As the new year gets on its way, it’s time to set new running goals! For me, there is no better motivator than registering for a few races at the start of the year and working toward a goal for each one—whether it be a personal record, a time goal, a challenging hilly course, etc. If the race is on the books, then there’s no excuse not to get out there and train.
The following is a short list of a few of my favorite races with some key points about them and also a bonus list of additional races to consider. Remember, when you choose a running race, always consider the elevation, weather, if you want a well-attended race or a small field of runners, a local or a destination race, and of course, the swag, (if that’s your thing).
1. HSS GREENWICH CUP HALF MARATHON (Greenwich): This is my favorite half marathon in Connecticut. The start and finish are on the beach, and the course is a combination of ocean views and beautiful neighborhood roads. It offers a challenging course with different terrain (e.g., gravel, sand, grassy hill finish, and pavement) and mostly flat elevation. The late-April race date means the weather is usually a win-win situation. The swag is a high-quality short-sleeved tech shirt and a finisher’s medal, and the immediate computerized results are a nice touch. Plenty of convenient parking and real bathrooms! You can’t beat hanging out on the beach afterward if it’s nice weather. (April)
2. REDDING ROAD RACE, A RUN FOR THE COWS (Redding): This race offers a 7-miler, a half marathon, and a combination of a 5K and 7-miler to make a 10-mile total. The race is known for selling out within days of opening registration (sometimes hours). It is a challenging, hilly course that reminds you the state of Connecticut is NOT FLAT. Known for its stellar special guests—last year, Kara Goucher and Bill Rodgers were guests, which meant fun runs with both runners the day before the race and opportunities to see them both out on the course running the race. The swag is some of the best I’ve ever received, and the food afterward will put all other race food to shame. (May)
3. LITCHFIELD HILLS ROAD RACE: (Litchfield): This 43-year-old race is one of the best in Connecticut because of the local crowd support. The 7-mile race is challenging through the many hills of Litchfield. Multi-terrain gives you trail, asphalt, gravel, and a jaunt through the White Memorial Conservation Center. Don’t underestimate the famous Gallows Lane Hill—it’s THAT BIG! The real challenge to this course is the time of day. A 1:00 p.m. start in June means you could be running in 90 degrees and 100% humidity, so make sure you train for these types of conditions and hydrate well BEFORE the race. There are plenty of water stops and hoses out on the course. Enjoy hanging out on the town green after the race with basically all the residents of Litchfield. (June)
4. EVERSOURCE HARTFORD MARATHON/HALF MARATHON (Hartford): This is the biggest race in Connecticut, and it does not disappoint on organization, swag, crowd support, and the after-race party. Whether you choose the marathon distance or half marathon distance—or even the 5K—you will enjoy a relatively flat course (a few inclines, but no killer hills) and a few thousand runners to keep you company. The race has on-course live bands, well-covered water/hydration stops, a finisher’s medal, a high-quality race shirt, and a finisher’s water bottle. Afterward, enjoy the vending area with race merchandise, beer, and a food tent. The race feels like a great big party for runners. In addition to the race itself, there is a large race expo both Thursday and Friday prior to the Saturday race day. (October)
5. AACR PHILADELPHIA MARATHON (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania): If you can’t qualify for Boston or don’t get into the New York City Marathon by lottery but crave a big-city marathon on the East Coast, look no further than the Philly Marathon. The crowd support is unbelievable. (This year, I thought for sure with the inclement weather the crowd support would falter—absolutely NOT!) A great course that starts and finishes near the famous Philadelphia Museum of Art—better known as the “Rocky Steps”—and has one challenging hill to conquer at mile nine. The marathon has an excellent expo on the weekend of the race with guests, like Desi Linden and Meb Keflezighi. It also has a beautiful finisher’s medal. The only gamble here is that the weather can be challenging since it’s scheduled in late November. But even with the weather conditions being a gamble, you won’t regret running Philly. This is a great race! (November)
SOME ADDITIONAL FAVORITES OF MINE TO CONSIDER:
- KEY WEST HALF MARATHON & 5K: Escape the cold New England weather and run a half marathon in beautiful Key West, Florida. (January)
- IRON HORSE HALF MARATHON, 10K, AND 5K: There are not enough 10K options in Connecticut. This is one of the best. A Hartford Marathon Foundation event, this race goes through the quaint neighborhood of Simsbury, Connecticut. (June)
- PURPLESTRIDE 5K: An uphill challenge and a downhill finish in Hubbard Park in Meriden, Connecticut, this race benefits pancreatic cancer research. (June)
- GULF BEACH HALF MARATHON: What can I say? I’m a sucker for a run along the beach with an ocean view. Milford, Connecticut. (September)
- BLUE BACK MITTEN RUN 5K: Holiday fun in West Hartford. An ugly sweater hat for all. Hot chocolate and cookies after the race. What’s not to love? (December)
This list is a small portion of my favorite races. There are dozens more, and the fun is simply finding your own favorite race to run. May your 2020 be filled with many miles of races, training, and fun!