Wonderful races in wonderful places

Posted on November 4, 2013


Yesterday afternoon, despite a rather long-winded ‘to do’ list of client deadlines and demands, I found myself stretched out on the sofa, researching race plans for 2014. It’s something I look forward to towards the end of every year, that chance to write your wish list, to plot and plan wonderful races in wonderful places.

And this extends to life in general. A new year is a beautiful opportunity to take a blank sheet of paper and think about all you want to achieve in the next twelve months. Set the goal, then work backwards to create an action plan of small, measurable steps to get there. It really is as simple as that!

But back to races. I’m so often asked by fellow runners how I choose races, what criteria I take into account. To be honest, I don’t think there is some cut and dried formula but there are some pretty consistent patterns I find myself following and I’m sure many apply to others…

  • Choose your preferred terrain and format. I pretty much only do trail races now. I have got one road race in my wish list for 2014 but in general, I find trails nurture my soul whilst pavement pounding quashes it. I also like multi-days, but three day’ers over week-long races. I prefer just having to carry my daypack rather than everything. And I definitely opt for some sort of basic lodging over camping. Comfort, hot drinks and a shower at the end of a day are something to look forward to when the going gets tough!
  • Consider your friends & family. I try to plan my races around my family, which makes sense for the expat brats amongst us. In my case, my immediate family is in Singapore, Hong Kong, Indonesia and Scotland. And my Spring race is normally reserved for our annual chicks trip in France.
  • Think also about what else lies in your calendar. There’s nothing worse than having a race looming when you’re enjoying down time with friends beforehand and no doubt sipping a vino or two. Better race then rest rather than the other way round.
  • Take an even stevens approach. I try to spread my race plan out fairly evenly. I, like many, need to have constant goals otherwise I find myself lacking in discipline and direction.
  • Plan around your workload. Uh, what? Do I do this? Hell no. I don’t do this at all. Impossible with the nature of my work, but I do have faith that I shall always over deliver whatever I take on. (Type A? Who moi?) Anyone in a conventional job, however, does need to consider holiday scheduling and all that malarkey.
  • Remember what really floats your boat. I try to pick races that I’ll most enjoy. This sounds like a no-brainer but you’d be surprised at how many runners have never really stopped to consider what sort of races they really love. For me? I most love races between the 50k and 80k mark with lots of elevation and lots of variety in terrain. This appeals to my sometimes-challenged attention span and with shorter distances like these, I’ve learnt that I can enjoy the rest of my time exploring a new place rather than lying horizontal, feeling broken.
  • Be realistic. With a pretty hectic schedule these days, I struggle to commit to the training required for longer races and you do need to be realistic and honest about the time you can dedicate to training. Fail to prepare and you must be prepared to fail.

Other than that, I just sort of browse different race listings and see what tickles my fancy. In the last few years, I’ve run some incredible races and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend every single one of them. Click here for a list. Perhaps, if anything, they’ll serve as inspiration as you plot and plan your own wish list.

Finally, remember not to feel afraid of pushing the envelope. There really are no limits bar those we place on ourselves or to borrow the words of Helen Keller:

“The marvelous richness of human experience would lose something of rewarding joy if there were no limitations to overcome. The hilltop hour would not be half so wonderful if there were no dark valleys to traverse.”

So here’s to wonderful races in wonderful places.

And here’s to 2014 and all the wonderful, exciting and life-affirming adventures it will bring.



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