Exercise & Health · Uncategorized

How to Choose a 5K to Run

For runners, there seems to be so many races out there to pick from! So how can you choose the right one for you? Well, thank goodness, I am here to help!

I spoke with my running friend today, to kind of collaborate on this post. And hopefully, if you are apprehensive about choosing a race, this will clarify some of those choices for you!

But before we get to the list, how do you even begin to find a race near you? These websites offer a list of races and also provide links to the individual race websites and information pages.


There are a few sites that we use quite frequently to find races near us. The first is Active.com. This site provides access to races all over the country. Of course, you will need to filter the results to find a race that is actually close to where you are located! You can even sign up online for many races through this site.


RunSignUp also has a large list of races compiled. Again, be sure to filter the results to your area! This site also allows for participants to sign up online.


Running in the USA has one of the larger lists of races. I find this site one of the easiest to maneuver. All you need to do is click on your state and it shows you everything!


US Road Running is slightly different. They do not advertise races for other people. They organize and put on a variety of themed races, some of which are even virtual races.

Many times, after having registered for a race through one or more of these websites, they send emails about upcoming races, making it simpler to search for races.

If all else fails, I just type what I am looking for and where into Google. Google can find anything!

So now that you have some ideas about where to find races, here are some things to consider before you register!

1. Cause

Pretty much the first thing my running friend and I look at in a race is the cause. There are so many good causes out there, but we try to choose ones that are near and dear to our hearts. Find a race that you are passionate about! It makes those 3.1 miles seem to fly by!

2. Location

This can be taken two ways. Where is the race being held? Is it within driving range on a Saturday morning? Will you need to spend the night somewhere in order to make it to the race on time? Take into consideration how long your morning routine takes, how long before the race you will need to eat breakfast, and travel time. We generally do not travel more than an hour to get to any races. That being said, almost all of the 5Ks around us are at least a 30-45 minute drive because of where we live.

The other aspect of location is where the course goes. Does it wind through city streets? Around a small town? Through wooded areas? Know where you like to run, and research it! And if you want to leave your comfort zone, try something new!

3. Course Layout

What does the course look like? Some courses are loops, while others are out-and-back. Some are a combination of the two. Personally, I prefer to run a loop course. I like to see different sites throughout the whole race. Figure out your preference, and then look at the course maps on the race website.

Also, look at what kind of terrain you will be running on. My running friend and I went to a race two years ago, only to find out it was a cross country course! We were not prepared for that, as we both prefer to run on pavement.


4. Elevation

On some race websites, they list the elevation change throughout the race. Many times, this is only on longer races, but some smaller races also make this information available to the public. For one of the half marathons I ran, they broke the elevation change down in a chart so that it was evident where the uphills and downhills were.

Know your body. There have been times throughout my life that I was game for a tough, hilly course. There have also been times when a flat and fast course is my cup of tea! Researching elevation changes throughout the race can help you play to your strengths or challenge yourself.

5. Cost

The majority of 5K races around our area have a registration fee somewhere between $20 and $30. Be sure to know the cost of the race before arriving on site. If the race costs more than you would like to spend, it pays to know that before taking an unwarranted trip! Likewise, some races may turn out to have a lower registration fee, which might outweigh some other factors mentioned previously!

6. Swag Bags

Plenty of races offer goodies for participating in the event. The most popular is a T-shirt. Some races require preregistration if you want to guarantee a shirt will be available for you. And if you’ve read my previous post about running shirts, you know I have my fair share! I have also accumulated cinch bags, reusable grocery bags, candy bars, granola bars, pens, coupons, BioFreeze samples, water bottles, blankets, and lots and lots of safety pins throughout my racing days!


So there you have it! Maybe you are new to running and timid about choosing a race. Maybe you chose the wrong 5K and had a rotten racing experience. I do not know your personal situation, but I do hope that these pointers are helpful!

For seasoned runners, how to you choose your races? What criteria do they need to meet before you sign up? Please feel free to comment! I would love your input!

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