We’ve all heard of the big races: the New York City Marathon, Boston Marathon, Chicago Marathon, Bolder Boulder and the Rock ‘n’ Roll events that stretch across the United States and the world. Tens of thousands of runners participate in these events each year and for many runners, these races are at the top of their bucket list—with good reason!
With that said, the big races have their downsides: registration can be extremely expensive compared to other events (the New York City Marathon cost $255 in 2016, plus an additional application fee), they may have challenging logistics in terms of booking a hotel room and securing transportation, and the sheer size and scope can feel overwhelming to some runners.
Personally, I’m one of those runners. While I have done my share of the big events, including Chicago and the Marine Corps Marathon, I tend to prefer small races with a local flair that are expressive of the area where I’ll be running.
There’s lots of reasons to love small races–especially those that take you to new states or places you have never visited! Here are just a few of the perks:
When a race isn’t constrained by corporate limitations, there’s more room for creativity – and that means there’s some creative and unique themed events! Take, for example, the Hatfield McCoy Marathon on the West Virginia-Kentucky border, which starts in one state and ends in the other, running past historical sites of the Hatfield-McCoy family feud along the way. You won’t find that in NYC!
Fewer runners means there’s more post-race food options! Many smaller local races pride themselves on providing a great post-race spread. The Pocatello Marathon in Pocatello, Idaho, offers local fare like huckleberry popcorn, frozen yogurt, steak skewers, and yes, baked potatoes at its finish line! That will beat a banana and a Gatorade any day of the week.
While the big cities are known for their spectators, small cities and towns can offer just as much excitement and fun! The Route 66 Marathon in Tulsa, Oklahoma, is famous for the block parties that occur throughout the 26.2-mile course, and residents are known to provide beer, mimosas, and even jello shots to those runners who dare imbibe along the course.
Don’t underestimate the value of easy logistics! There’s something to be said for driving right to the race start/finish and not having to worry about an elaborate shuttle process before or after the race. Small races can do that for you!
A Perfect Excuse:
Racing has taken me to states and cities I probably would never have visited otherwise – and ended up loving! Case in point? The Fargo Marathon in North Dakota brought me to Fargo, a place I may never have seen. To this day, it’s one of my favorite cities and marathons! Having the chance to run through a new city and state that otherwise lacks a lot of tourist attractions can be eye-opening and change the way you think entirely.
If you haven’t given them much thought, 2017 is the perfect year to test out a small race with local flare! You never know what you might find.