When I first started running and decided to run in Nashville’s Country Music Marathon the following year, I learned that it was just one stop in the Competitor Group’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series. This is a running series that I have become very familiar with, having run in 16 of their races in numerous cities. As I’ll describe below, no matter where you decide to run one of their races you can be sure you will experience a large, well organized, meticulously planned, race – some might say a entertainment package where you sweat a little. You know what you are getting. This however is an advantage for some, while a disadvantage for other because it is commercialized and maybe lacking “individualism” (I am not one of those).
A running series is of course a group of races that have a common owner or collaborate together. Sometimes you will compete in the whole series during a season, but in most cases, you will simply pick and choose which ones to run depending on the date or the location. Occasionally by participating in more than one stop in a series you will receive some sort of recognition (possibly an additional medal, some extra bling in your race bag, or some clothing).
Generally with an established series you know the producing company has staged a race before and is familiar with all the planning necessities and possible pitfalls. They may have some local representatives, but they also have a corporate team who assist with planning, logistics, marketing, legal, and finance which can make things run a little smoother.
With that said, they don’t always have the “local” flavor that a non-series race has. Sometimes what sets a non-series race apart is the way they go out of their way to make sure the finishers medal is definitely one-of–a-kind, or they put something different in your race bag.
It had been a while since I looked to see what series are out there, so when I recently did a search I was excited to find that there are great number of them (I stopped looking as there were so many). Many look fun and I think I might start planning on participating in some of the races.
Like I wrote above, there are lots of them and you can’t possibly look at them all. I have tried to list a good sample of them, but I know I missed some. Below is a sampling:
Rock n Roll Marathon Series
Web Site: http://www.runrocknroll.com/
Number of Races: 30 (about 1/3 are outside of the United States)
Race Types: Marathon, Half Marathon, 10k, 5k, Kids Marathon (not all are available at each location)
This is the series I am most familiar with having participated in lots of them (all but one was for the half marathon, and the other was a full marathon). When a Rock ‘n’ Roll marathon rolls into a city you are guaranteed a number of things: 1.) a big 2 day expo at the local conference center where you pick up your race packet (bib, timing chip, participants shirt, bag) and check out all the exhibits. 2.) A big race day where the streets are closed off and there are thousands of others doing exactly what you are – running and enjoying the experience. 3.) Music all along the course with stages set up about every mile or so with both live and recorded music. 4.) A great finish line experience where you get your finishers medal, enjoy some recovery drinks/snacks, and visit the merchandise tent. 5.) In most cities there is a big headliner concert in the finish area for you and your support crew (family, friends, neighbors, etc.) after the race – in Las Vegas the concert was before the race (I attended last years and it was Kid Rock) – in Nashville, the concert is held in the evening at the big arena downtown (Bridgestone Arena, 17k+ seats).
Web Site: http://mainlymarathons.com/
Number of Races: 10 series,w/ each having 5-7 consecutive day races
Race Types: Marathon, Half Marathon, 50k, 5k
This is a crazy series (in a good way). Each series is 5-7 consecutive days, with each day mostly in a different State. For example, the next series coming up is named the “Heartland” and on Wednesday June 1 the first race starts in Ohio, then it goes to Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, and finishes Tuesday Jun 7 in Minnesota – 7 days of racing. Looking through their web site is appears they have a dedicated group of folks that participate in these races. I definitely like their moto “No Runner Left Behind” – they even have a coveted award for the last place finisher. For those of you wondering, you do not have to do all the days in a series, but can select the one(s) that interest you.
The National Park Half Marathon Series
Web Site: http://vacationraces.com/
Number of Races: 9 between June and November
Race Types: Half Marathon
This series is a great idea if you want to race in a scenic National Parks. I know when I tell my family I am thinking of going to a city for a vacation they ask me “what race are you doing?” For any of the races in this series I am pretty sure the family will be excited to go. One cool thing that the organizers of these races do, is go cup free at the water stops – you carry a small collapsible cup/bladder, and fill that up at the stops. This is a great idea and a nice way to do their part in keeping the parks clean.
