Monthly Archives: January 2015

2014 Race Rankings

What are the best local races to include on your calendar? According to the recent Runners Survey most people find races to run based on recommendations from other runners. Now you can get those recommendations without having to actually ask your running friends because I’ve saved you the time! You can use your long run to discuss politics, the best shows on The Food Network or the flaws of the college football playoff system. You’re welcome.

I got responses from just over 100 runners and they were asked several running related questions and the final section asked them to rate 17 local races. I didn’t include every single race in town. There are a bunch of races that are just fun-runs and don’t even claim to be a race. There are tons of “One Hit Wonders” that appear for a year and then never happen again. I tried to select 16 races that had at least two years of successful running and met a basic level of race organization. If you are a race director of an event not listed and want to know how your race scored or you want to be included in next year’s survey, let me know!

Now for some nerdy statistical stuff. I asked for runners to rate the race only if they had run it in the last two years so each race had about 20-30 actual scores to get their average. You’ll notice the scores are pretty darn close! I ranked by the percentage of runners who scored the race “Good (4 stars)” or “Excellent (5 stars).” I also listed the average number of stars for each race which would shuffle the ranking slightly. However, that isn’t really the point here. Is the #1 race MUCH better than the #7 race? Nope. I listed the best scoring events to recognize the TOP events in town. All of these are really well-done races and easily worth the cost of the entry fee. A difference of 0.5 on the average star score is not statistically significant. The spread between all of the races below is 0.66 so all of these races were highly rated by the runners who did the events and the scores are extremely close.

Me with Bobby from Lloyd Clarke Sports. Bobby has three races in the top 7, including #1- Newnan's Lake!
Me with Bobby from Lloyd Clarke Sports. Bobby has three races in the top 7, including #1- Newnan’s Lake!

Race                           %  that scored the race 4-5 Stars         # of runners                 Average stars

Newnan’s Lake 15K 90.26 261 4.49
5 Points of Life Half Marathon 90.25 681 4.44
LGAA 5K at Ironwood 86.2 385 4.21
Season of Hope 5K 81.81 339 4.18
Turkey Trot 10K 81.8 565 4.32
Flatwoods 5K 78.58 167 4.43
Trail of Payne 10K 75.68 244 4.16
5 Points of Life 5K 72.73 354 4.14
WOBtoberfest 5K 70.37 172 3.93
Season of Hope 15K 68.42 102 3.84
Payne’s Prarie 5K 66.67 166 3.83
Haven Hospice 10K 66.67 146 3.83
Haven Hospice 5K 65 514 4.00
Race the Tortoise 5K 64.71 247 4.06
CHEERS! to all the top ranked races! We appreciate the hard work it takes to put on a race!
CHEERS! to all the top ranked races! We appreciate the hard work it takes to put on a race!

For reference, here’s the link to the 2013 survey:

A note for statistical comparison from last year to this year- the survey site I used changed how the 5-stars system and blended averages are calculated. Last year’s ranking was based on the average stars metric expressed as a %. Confused? I was too for a while. The bottom line is this: If you want a baseline score from last survey to compare directly to this year, I can do that for you. I’m not sure there is a huge benefit to that unless you’re a nerd but if you want it, I can do it!


Runner Profile- Katie Wade

Lloyd Clarke Sports

Katie Wade

Katie post-race with her father and friends. Katie post-race with her father and friends.

Running to most people is a chore, a punishment, a grinding way to “get in shape”.  For me, running is a way of life.  It has brought me closer to my family, allowed me to befriend incredible athletes, stay in the best shape of my life, and encouraged me to travel all over the country.  It is so much of who I am and what I do, and I’ve been lucky enough to create a life that combines my hobby and my profession seamlessly.

My father began running when I was a young teenager.  I grew up in a very small town in eastern North Carolina, there were no sidewalks, no running paths, and certainly no 5k runs.  I remember friends asking me, “Was that your DAD running on the side of the highway?”, and I’d roll my eyes as I…

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Plan Your 2015 Race Calendar ! (at least up to April)

Plan your 2015 race calendar!

This is not an all-inclusive listing and has some out of town events listed along with local races. This is also just a listing for upcoming races from now to April, 2015. The one thing they have in common is that I have run them all and feel comfortable recommending them to you. As you select races, it is a good idea to ask fellow runners and get a feel for the event. Check the comments on or other websites. Look at to see previous year’s results and you can check on the size of the event, the times and other runners who have done it so you know who to talk with. Researching your races is one of the best ways to ensure you spend your registration money on events you will enjoy. Please add comments to this post about upcoming races you would recommend to fellow runners. Also, refer to the RRCA guidelines for selecting a race.

January 24th– Matanzas 5K, St Augustine. One of the fastest, most competitive 5K races in the state. If you’re looking for a PR time on a flat course with a well-run event, this is your race.

January 31st-Newnan’s Lake 15K, Gainesville. One of the oldest running events in the area with over 34 years of history. This is a flat course, a well-organized event and is a nice stepping stone to a Half Marathon later in the season. 

February 8th– Tallahassee Marathon. This is a flat marathon course which I found surprising in Tallahassee! It is a great smaller-scale marathon, similar in size and feel to the Five Points races. They always have cool speakers at the expo and it finishes at the FSU track.

February 14th -15th– Five Points of Life Races: Marathon, Half Marathon, and 5K, Gainesville. The largest running event in town with an expo and lots of runners. Not super-fast courses for the Half Marathon or Marathon but you get to see a lot of Gainesville and run through Ben Hill Griffin Stadium!

