Thought for the Day

Wednesday, March 1, 2006

Cherry-Picking Races

This is an article I wrote back in 2006 for the East Valley Runners club newsletter.

Cherry-Picking Races

If you already have a wall or a drawer or a closet full of medals and trophies you’ve won running, then you can skip this little article. You either already know everything I’m about to say, or you don’t need to know it.
But if, like me, you usually finish somewhere in the middle of the pack, and those age group medals always seem out of reach, let me give you some suggestions on how to find the low-hanging fruit.
Runners like us need to find the “cherry-picking” races, the races where just about anyone might walk off with a medal. These are the things I look for:

1.far from population centers
Is winning a medal worth the drive to Miami, AZ? I think so, but I’m semi-obsessed.

2. no long history
“Inaugural” is almost always a good word to see in a race description, with the notable exception of enormously over-hyped musical extravaganzas.
Races that have been around for a long time have collected a lot of loyal, hardcore runners, who come expecting to win each year.

3. not on all the major calendars
If you heard about it from your church flyer, but it’s not on the Arizona Road Racer’s online calendar, that’s a good sign. Keep it a secret.

4. on the same day as at least one other race
This goes for races at the same event. For races at the same event, remember, the longer the race, the tougher the competition. This is not to say that some fast guy or gal won’t sometimes spoil your day by choosing the 5K.
Even better than races at the same event are more popular races elsewhere. For example, if you can run an unpopular race out in Surprise on the same weekend as popular races in Cave Creek and Apache Junction.

5. not on a holiday or weekend
All of the big races will be on weekends, but that’s not what you’re looking for. And even the small races can get a good turnout near a holiday.
However, these holiday weekends often have too many races going on, so if you pick the right one, it works out.

6. five year age groups
One of the problems with smaller races is that sometimes they have age groups of ten years or more, or they do not give out any age group awards at all. It’s nice to find out if they will have five year age groups.

Well, those are my tips for finding the races where you can occasionally come away with some hardware. I hope this helps you, my fellow EVR members, but if you’re a male, 45-49, I hope it doesn’t help too much.
There are other methods to increase your odds of winning, but they are much more strenuous than this. And they require spending a significant amount of time running at the track.

Good luck, and see you at the races,
Jerry