Be sure to add your blog to my blog list -- Click HERE or blog list above to add your blog!

Dec 26, 2013

What goes into my race reviews

Of course, you can just read the review and know what goes into them but I thought I'd give a little perspective of what work actually goes into the race reviews.  When I first started, I'd review the race and give my opinion of the race.  I kept it fairly short.

As time went on, I decided to make then much more detailed.  I followed the sections that I felt runners would be interested in or would be impacted by.  They are as follows:  A short summary for those that don't want to read the entire review.   In the long version, I include sections on:  Race registration/packet pickup, Start area, Course, Aid Stations, Finish Area, Amenities, Organization, and Overall.

In those sections, I try to include all of the following:

You need to be honest about the review.  Anyone can give a great review all the time and most of my races are good reviews but sometimes I have reviews that are not that complimentary to the race organization but I tell it the way it is.  It's what makes it a good review.  If you don't mention the stuff that needs to be fixed, how will the race ever know to fix it?  For those that read my reviews, whether you are a race director or a runner, it should never be taken personally.  It's not that I want to write a bad race review but that's the way it has to be.  I also don't do it to rip the race apart.  I have no reason to do that.  I want all races to be successful because I know the amount of work that goes into them and I want to be able to enjoy them in successive years.

In my opinion, a good race review has pictures and I take lots!  Haha!  Essentially my goal of the race review is for you to get a good idea if this is a race that you would want to run or not.  Hopefully, it makes you feel like you were there.  That goes for all sections, even the course itself, while running.  It's taken me some time to get better pictures while running.  It's not easy to run a 7-9 minute pace and take good pictures.

I take anywhere between 100 and 300 pictures.  Of course, I don't share that many on the review but I tend to take pictures from the time I get to the race to the time I leave and I'm always thinking about what I need for the review.  It doesn't sound fun, does it?  Really it's not a big deal because I'm so used to it that it's become second nature for me.  Many of these pictures are taken on the course and I probably get 15% percent of pictures taken while running that turn out clear.  Many people have asked if I'm Detroit Runner when they see I'm running with a camera.  The low percentage means I have to take a lot of pictures so I try to plan for it for something I want to show you.

The pictures come out much better when it's really sunny out.  Rain and darkness make it very difficult to get great pictures.   Here's an example of one I took while running the dirt section at the Sleeping Bear half marathon where it was raining and a dark sky:
Unadjusted; Haha!  Not much to look at, eh?
I use a Panasonic Lumix that is a regular point and shoot and a waterproof one for bad(rain and snow) weather.  I also use my DSLR but mainly for pictures around town, packet pickup and for taking pictures of the amenities when I get home and not to race with.  Can you imagine running with that big thing?
Lumix waterproof, Nikon DSLR, Lumix
The other factor on pictures is adjustments.  All the pictures I take have to be adjusted, cropped and my logo added.  This takes a ton of time but they come out so much better this way.  Here's an example:
It's nice to give a detailed description of the race experience so my long versions tends to be very long.  If you notice, I don't talk about my race results the entire review.  I do have a section under the course that talks about my race but I keep it fairly minimal since always talking about my race can get boring.  I find people want to know about what happened at the race and don't really care that much that I ran a 7:30 mile versus a 7:50 mile.  Heck, I barely care about that.  Haha!

Race Directors
I've only had a few race directors really talk about things that happened at the race and/or commented about my review.  If I were a race director, I would definitely comment about it, good or bad.  Just like my reviews, I love to hear about things I may have wrong.  I love when directors reach out to tell me their perspective after my review or correct me and I've put edits in the review after the discussions.  This leads to the next item.

I tend to write 99% of my reviews with my perspective in the review.  Hey, it is my blog after all.  All kidding aside, why shouldn't I use my perspective for the review?  It's about what happened to me at the race.  I have mentioned some things in reviews that didn't necessarily effect me but would effect many runners and I'm trying to add to that perspective as I do more reviews.  For example, I have been lucky enough to finish many races in the top 10-25%.  Because of this, I don't tend to have to wait in line for food or medals.  Things like this I know effect many other runners but not typically me.  I'm trying to point out things like this more often considering I'm there sometimes for a good hour after my finish and observe things as they get busier.

I've seen other reviews where runners complain that the parking was a mess or they almost missed the race due to the crowd.  This is not what I"m referring to in regards to others perspective.  Let's face it, races are getting larger and larger.  If you don't want to worry about parking or you almost miss the race, this is typically not the races issue.  Get there earlier!

I would say that my typical review takes anywhere from 5-8 hours to write including all my picture editing.  I try to re-read it at least three times as well to find any writing errors.  All of my reviews take longer than the actual race but I hope that it helps others decide if this is a race you would spend your hard earned money on.

What's a race ambassador?
For some of the races I review, I am what many would call a "race ambassador".  All this means is that I promote the race and write a review on it and in exchange I typically get a complementary entry into the race.  Believe me, I don't do this for money.  Yes, it saves me a few dollars which is great considering the number of races I run per year but these reviews take time.  Running races and writing these reviews is my passion and getting a free entry to a $40 race is not going to influence what I write.  I also feel it's well earned due to the time involved in writing the review.  I've never been required by any race where I was an ambassador to state something in particular on the review.  In fact, I often warn the race director ahead of time that if I run their race, it's all going to be out there so if something does not go right, it still gets put into the report.  If directors don't like that, then they're not the kind of organizations I want to work with.  The smart ones know that even if I have something derogatory to say about their race, it's an opportunity to fix it instead of losing runners the following year.

So that's it - this is what I do.  Does it take time? Yes.  Do I love doing it? Absolutely!

Tell me - what else would you like to see in my reviews?

Have a great day and....Keep Running!!!!


  1. I might sit on the other side of the world without every planning on running any of your races, but I run lots of races and love to read about your races.