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How To Choose Your Next Race

May 29, 2022 4 min read

How To Choose Your Next Race

With so many events now on the running calendar, we asked Outsider Sputnik for his best tips on how to choose events when you can’t do them all. Here’s what he had to say:

When I first started running, there weren’t that many events around and I just used to sign up for all of them as part of my training. 5kms, 10kms, half marathons and even full marathons were all just part of training for the ultras I was doing. They gave me something to aim for and stay in shape for, and the longer events became my ‘long runs’ that I may have skipped if I hadn’t committed to an actual event.

These days I’m running a lot less, and there’s so many events, I have to really think twice, or even three times, about what my criteria is for choosing an event, so here’s how I personally decide.

The Great Southern Bolt was a first time event and yep, I was in!

First time events.

If an event is an inaugural event, that always scores points with me. Even though there’s more variables and unknowns with what it’s about and how smoothly everything will go, it’s nice to do an event the first time it’s held. This year’s Great Southern Bolt was an example of that and it was epic.

Repeat events.

I used to have favourite events I’d try and do every year but as the calendar became more crowded, doing the same event again quite often means missing out on something else. So now I have to balance doing an event I’ve not done before with running some of my favourites. 

Love stopping at the Otways if there's a race in that direction.

 Where is the event?

Especially when events are a bit further out of town, I’m always thinking about what else I can do while I’m there. I love the Tower Trail Run in Mt Gambier, for example, because I love the Limestone Coast and will maybe go snorkelling in the sinkholes, or do some other adventure while I’m there and make a few days of it. Same goes with something like the Surf Coast Marathon where I might do the Great Ocean Road and the Otways while I’m there. 

What’s my goal?

Like when I used to run everything as part of my training, sometimes I’ll still pick an event if it makes a good training run for something else I have coming up. Sometimes I might even do an event just because my motivation and training is slipping and I know signing up for something will give me something to focus on and keep me honest.

 Naracoorte Megafest
The Naracoorte Megafest doesn't have too much elevation which suits me fine. 

Does the elevation and terrain suit me?

These days I’m slower and fatter than I used to be, and I only have one ankle, so doing anything too steep or technical is really challenging for me. It really takes the fun out of an event for me if I end up walking, or hopping, most of it. I know it’s cool to glorify elevation but I’ll take something like the Naracoorte Megafest or Federation Ultra where it’s trails, it’s nature, but it’s not too steep or technical for me. 

Who’s putting it on?

When I first started running there was really only one running organisation in South Australia where I’m from. Now there’s at least eight I can think of right off the top of my head. Some are proper ‘clubs’, some are individuals or organisations doing it for passion, while some are businesses trying to make a dime. I have no problem with any of those business models, but sometimes I’ll lean towards someone who is putting on an event to raise money for charity or to promote a region rather than someone who’s just in it for the coin. It’s what I always try and do events put on by Murraylands Multisports in and around Murray Bridge - love the guy who puts these on and love his reasons for doing it.

Big Sur Marathon in California gives you a chance to run somewhere unique.

 Exclusive access.

Another thing I look for is the ability to run somewhere I wouldn't be able to do on my own. Maybe it's because it's remote and running without support would be logistically difficult. Or perhaps it's something like the Big Sur Marathon where they close the highway down for the run which makes it a one-off opportunity to run the course.


 The Great Southern Half bling definitely got my attention!

 The bling!

OK, sure, I admit it, I’ve definitely done an event because of the bling. I wouldn’t do an event I hated just to get a medal, but if I’m borderline on entering, a good looking finisher’s medal sometimes makes a difference.