My Favorite and Least Favorite Races

So far, I’ve run 49 half marathons in 47 states, one full marathon, and a few other random races including 5k’s, 10k’s, and a 10-miler. Since most of these races were half marathons in different states, I have a wide range of races to choose from when deciding which ones I liked best and least. It’s funny because when I hear other people asked, “What was your favorite race?” they usually stammer around and say things like they could never choose just one.

For me, the choice is clear, however, especially for my favorite race. Sure, that’s not to say I didn’t highly enjoy some other races or truly dislike other races, but there are two obvious choices for me. I’ll start with my favorite race ever: the Spearfish Canyon Half Marathon in South Dakota.

Never would I have imagined that a half marathon in a tiny town in South Dakota would end up being my favorite half marathon at this point in my life, but there was just so much to love about this race.

I’ll start with the beginning as all things should, which in this case is packet pickup. I consider myself a pretty efficient person and I can appreciate when other people are also efficient, as was the race director with packet pickup for this race. I simply drove up to the designated site, told the one person sitting out front my name, and was handed a race shirt and bib. Simple and efficient.

The start of the Spearfish Canyon Half Marathon

The race started promptly at 7 am at the top of the beautiful Spearfish Canyon in Savoy in the northernmost section of South Dakota’s Black Hills National Forest and finished at the bottom in Spearfish City Park. The course is net downhill with the start at around 5,000 feet above sea level and the finish around 1,300 feet. This didn’t feel so steep to me that my quads were aching but it did allow me to finish in my fastest time for a half marathon up to that point in my life.

Because the race is on quiet roads through the canyon, there were very few spectators and aid stations were on the light side, but still sufficient. For some people that thrive on crowds during a race they may find this a negative but for me I found the peace and quiet a definite positive for the race. As I was running I kept saying to myself how lucky I was to be able to run down the canyon and what a gift it was to do that. I can’t say I’ve thought that during many other races.

As of this writing the 2021 Spearfish Canyon will take place in-person on July 10, with a virtual option as well. You can also read my race report here: Spearfish Canyon Half Marathon, South Dakota- 34th state.

Now for my least favorite race. This wasn’t quite as easy to choose as my favorite but ultimately I have to choose the race that I described in my race report as a “death march through the desert,” the Laughlin Half Marathon in Nevada. I really hated just about everything about this race and only sheer will-power kept me going to the finish line.

The year that I ran the Laughlin Half Marathon, the race started at 8 am, which was entirely too late in the day considering it’s in the desert and quickly gets blazing hot (it’s since then been pushed to 7 am). It was already hot and steamy at the beginning of the race and being in the desert, there were no trees for shade, and not a cloud in the sky. The entire course was on packed dirt with loose gravel, making it difficult for me to get my footing. The course was out-and-back along a part of the Colorado River but pretty much all I could focus on was the stifling heat and loose gravel so I didn’t find it very scenic.

Crappy photo from a crappy race, the Laughlin Half Marathon

Even the post-race parts of this half marathon were disappointing. There were only bananas, oranges, and bagels in addition to water. The medals were just average at best and the shirts were white cotton t-shirts with the race logo. Based on the current website, changes have been made since I ran the race, but even so this is not a race I would ever recommend to anyone.

According to the website, the race director is attempting to hold a race December 4, 2021 but this is dependent on COVID numbers and state regulations. If you’re a true masochist, check it out! Honestly, the December date might help with the heat (I ran it in March). You can read my full race report here: Laughlin Half Marathon, Nevada-11th state.

What about you- what are your least favorite and favorite races so far? Have you run either of these races?

Happy running!


Author: runningtotravel

I'm a long distance runner with a goal of running a half marathon in all 50 states in the US. I also love to travel so I travel to other places when I'm not running races. Half the fun is planning where I'm going to go next!

15 thoughts on “My Favorite and Least Favorite Races”

  1. Great post.

    I’ll avoid that half. Lol.
    And I can see why you picked your favorite.

    I don’t plan on all 50 states.
    I’ve run 49 though 6 were virtual last year. Tomorrow is #50.

    I have to think about which is my favorite and which is the least favorite.

    I think both were in Fla. Naples being #1 and Brew 2 Brew in Vero beach being my least favorite

    Liked by 1 person

        1. Stratton Faxon Half Marathon in Fairfield (June 2008) Connecticut-12th state. I have a link to that race under the heading “half marathons” on the top of my web page. I tried to link it here but it didn’t work.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. I would have to go with the End of the Road half marathon for my favorite race. The hoodie, finisher medal, unique age group award in addition to a well organized event, cool course and just fun vibe overall made for a very memorable event even with Covid precautions in place.

    I’ll have to think of my least favorite as nothing is jumping out to me right now!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This post has made me recognise the sort of runner I am: lazy! My main criterion for my – much more limited than Donna’s – half marathon career is flatness. Here in the UK I did the Windsor half-marathon, which is pancake flat, and the Stroud half-marathon, which was much less hilly than the very lumpy terrain around Stroud generally had made me fear! I’d really like to try a half abroad somewhere – maybe around lovely Stockholm, which would also be flat, beautiful, and mean I could follow in the footsteps of the triathletes I see competing there on TV most years. Closer to home, I’d love to do the Brighton half marathon, having done most of the route while training. On a sunny – and hopefully not too windy – day, running next to the silver sea is blissful! Nice blog, Donna – thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha! You’re not lazy at all. I would probably choose flat courses all the time as well if I could, but since I’ve been limited by the half marathons I could choose since the plan is to run one in every state, that hasn’t always been an option for me. I agree that running along the sea is wonderful!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. They’re going to restart 5k ParkRuns here soon – I suppose if I WERE lazy, I’d do those instead of half-marathons, but I am at least a bit more hard core than that! Also, I mostly like to run to get away from people and, even though the ParkRun folks are everso nice, I still prefer to plough my own furrow… Take care!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: