Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to run a variety of races… big ones like the NYC Marathon and Chicago Marathon. Along with teeny tiny races that are hosted by organizers hoping to raise some funds for something they are passionate about.
I love the big fanfare of the big races. There’s nothing quite like lining up at the start of the NYC Marathon with 50,000 other people all around you. It reminds you how loved the sport is and makes you SO excited to be a part of it all.
And of course, the expos! I think the Boston Marathon still has the best expo I’ve ever been too, but wow, they pull out all the stops. All the most amazing vendors are there, there’s opportunities to meet the elites and you can spend hours uncovering little treasures for your running
That being said, there’s something about the small races that I love.
There are the little conveniences: easy bib pick-up, open port-a-potties at the start and a chance to start pretty close to the gun time.
There’s also a little piece of specialness, of flair that you get with these races. Most of these races are put on by a group of people who are extremely passionate for what they are doing. It is their lifeblood, something that they have dreamed about doing forever, and you can tell. They put their blood, sweat and tears into the effort.
I think the blog post by the race director of the Columbus Marathon showcases this — the marathon that faced a medal mishap back in October, where, because of shipping issues, about 1/6 of the finishers didn’t get a medal around their necks at the finish. You can feel his pain as he writes out that blog post.
Beyond that, there are some things that I love so much about small races. Like the fact that whenever you get to bib pick up, they will have your shirt size. They will often have a bit more swag for runners than the larger races (Houston Marathon has the BEST swag I’ve found).
When you get to the start, it’ll be very chill and somewhat relaxing. You will likely have a chance to line up pretty close to the start line — whereas in races like the NYC Marathon, you don’t even see the start line when the gun goes off.
And as you run, there will be moments where you will be isolated. But you won’t have to deal with the jumping and jiving around people like you do with big races, just because the sheer number of people make it impossible to run in a straight line.
You will see the same spectators along the course, who will likely start to recognize you and call out your name. It’ll make you feel a little bit like a celebrity, which you will need as you get to those final minutes.
When you get to the finish, they will treat you like you are the only runner that crossed the finish line — which is exactly what you need! And I’ve never experienced any issues with smaller races running out of food or drink after the race, which is another bonus. Plus, you may get some free race pictures instead of having to pay an arm and a leg.
Oh and P.S., you have a better chance of placing in smaller races! Which is quite awesome.
While it may be the same distance, running a small race brings a completely different race. The size differences have their pros and cons, and I think everyone should experience both for the full running experience.
What do you prefer: large or small races? Why?
What’s the biggest thing you worry about on race day?
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