Michelob Ultra 13.1 Series
Web Site: http://www.run131series.com/
Number of Races: 3
Race Types: Half Marathon, 10k
This is sort of a smaller series, but it has always interested me as it looks and sounds fun; I think the locations help too. As with most races, by competing you will receive a technical running shirt and a finisher’s medal.
Wine Country Half Marathon Series
Web Site: http://destinationraces.com/
Number of Races: 8
Race Types: Half Marathon, 5k, Relay
I like big races, but these look like the perfect size to run through wine country (limited to between 2500 to 4000 runners). After the race, runners and their party have the opportunity to sample some of the wines produced from the vineyards they just ran through at the post race Wine and Music Festival.
Divas Half Marathon & 5k Series
Web Site: http://www.runlikeadiva.com/
Number of Races: 10
Race Types: Half Marathon, 5k
Though they say that it is OK for men to run in one of their races, this is definitely a female focused race series. Each participate receives a pink tutu for registering, and a crown shaped finisher’s medal. It looks like rather than the free after race beer that I usually receive, the Diva races serve up some bubbly.
Web Site: https://www.runrevel.com/
Number of Races: 4
Race Types: Marathon, Half Marathon
The races in this series are of the downhill nature so you can probably get a PR. Personally I find the downhills the hardest on my legs, but I think I would be up for a little pain to do one of these races. Stealing some words from their web site, “REVEL races seek to maximize the time a runner spends running in canyons, forests, state or national parks”. Looking through their web site I came across something I wish all races did – ALL RACE PHOTOS WILL BE PROVIDED FREE. With the amount we runners pay to register for races, I think this is one perk we deserve and I wish all race organizers would consider. Others perks runners receive (I got this from the Rockies race – other races may be different): race shirt, throw-away gloves, mylar blanks, race bag, shuttle to the start, finisher’s medal, iced towels at the finish, and of course a nice cold beer to enjoy at the finish line.
Gulf Coast Half Marathon Series
Web Site: http://www.gulfcoasthalf.com/
Number of races: 3
Race Types: Half Marathon, 10 Mile
Let me start with the fact that they have “America’s Most Useful Finishers Medal” – It is a medal that also functions as a bottle opener. I have got to get me one of these! I think I might have to tell the family that we are heading to Mandeville, LA in mid-October this year. As someone who grew up in the North, the thought of running with the view of the water and white sand beaches sounds pretty awesome.
Great Lakes Marathon Series
Web Site: http://www.greatlakesmarathonseries.com/
Number of Races: 24
Race Types: Marathon
This is really a group of individual races getting together for a common good to share ideas and marketing. The goal in this series is to run in as many of the races as possible (only the marathon distance counts) and you’ll receive awards at different benchmarks, with the ultimate goal of completing in all 24 to obtaining the grand prize. You do not have to run these marathons in a single year, but over your running career. This last point is important because there are some races that would be impossible to do since they happen on the dame day. I think if I lived near one of the great lakes I would probably take on the challenge. There are a lot of great cities, and great races, that are part of this series – some are already on my bucket list.
Web Site: http://www.volitionamerica.com/
Number of races: 5
Race Types: Half Marathon, 5k
“The National Anthem of Runners”. Founded by a USAFR Fighter Pilot, this series raises money to help military families of fallen and wounded soldiers pursue education. Their web site definitely looks patriotic, but and I say nothing is more patriotic than helping the families of soldiers that have given so much.
NYRR Five Borough Series
Race Locations: 5
Race Types: Half Marathon, 10 miles, 10k
Put on by the New York Road Runners, this series has a race in each of the five boroughs. The start of the series begins in Manhattan in March and finishing in October in Staten Island. This series consists of 3 half marathons, 1 10k, and 1 10 miler. If you are a New Yorker, I think these races should definitely be on your schedule (in addition to the TCS New York City Marathon which is also put on by the New Your Road Runners Club)
Web Site: http://www.rundisney.com/
Number of Races: 9
Race Types: Marathon, Half Marathon, 10k, 5k
When I Google marathon series I didn’t get any of the Disney races in the results, but I think you have to include them in any list of running series. There are about 9 running events that are held at their parks in Florida, California, and France. As with anything Disney related, these are definitely produced with the highest quality. You definitely will not have to convince the family to accompany you to one of these races that take you through the different parks.