One of the questions that I get asked the most from race directors is when should I have my race. I always respond with an answer the does little to answer the actual question, “it depends.”
Most race directors decide to hold their race in a time of year where the weather is optimal. The popular months for races are May/June and September/October. The logic goes that since the weather is pleasant for the workers and the runners, it’s the ideal time to host a race. You don’t have to deal with the extreme cold of January or the heat of July.
The negative externality of hosting a race in the prime running months of the year is the pure number of competing races that you the race director will have to compete against. Just a few weeks ago, Mother’s Day weekend had a high number of races and I counted 14 races from Ft. Collins to Colorado Springs that weekend, the competition was stiff and that’s not even counting the races that were held in the mountains.
My experience is that race directors are scared to host a run in the winter months. However, I can tell you that working a race in cold weather is a lot harder than running a race in cold weather. It’s true, the weather can make or break you, it can be snowing and cold and it will impact your numbers negatively, however it can also be 50 degrees in Colorado on a January morning and you’ll get a lot of last-minute registrations. It’s a roll of the die, pick your poison, put your race on in the winter where you might compete against one or two other races or in the spring/fall when the competition is stiff. Lastly, if you have access to an indoor facility for your race, say a school or a business building, that helps out in hosting a cold weather race as it allows your runners/walkers a place to warm up before and after the race.
The next decision to make is Saturday or Sunday. In Denver and Boulder races are split rather evenly between the two days, however, in Colorado Springs races are rarely held on Sunday. When deciding on Saturday or Sunday, look at your target audience. Saturdays are harder for families with kids, as parents often have obligations with children’s sports on Saturday. Sundays are problematic for churchgoers. What group will make up the bulk of your participants?
Also, don’t rule out weeknight races, especially in the summer. The Drop Your Drawers and Run 5K is held on a Friday evening at Denver’s City Park and attracts close to 1k runners/walkers. Races on the weeknights are different, fun and low on competition.