5 Keys To A Great Race

So here I am playing at being some sort of “expert” with all these race recaps I do…and after seeing a friend redoing all of HER race recaps I came to the realization…

I’m doing it wrong.


I tend to talk. A lot. My blog posts have been long and drawn out…and in order to TRULY see what I think of a race you have to read the whole damn thing in its entirety. Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled when people do that…but some people want the quick facts.

Frankly, I should’ve been providing that all along.

But HOW do you judge a race? What really makes it great, and how do you MEASURE that consistently from race to race?

Well, I figured it out. 5 key areas that make a great (or not-so-great) race.

What Makes A Race Great?

Five categories each on a 1 – 10 scale:
1. Pre-Race
2. Race-Day
3. The Course
4. Support/Swag
5. Post-Race

Those five categories are it, and you average them to get an overall score. What falls into those categories will vary from race to race, but when you want to qualify and quantify how a race is doing and you want to compare it to other races, this works. This will allow you to fairly compare, I think, most races. Let’s break down what kinds of things can fall into each category.

1. Pre-Race

I’m not talking changing rooms and water bottles, this category is all about your experience BEFORE you even show up to the venue to lace up your shoes. In order to have a good race-day experience, it’s important to be provided with all the important information ahead of time. The Pre-Race category considers (but is not limited to) the following:

  • Availability/accuracy of information about the race before signing up
  • Ease of sign-up process / confirmation email
  • Ability to contact race company / race director if necessary
  • Availability of pre-race bib pick-up
  • Quality / execution of pre-race expo (if applicable)
  • Any and all pre-race communication including website updates, email / email newsletters and week-of-race reminders/updates
2. Race-Day

From parking to registration to the starting line & the word “go”, race-day organization and execution is crucial to a fun and successful race. This category is all about whether they’ve “got their stuff together” when it comes time to put on the race itself. This category considers (but is not limited to):

  • Availability, ease, and organization of parking
  • Ease/availability/frequency of shuttles, if parking is off-site
  • Adequate volunteer/staff presence (not under-staffed/unable to handle crowd)
  • Volunteers / staff are knowledgeable on things they should…well…KNOW
  • Ease of registration/bib pickup (if on race-day)
  • Adequate communication (start time, delays, important information, etc)

3. The Course

It doesn’t matter how well-organized, easy & smooth everything goes if the course is garbage. Some races’ claim to fame is their course itself, and many people consider difficulty level and scenery when choosing a race.This category is ALL about the course itself, and considers (but is not limited to) the following:

  • The course is as described (maps, elevation charts, & distance are accurate/as-described)
  • Visual appeal of race course
  • Difficulty level of race course (i.e. a “family fun run” doesn’t have 32% grade hills)
  • Course is easy to follow / well-marked
  • Traffic management (if applicable)
4. Support/Swag


Success or failure, and the rewards therein, are important, This is where things like water stops, finishers/podium medals, t-shirts & more come into play. These are the things that help you finish & help you remember your finish. This is also where that “special something extra” comes into play. “Support/Swag” considers (but is not limited to):

  • Availability of water/aid stations on-course (if applicable)
  • First-aid/medical on-course & at festival (if applicable)
  • Restrooms/port-o-johns at festival & on-course (if applicable)
  • “Other” volunteers on-course (morale, obstacles, etc – if applicable)
  • Finisher’s medal (if applicable)
  • Awards for top finishers (if applicable)
  • Availability of (free) T-shirt, including correct size (if applicable)
  • “Extras”
5. Post-Race

You’ve crossed the finish, it’s all over…where’s my banana! What happens after you cross that finish and cool down is important – it is, after all, your last impression of the race! This category is all about what SHOULD be offered, what SHOULD happen, and follow-through on things they SAID would be offered & happen…including (but not limited to):

  • Availability of water post-race
  • Availability of food (i.e. bananas, etc) post-race
  • Quality of post-race festival (if applicable)
  • Are they just trying to sell me something?
  • Results posting
  • Awards ceremony (if applicable)
  • Availability/quality/accuracy of beer / post-race libations (if applicable)
If each of these categories are done well, the overall race experience should be excellent. Now and forever more, this system is how I will rate a race and decide if I’ll ever run it again – I hope you find it useful. Now to go through all my previous race recaps and retrofit this in…
How does YOUR most recent race stack up against this?