With high hopes for eventual healing, I'm tentatively planning my fall and winter racing. I'm picking out my goal race for this year. Like last year, I'm thinking it might end up being The Louisiana Marathon. I'm registered for the race already, but it might end up being more a training run if I take too long to heal. So I have to consider selecting back up goal races, too.
When picking a goal race there are a few things that I prioritize:
1. Time of year. This is crucial to me in my climate: an early fall race will never be successful for me, because the summer heat will prevent any effective speedwork. Likewise, a cold-weather runner might have trouble training through the winter.
2. Location. For me, a goal race should be in my area. I don't want to add the stress of travel to a race situation. Don't get me wrong, I love destination races: I just don't want a flight debacle ending in a hungry, dehydrated late night the evening before. I also like the conveniences of home: picking out your gels race morning or throwing your favorite shorts in the wash if you realize the night before that they're not clean.
3. Race history. How have past years gone? Was there some kind of RnR Vegas night marathon disaster? Was it a small, slow field? Did they run out of water? Did a train cross in the middle of the race? Inaugural events are always a big risk: I don't like to run them, but I did last January at the Louisiana Marathon; other factors plus knowledge of the race director's résumé made me choose the race anyway.
4. Course. I like interesting courses, but of course I also take into account terrain. Since I train in a totally flat area, running a hilly race is setting myself up for failure (although I did ok in both Boston and Publix - hilly and hot courses both times. No PRs, but I did better than I thought I would). I just think you should run a race on a terrain you train on: so if you live in a hilly area, don't do a totally flat race. Stick with what you have practiced. For me, that's pretty flat courses: no rollers, no dramatic downhills, not Big Sur climbs.
5. Runners' reviews. I check out marathonguide.com; I don't know if similar resources exist for other distances. I do take these reviews with a grain of salt, however, as it seems like people who had a good race give rave reviews and people who didn't do well complain about choice of electrolyte drink, host hotel, and size of the medal. But reviews are a good source for comments like, "Course was poorly marked," "Not enough port-o-potties", or "Whole city comes out to spectate". You won't get that from the race website.
These are the top criteria to me, but you might have other criteria you use: like, will my training partners be running this race? How much does it cost? Is there a back-up race in one or two weeks? Is this a bad time of year for my job/kids school/husband's band? Will I be able to get off work? How much will airfare cost at the time? Do they serve gatorade or powerade? etc.
What's on your race criteria list?