Running your first ultra, marathon, or half next year?

As we cruise into the end of the year, are you starting to think about what 2013 will bring? Will you go farther or faster than you have before?

On Monday, I returned from the Grand Tetons, where Lisa Smith-Batchen, Ray Zahab and I coached a great group of runners at the Dreamchasers training camp. Gorgeous country! And it was the perfect setting for figuring out next steps: how far these runners will push themselves and also what will be next for us coaches. Exciting stuff is afoot for everyone who was there, that’s for sure.

In our downtime, Ray and I talked a bit about the just-finished Grand to Grand Ultra, for which he set the 167-mile course: the first and only self-supported stage race in North America, similar to the Marathon des Sables or any of the RacingThePlanet stage races abroad. (Full disclosure: I’m a G2G advisor, too.) What a boon this new race is, especially to our homegrown long-distance runners, who were able to participate in an event like this without traveling too far. Congratulations to all those who finished earlier this month!

Not that the races in Morrocco or Atacama or the Gobi aren’t worth the trouble it takes to get there (they definitely are!), but they tend to fill up fast, so spots are scarce. Because 2012 was the G2G’s first year, it’s still relatively easy to get into next year’s race if you register early enough. Don’t put it off, as word is spreading fast about this one. People representing 15 countries have already registered for 2013. For the moment, though, you have a good chance of getting into this “local” race on a world-class course. So if you’re looking for your first race at this distance, or for something new in some of the world’s most spectacular scenery, let me suggest you book your spot now.

Is this the race for you? Or do you have other plans in the works? In 2013, why not look for the “gems”? At the ultra distances, I can think of a few others to recommend, like Bob Becker’s races in the Florida Keys, Peanut Island, and the new one in the Everglades. We had a great time at the North Country Run in Michigan this year, love the Yellowstone-Teton races that happened right after our training camp finished, and of course, there’s always the Badwater Ultramarathon, probably my favorite of them all.

I have a few pet races at shorter distances, too, ones that hold a special place in my heart and memory, both for my history there and my affection for the race organizers, like the Illinois, the Tucson, and all of the Leadville series of trail races.

Every area and every distance has these treasures, the ones that make your pulse race and your jaw drop just thinking about them. Imagine what it will be like to actually compete!

Which ones have you done and recommend, and which ones are on your short list for next year?

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