February 21st-22nd– Gasparilla Distance Classic, Tampa, FL. Pick from a half marathon, 15K, 8K or 5K. This race weekend features pirate themed medals, a huge expo and everything you’d expect to find at a major national event. The courses are all along Tampa Bay so the scenery is nice and the elevation change is minimal.

You could win a Pirate, a Pine Cone or a Tortoise!
You could win a Pirate, a Pine Cone or a Tortoise!

March 7th– Race the Tortoise 5K, High Springs. Still looking for that fast 5K time that you almost hit at Matanzas? Here’s your shot! There are some slight inclines but this out and back course is pretty fast. Cool tortoise trophies for the winners and a good breakfast after the run.

March 14th– Gate River Run 15K, Jacksonville. This is a mega-race with 20,000 runners, a huge expo and tons of fun surrounding the race. It is worth the trip to Jacksonville for this national class event. If you don’t feel like driving, take a bus with the Florida Track Club.

March 14th– Run for Haven 10K & 5K, Gainesville. If you’d rather not run in the massive crowd at River Run, this is a great local race that benefits Haven Hospice. A scenic course through Town of Tioga with a fantastic party atmosphere after the run is a great way to celebrate St.Patrick’s Day!

March 28th– Trail of Payne, Gainesville. Run through the woods at Payne’s Prairie for a challenging trail 10K. Getting out into nature with a little dirt and mud feels good!

April 11th– Flatwoods 5K, Gainesville. Not quite ready for a full trail experience like Trail of Payne? Here’s a nice one! The course is a lime rock road loop through beautiful Austin Carey Forest. You are lucky to run out on the trails because they are not open to the public! A fun event, beautiful scenery for the run and awesome pinecone trophies!

April 18th– Sweet H2O 50K, Lithia Springs, GA. For the trail runners who really want to get out into beautiful wilderness for a long time, this is your event! 31 miles of challenging trails with 2 creek crossings and some spectacular views. It is a short road trip away, just NW of Atlanta.

April 22nd– LGAA 5K, Gainesville. Join some fun loving runners at Ironwood Golf course for a weekday 5K! We run some on grass, some cart path and finish up at the clubhouse where you get a full BBQ dinner and $1 beers. Gather a team and compete in the team challenge.

Croom Zoom 50K

Croom Zoom 25K / 50K / 100K

Running a trail 50K is a real challenge that I’d recommend to any marathoner. If you can complete 26.2 on pavement, you can do a trail 50K. Or if you can do a road half marathon, you can do a trail 25K. The experience is very different than a major road race and a fun change of scenery. There are differences in race day planning so hopefully my experience will give you some guidance on how to prepare and execute a good race.

The Croom Zoom is near Brooksville in the Withlacoochee State Forest. The route starts out on a limerock road for about a mile and then continues into loops on single-track forest trails. With a 6 AM start, headlamps are required for the first hour or so of the run. For my local friends, the trails are quite similar to San Felasco. I would say they are a bit tougher than the Millhopper side of San Felasco, but a little easier than the Alachua side. The hills were more than I expected but not in steepness, just in length. There were a few long steady climbs during the course.

Standing on a dark road at 5:58 AM, the race director addressed the audience of headlamped runners. “We have some Boy Scouts camping here this weekend. They are great at helping out in the park and really enthusiastic about picking up litter. So enthusiastic, they picked up about 2 miles of our trail markings yesterday afternoon.” The crowd noise was a mix of laughing and groaning. “We got out there and re-marked so it should be fine. There are glow sticks the first few miles.” He continued with a brief course description, locations of aid stations and other general announcements.

The course was VERY well marked. I went slightly off course a couple of times but it was based more on my carelessness than on the course markings!

I ran the 50K while my friend and old high school teammate, Steve Wilcox, decided to run the 25K. My start was 6AM and his at 7, so I saw him driving into the park as we ran the first mile. I was jealous because I could have used the extra sleep! I fell in behind a runner who clearly wanted the lead. He is an experienced trail racer from New York so while I thought he would be tough competition, I had to believe the warm temperature and humidity would be a challenge for him. We were joined by a guy from Tampa who said he’d been on the Croom trails before but only on a bike. All three of us were new to the course, running in the dark. After about 8 miles, I decided to take the lead and push the pace. It was light enough to see the trail and still relatively cool. My strategy was to gain some time during the cooler conditions, knowing it would soon warm up. I stopped at each aid station and drank at least 3 cups of water and consumed 5 PowerGels during the race.

During Loop 2
During Loop 2

My plan worked well in some ways. I did build a gap that the other runners couldn’t close so I won the race in 4:24:09. However, the last few miles were pretty slow and I had some leg cramps. I’m not sure if it was a hydration issue or some other nutrition based problem. With temperatures in the high 60s to low 70s and humidity at 98%, I know I needed water and lots of it!

photo 2

I ran in trail shoes but noticed many of the runners were in regular training shoes. The trails at Croom had lots of roots in some spots but generally, your regular running shoes would be fine. I was pleased with the Salomon Mantra2 shoes I ran in. They felt nice on the sandy trails and on the occasional spots with mud and roots, I had good traction.

croom zoom2
Steve Wilcox, winner of the 25K, the Race Director, and me.

The post-race celebration at the Croom Zoom is like a family picnic. There are grilled burgers, hot dogs and other food. The runners gather and share stories from the trail and cheer for the 100K runners who are still passing by on their way to another loop. My friend Steve entertained himself by watching me suffer from ab muscle cramps while trying to untie my shoes.

croom zoom trophycroom hat

Croom Zoom is a well-organized event and I came home with a T-shirt, a finisher’s hat and a super-cool trophy. For my marathoner and half marathoner friends interested in a new, fun challenge, I’d recommend Croom Zoom.

Full Results: