Sign Up for a Race: 8 Planning Tips to Chase Finish Lines in 2023

So you want to sign up for a race?

Maybe you’ve already got your race calendar planned out for the year, like ultrarunner Gene Dykes

  • (27 races including marathons, 100-milers, and 200-milers 😲🏃‍♂️👊)

Or maybe you’re still thinking about what race you might sign up for.

You know…

  • Trying to decide...
  • Trying to make up your mind.
  • Thinking about squeezing in a race during a family vacation.
  • Wondering if you’re ready for a 5K...
  • Or if you could tackle a 10K, half marathon, 26.2-mile marathon, or maybe even an ultra.

Or maybe there’s at least one run that’s “your race,” the run that’s become an annual tradition like Brynn Cunningham and the Mt. Summit Challenge. 

Got one of those?

Before you click the “submit” button to sign up for a race, here’s a few runner-friendly details to plan for awesome on race day...

Here’s the cool thing about signing up for a race...

You don’t have to be ready. Not yet.

In fact, when you sign up for a race and click the “submit” button, you might feel a mix of:

  • 🤘Excitement, and...
  • 😲 Nervousness.

It’s the perfect combo to get your mind thinking about what you’ll need to do to get ready for race day.

Just let that percolate for a while, and you might be surprised by how motivating it can be to help you make time for training - whether you're a new runner or just getting back into the swing of things.

Ready to sign up for a race, make plans and start training?

Here are 8 tips to help you pick the right races and chase those finish lines:

1. Find a race to run. Many races use one of several sign-up services to host registration.

1. Find a race to run

If you’re already part of a running club, chances are pretty good you’ll be familiar with local races in your area.

You can also check popular sites to sign up for a race like:

 Fun fact: A couple months ago, members of the WeeViews team (spread out across the U.S.) decided to meet up at the Gorge Waterfalls races in Oregon for the 30K, 50K, and 100K the first weekend in April. 

2. Mark your calendar. Once you find a race, plan for it. And make sure you've got time to train. Photo: @omar.runs.napa

2. Mark your calendar

Obviously. But there’s more to this than just putting it on your calendar. 

Based on your current fitness level, choosing a date for a race gives you time to prepare.

  • The fun run. If you’re used to running 3-6 miles a few times a week, any 5K or 10K is going to be a breeze.
  • Training for race day. If you’re aiming to move up to a half marathon or longer, you may want to pick a race that’s at least 8 weeks out or longer to give yourself time to prepare.

Of course, you’ll also want to find a race date that fits with everything else in your life: work, family, vacations, etc.

This can also be a good time to find out if you:

  • Get a refund
  • Defer your entry for next year, or...
  • Transfer your fee to another race, just in case something comes up. 
3. Check the start time. What time does the race start? You better check.

3. Check the start time

Don’t most races start early Saturday or Sunday morning?

You better check. Not all races start in the morning. 

For example:

What time does the race start?

You’ll want to find out to make sure you can get there on time. 

And if you need to take a shuttle to the race start, you’ll need to arrived even earlier. 

4. Confirm the location. Where's the race? You better find out, in case you need to make extended travel plans.

4. Confirm the location

 It’s another no-brainer detail when you’re planning to sign up for a race.

But it’s not always as simple as you might think.

For example...

  • The Antarctic Ice Marathon is going to be an extended trip and require significant travel time for any runner, regardless of where you live.
  • And with the rise of the backyard ultra, you may want to arrive early to get a spot on the course to set up camp and stash your stuff.

It’s also a race-day factor you need to consider that may include:

  • Travel time
  • Parking
  • Hotel check-in
  • Packet pick-up
  • Shuttle bus
  • Or even taking a ferry,  which you’ll need to get to the starting line of races hosted by Rainshadow Running on Orcas Island in Washington state.
5. Review the start/finish amenities. Find out ahead of time about packet pick-up, race medals, T-shirt and swag. Photo: @thebeerdedrunner

5. Review the start/finish amenities

A big part of your race experience is the start and finish.

Before you sign up for a race, make sure you can answer questions like:

  • What’s the starting line and finish area look like? 
  • Can you pick up your bib number before the race?
  • Is there any food/drink available at the start?
  • Can spectators wait with you in the starting area?
  • What kind of aid, support, food and drink will you find at the finish?
  • Is there a post-race party for runners?

Getting familiar with what to expect when you show up to the stating line will help reduce pre-race jitters. 

And knowing what to expect when you make it to the finish line can help you keep going. 

6. Get familiar with the course. Before you go, get familiar with the course, route/map, course markings, etc.

6. Get familiar with the course

So where will you be running? 

Before you go, make sure you’re familiar with the course you’ll be running, what the route looks like, and any major things to watch for like:

  • Major street crossings
  • Road/trail closures
  • Last-minute reroutes
  • Stream crossings (trail runs)
  • Checkpoints

Why bother with these details?

You don't want to get lost or show up unprepared.

As much as you hope to run a perfect race, do everything you can to prevent something from going wrong. 

7. Find out what aid station support to expect. You know...food, drinks, snacks, first aid, etc. Photo: @teamredlizard

7. Find out what aid station support to expect

A typical 5K race might not have designated aid stations along the course.

But if you sign up for a race like a 10K or longer, most races will include aid stations along the route to support runners.

But you’ll want to find out ahead of time what the aid stations will be stocked with like:

  • Water
  • Sports drink
  • Electrolyte replacement
  • Fruit
  • Candy
  • Energy bars or gels
  • Pickle juice
  • First aid

Keep in mind, not all races include aid stations. You may need to carry what you need in a pack or bring your own crew to set up aid stations to support you.

If the race you sign up for is going to include aid station support, it’s a good idea to practice fueling with the food and drink they provide during training. 

8. Check out the post-races party and services. Photo: @marathonmangary

8. Check out the post-races party and services

So you make it all the way to the finish line? Now what?

Here’s another thing you might want to check out before you sign up for a race.

What’s the post-race party and services look like?

At many races, the finish line will include:

  • Finishers medal
  • Race T-shirt (do you need to pre-order? Does it come with your race entry fee? Are different options available?)
  • Swag bag for runners
  • Post-race party with food, drinks snacks
  • Beer garden
  • Entertainment
  • Massage
  • First aid
  • Shuttle back to the start

Let’s be honest. There’s a remote possibility you’ve put yourself through the training just to collect a finisher medal, race T-shirt, and enjoy the post-race party. Right?

What's your 2023 race calendar look like?

Already have your 2023 race calendar planned out?

Or maybe you're in a lottery or have a handful of races you're thinking about.

Either way, signing up for a race is a smart way to help you start thinking about the training you need to do to step up to the starting line.

What's your 2023 race calendar look like?

Tell us about it in the comments. 

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Evan Jensen
Ambassador
SANDY, Oregon

I help RUNNERS reduce injuries, fix running form, run longer & faster by strength training without running ragged. I'm a NASM-certified personal trainer, and hold the record for the most finishes at the Mountain Lakes 100-Mile Ultra in Oregon.

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