Great Races for First Timers
Post by KSE Ambassador Tori Brook
As endurance athletes, we’re always looking for ways to push ourselves and achieve new milestones. There’s something wonderful and exciting about trying a new distance or making the transition into multi-sport races.
If you’ve thought about tackling the marathon or half marathon distance, or taking the plunge and getting into triathlon, here are my picks for great first timer’s races in the South East.
ING Miami Half Marathon – February 2, 2014, Miami, FL
This race definitely gives runners the “big race” feel without being too overwhelmingly packed. The half marathon course is fast and is the same as the marathon course until it splits off at mile 13. The race finishes right on the beach with a big post race celebration. Be prepared, the weather for this race is hit or miss.
Women’s Half Marathon – November 24, 2013, St. Petersburg, FL
This race just seems to sparkle. It’s a women’s race, but the men can race it too. The course is flat, SUPER flat, and along the beautiful St. Petersburg waterfront. The expo is also very well attended by the major women’s athletic brands. The finish line celebration is right on the water in front of the new Dali Museum.
Walt Disney World Marathon – January 12, 2014, Orlando, FL
For the best first timer’s marathon in Florida, Disney is a runaway for me. The race is just plain magical. There’s hardly a dull part of the course. Even the stretches of service road and interstate are chock full of entertainment. The course is primarily flat and the biggest incline change runners face is the interstate on-ramps. Running down Main Street USA is enough to give anyone goose bumps. There is no shortage of course support from cheer stations to water stops and aid stations.
Sprint Triathlon 1/4 MILE SWIM, 10 MILE BIKE, 5 KM RUN
Top Gun Triathlon – July 28, 2012, Ft. DeSoto Park, St. Petersburg, FL
Confession, this one probably made the list because it was my first triathlon. However, I’ve become an avid athlete due largely to my experience at Top Gun Triathlon and I’ve gone back to race it every year since. This race is known for drawing a lot of first timers. The ocean swim is almost always very calm at Ft. Desoto Beach. The 10-mile bike course is flat, fast and one big loop on a road completely closed to traffic. Be prepared, the run is an out and back with the last 1 mile stretch being on packed sand.
Olympic Distance 1.5 km swim, 40 km bike, 10 km run
BelieveStrong Tri – August 17, 2013, Moss Park, Orlando, FL
This race is a great way to make the transition into the Olympic distance. It’s a very small, friendly field and does not feel nearly as intimidating like some of the bigger Olympic ditance races. The swim is in Lake Mary Jane so there is no need to worry about the water being choppy (or salty!). The bike is, of course, super flat and on newly paved roads. And the run is shaded by a tree canopy nearly the entire time.
Ironman 70.3 1.2 MILE SWIM, 56 MILE BIKE, 13.1 MILE RUN
Ironman 70.3 Augusta – September 29, 2013, Augusta, GA
Okay, again, this was my first 70.3 so I’m partial. I also got engaged at the finish line of this race so I’m really partial. But, I chose Augusta as my first 70.3 because everyone gave me all the reasons I am about to give you. And they turned out to be 100% true.
The City of Augusta welcomes this race with open arms. The 1.2 mile swim is current assisted and straight downstream so there is minimal siting required. It’s also wetsuit legal, unlike some of the other Florida 70.3s. The bike course is pretty hilly so be prepared for that. But the run is what makes this race so great. It’s a two loop run through downtown Augusta and the crowd support is amazing. Spectators are able to see athletes 4 times during the 13.1 mile course without having to move.
This list is some of my favorites, but you’ll find a different answer for each distance from every athlete you ask. What makes a race so special is the experience, and that is largely controlled by you! When you’re trying a new distance remember to have fun, trust in your training and enjoy every step!
What is your go-to suggestion for a great first timer’s race? Are you training for a new distance this year?