meaning you can get out to race more often or just save money to put toward extra running shoes and other essentials.

You try new and/or crazy things. If you’ve never tried trail racing, for example, that 10K at the nearby state park might be a perfect opportunity to push outside your comfort zone. Or maybe you’ve been enticed to sign up to run the 800 meter at a club track series. Our area boasts a Red Dress Run, Superhero Race, and various other costumed fun runs. There are plenty of other events popping up each year to keep us moving and — more importantly — from taking ourselves too seriously.

Do you stick to more intimate, close-to-home races? Why or why not?

Written by  Ashley Marcin.