When I first starting running, the “big” races were the only way I knew to go. My first 1/2 marathon was an ING race (now Publix in Atlanta). Looking back I think it would still be considered somewhat small–only 7 Corrals. I followed that with a ZOOMA race which wasn’t my favorite. I thought it was because it was small. I followed those with 5 Rock and Roll series races and loved it. Big races were it. Or so I thought.
At the time I didn’t know as much about running (and its insanely large community) and I didn’t realize how many race options were available. Competitor did a great job with advertising and constant contact and kept me in the loop on their series. And of course, I love the bling so the idea of getting more medals was awesome. Rock and Roll races were the way to go.
After reading this post on Facebook yesterday from RNR New Orleans I really started to think. Is bigger (and more famous) really better?
So with another year of running under my belt and several small, local races later, and reading many of yalls race reports, I have changed my mind…I think smaller races are the way to go-for several reasons.
1. Better Schwag
|Park City 1/2 Marathon medal and shirt|
|Wineglass Marathon-shirt, medal, champagne split and wineglass|
|Big Sur medal|
|a few from my RNR collection. Similar shirts and medals.|
2. Less Chaos
It’s less hectic at a small race in the city where you are running, on the race course, getting to the race, etc. Smaller races are very organized when it comes to transportation to and from the race. There aren’t as many parking or shuttle issues. I also think it is also easier to find a place to stay and enjoy the town you are visiting–and it’s definitely easier to find a dinner reservation. The course is also less congested and you spend less time dodging people at smaller races.
3. Race Support
I have found that the people that put on the smaller races are very friendly. The locals have been volunteering for a while and know what is going on. Not necessarily the case in larger races. They are often just “extras” that were told what to tell runners. The big races are also much more strict on day-before-race packet pickup and that you can’t pick up a friends packet. And while I appreciate the cheerleaders and bands, I think local spectators and homemade signs are more fun. I seem to always hit the bands on the course when they are on a break.
I was really discouraged after reading the FB post above. How is it okay to just change the rules of your deal? Just because you lost money? 7,000 people signed up to run RNR New Orleans on the day you could save $55. That just proves cost has a lot to do with it. People love a good deal. I am constantly stalking Delta and hotel sites for deals so that I can save when I travel to races. Charging over $100 for a 1/2 marathon is ridiculous. Most small, local races are around $40-$50 (if you sign up early). Do the math on that for those of us trying to race the states. I always sign up for the big races when they have a deal-and its still $55-$70 (i.e. ING Miami for $55 back in March, New Orleans in April for $65). I know that big race companies have to keep the investors happy–but we run for our sanity, health, competitiveness, fun, goals, etc. Not to spend tons of money. Looking at my 2012 schedule, I am very pleased with my small race cost options.
5. Post Race Activities
I am always starved after a race. The small races seem to have pretty awesome post-race goodies (and along the course). The bigger races tend to have the same stuff at each race-which is fine-but when the local races get the local places to donate-it’s even better. Pizza, soup, sandwiches,etc. are much better than a banana, bag of Pop Chips, and Snickers Marathon bar. I will admit I like when RNR has the ice buckets to soak your feet and love when they have good post race bands. Sadly, most of the post race bands have been no-name “headliners” that I don’t care for and wouldn’t pay to see.
|These were at RNR Chicago and Vegas last year|
|only “decent” headliner I’ve seen|
|post race food at Big Sur|
|mid race at Park City|
|hard to see but awesome post race at Wineglass Marathon|
It’s interesting to me to see how my perspective has changed. What I once thought was fabulous has now become somewhat of a hassle. Don’t get me wrong, I will continue to run RNR races and other large races. I plan on running New Orleans every year. I just think I will choose other small races with more character for other states that I am trying to check off.