What Makes a Race Our Favorite?

I’ve asked the question to the fantastic BibRave community before: What’s your favorite all-time race?

Mostly, I was just curious to see the answers. Now, with the unveiling of the BibRave 100 it seemed like a good idea to bring back this topic.

We all have favorite races. I’ve written about a few of my favorites on this blog. Hell, I’ve ranked my favorites in various categories. But why? Why are some races elevated to “favorite” status for each of us. What makes a specific 5k, 10k, 13.1, 26.2, 50k, 50 mile, etc better than the other races of the same distance?

Many of you know this, but my all-time favorite race is the Gopher to Badger Half. The Half Marathon is not my favorite distance. This is not the easiest course. And the race is in the middle of August in the Midwest, so the weather is normally far from ideal.

Yet, the fact that I now live about 6 hours away will not stop me from signing up again in 2018. I’ll go back for year 5. I even said when I nominated this race for the BibRave 100, that it’s probably the only Half I would make a point to fly to if necessary.

Why?

I would speculate that many of us runners hold a special place in our heart for our first race at the Half and/or Full distance. Heck, the only Marathon I’ve completed twice is Grandma’s Marathon (my first try at 26.2).

And yes, I know some people hate their first race because those can go poorly: see my last 8 miles at Grandma’s 2015. But we remember those. For those competitors reading this blog, you know that you want to go back and conquer that course.

All of those things hold true for me at Gopher to Badger. The last 2-3 miles in 2014 were dreadful. It was hot. I didn’t hydrate or have any nutrition. The only water I took was a cup I tried to splash on my face. And that ended up being Gatorade…

But I went back in 2015 as a much better runner and ran my second fastest Half to that point on an absolutely perfect running day. Then I came back for a scorcher of a day in 2016, and ran the EXACT. SAME. TIME. that I did a year before. Literally. And for a fourth year I made the pilgrimage back in 2017 on another gorgeous day and lowered by Half PR by over a minute.

Am I biased here that Gopher is now not only the location of my first Half, but also my best Half?

Yup.

But it’s the other things as well. This is the race I get to see a ton of my friends from college who all live in the area. There’s nothing like being able to hang out with friends (and your coach) before a race. Have close friends as crowd support twice in the race. And be able for everyone to get together at the finish.

It also provides me with the chance to swing by UW-River Falls, my alma mater, which I still consider to be the greatest place on Earth.

While the race is just 13.1 miles from Minnesota to Wisconsin (which makes you sound like a badass when you say you raced “From MN to WI”) and not that far of a drive; it is like a vacation for me. I’m away from work (except when I ran into a few of my recruits in 2016…) and hanging out with college friends.

Like. Look at this year. I drove up and got lunch with a friend, beers with another, and dinner with another. On race morning I got to hang out with one of my close friends, my coach, and a couple other former UWRF athletes. Then, I had that cheering section of my best friend senior year, his fiance, and one of my other close friends who was visiting that weekend as well. All while running a PR.

Guys, it literally doesn’t get any better than that.

So our favorite races are likely the ones that hold positive memories for us. The ones we run with friends. The ones we do well in. The ones we just want to conquer so, so badly.

All that being said, what’s your favorite race? And why?

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