Brian Nicholson: Plan now for next year's running season

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 18 2011 3:31 p.m. MDT

It’s that time of year again. The leaves are turning, the chill is in the air, football is on the television. But for me, it’s increasingly becoming the time to re-evaluate my commitment to running races.

My running anniversary month, or the month I started running seriously eight years ago, was November, Thanksgiving to be exact. Which is usually the time of year most people gain weight.

In recent years, however, I’ve noticed that fall is becoming the time when you start planning for another running season.

What? You ask. Fall? It’s true. If you are a serious runner, or even a casual runner who likes to participate in a race or two, especially in the half marathon or marathon distance, you better start thinking about your plans now.

For example, what once was a race you could enter a week beforehand, the Ogden Marathon registration now opens Nov. 1 and filled up last year in record time. The first time I ran the Utah Marathon Grand Slam, I registered in May. It too has its registration date set for Nov. 1 and is expected to sell out quickly.

If you don’t know much about the grand slam, it’s quite simple. Series organizer Wasatch Running Center chooses four of Utah’s marathons, with a couple of alternates, for runners to complete. In order for you to be competitive in the series of four, you must complete the four they have chosen. By running one of the alternates, you are still afforded the dubious honor of having conquered the grand slam, and will receive the accompanying running shirt and medal. You will just have to figure out your own cumulative time.

When I first started running, completing the grand slam was one of my ultimate goals, and this year marks the second year I have done it.

The series always ends with the St. George Marathon, and what a way to end. The St. George Marathon has well deserved all the accolades it has been given over the years as one of the best marathons in the country.

Another racing series you had better start thinking about is Ogden’s Winter Racing Circuit. This series of five races, the first of which is in February, includes a 5k, 10k, 10 mile, half marathon and a 30k (about 18.6 miles). And these are not your powder puff, weekend-warrior-type races. You will be hard pressed to find a flat part on any of those first three courses, and all of them have the potential of including, free of charge, some “mild” blizzard-like conditions.

This series doesn’t fill up as quickly as the others mentioned above, but you can save some serious dough if you sign up now.

Another marathon which is already opened for registration, is the Utah Valley Marathon, also one of the Grand Slam races next year. In my humble, unscientific opinion, the Utah Valley Marathon has a very bright future.

This year was my first year running it, and with one of the faster courses around, it promises to be one that people are rushing to sign up for. It’s a beautiful course descending though Provo Canyon. I was amazed at how quickly the miles passed by while enjoying the scenery of this race.

In only its fifth year, the event was so organized and well thought out, it seemed like they had been doing this for years. And the decision to end the race on University and Center was a welcome change from previous years, when runners had to wrestle with that overpass on the way south to the Provo Towne Center.

Along with the Ogden Marathon , Utah Valley Marathon and St. George, the 2012 Grand Slam includes the Park City Marathon, which opens its registration in February.

Another very popular race in the red rocks of southern Utah is the Moab Half, more correctly called the Canyonlands Half Marathon. This March classic has been using a lottery system since before I first ran it in 2004. According to its website, the registration for the lottery begins “in November and closes in December,” at which time they draw names to fill the 4,000 slots for both races, the half marathon and a five-mile race.

With all of the evolution in the registration dates of the 2012 running season, it’s no longer wise to wait until you’re contemplating your New Year’s resolutions to decide to start running. The time is now, or at least before some of these marathons, half marathons and running series sell out — or start charging higher rates.

Start making a plan now and bring your Internet “A” game when Nov. 1 rolls around. If you don’t, you may not get to the staring line of some of these races, let alone the finish.

Brian Nicholson has completed marathons from Boston to Beijing, a host of Ragnar relays and has developed a keen taste for all things Gu.

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