So, You Want to Run: Signing up for Races

You want to run



#1 – My Running Story

#2 – Beginner Tips

Although some runners do just run strictly for fun/exercise, many runners tend to do one thing once they start feeling good about getting out there and running: signing up for a race. I started running in the Fall of 2009 and did not sign up for a race until Spring 2010. I signed up for The Ottawa Race Weekend’s 5K, back when you could still register in April/May. I knew a few people running the race and joined in the fun: with no Garmin and pretty low expectations of myself.  I signed up for the Ottawa Race Weekend because everyone else was talking about it. I had zero clue about any other races in Ottawa. Next, I signed up for a Somersault Race and then the Army Run.

Since then, I have signed up for more than 15 different races, and signing up for some old ones at the same time. I have not missed a year of The Ottawa Race Weekend or Army Run since 2010, and I highly doubt that I will ever NOT run those races. Eventually, I figured I have to buckle down and run the Ottawa Marathon and complete my medal collection.

There are a few things that I do look for when signing up for races. I am just sharing what I do – it is totally up to you to decide what races to run. Right now, my tendency is to try new races each year in addition to the Army Run and TORW. 2014 included all new races for me except those two. It was fun getting to know some new routes.

Typically, when it is coming down to picking up some races to run, I look at the following:


Some races are really expensive (NYC, Boston, Disney) and if you want to run in those races, you need to budget accordingly. I think the average cost that I spend for a race is about $50. I’m looking forward to spending significantly less money on races this year, even if I run a marathon.

and in relation to cost:

What am I getting?

Most races have a medal/shirt, but some offer a bit more. Also, if  a race is just a run of the mill race with a cotton shirt and a $80 price tag- odds are, I’m not going to register for it. If a race has a great shirt, nice medal, amazing food and an interesting/different route, I’m very interested.

Race Transfers/Deferral

Stuff happens during training. I typically don’t care if I have to miss out on a 5K, but I do like the option to trade bibs or defer for bigger races. One of the big reasons I picked NYC for my first marathon was that I could defer the marathon at the last possible second if I couldn’t run the race. Army Run, Somersault and TORW offer bib transfer periods and I have switched before. It isn’t a big deal if the race doesn’t sell out until right before the event, but when you have to sign up months before – it can be risky.

Race Venue

I love races that have a bit of a twist than the typical road races out there. Manotick Miler has a beer garden for after the race and has a small town feel. Around the Bay goes into Copps Coliseum/whatever that place is called and there is the Grim Reaper! Rock n’ Roll Vegas is on the strip at night! I also enjoy races that go along waterfronts or in parks.

Who is running with me?

I really like running with friends! It makes the race more fun and I tend to get a good time, especially if I run with some super speedy students. Although I cannot say that I’ve actually raced with someone right beside me, but some have been close by. I remember running TORW’s 5K in 2013 and being super speedy for the first KM because I was running with grade nines. I hope to run with some of them again this year when I run the 5K and the 10K on Saturday night.

Parking Options

Although it is possible for P and Max to just drop me off, parking for races is a consideration I make when figuring out what to sign up for. Ottawa Race Weekend/Army Run can be a bit of a pain (I have a secret parking spot). What we usually do when I’m running a half marathon downtown, is that I take public transit by myself and then P and Max come up later. Some races (NYC, Mississauga) are Point to Point races which might mean some extra planning or time if shuttle buses are involved. There are some races in Ottawa which don’t have the greatest parking options, like any races involving the Terry Fox Track facility. Some races will require you to pay for parking or be creative with parking on the street. Some races it may be best to just get a hotel. I love races that have ample free parking.

Race Energy

Some reasons are just fun to run. NYC was 5+ hours of fun! Considering that I left the hotel at 6:45am and did not finish the race until after 4pm, I am still amazed that I had a great time during every minute of the race. TORW is just super fun and features lots of crowds.  The Ottawa Beer Run was hysterical and such a great event. The Army Run has a completely different feel to it for obvious reasons – and I’m still impressed with how many spectators were out in the pouring rain. Part of the reason why I’m returning to run: ATB, TORW, Manotick Miler, BEER RUN, MEC Races and Army Run is because I really enjoyed the events. I hope you sign up for the races too – it sounds like a few of us are “going for beers” (in the beer garden) after Manotick Miler. To me, the races are more than just going out and running hard, but having a great time while doing it. Remember that $1000 cost for NYC – completely worth it, 100%.


There are lots of great options out there for races. Yes – the big ones are what potentially draws us into running a race in the first place, but don’t forget about the smaller races. Don’t be scared to travel out of town for a race. Instead of signing up for the same three races in a year, try something new. Sign up for that bucket list race, you won’t regret it (hopefully…).

What are you planning for 2015?


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  1. Nicole

    Great post! So many of those things I consider when signing up for a race. I will often pass on a race if there is no medal, the location/logistics aren’t favourable or the course isn’t great.
    I took a gamble signing up for Seawheeze last year bc I knew I might be pregnant and they didn’t offer bib transfers or deferrals. Thankfully it all worked out and I was still able to race!

  2. Lisa @ Lulus Big Adventure

    Ah man, I miss racing. And running in general. And being fit in general general.

  3. Alec @ Secretly Funny

    Thanks for the tips! I’m trying to decide if I want to sign up for a race. This is helpful.


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