Readers Roundtable: What Makes a Race Report Great or Groan-worthy?

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In case you missed it, we’re giving away FREE SHOES in our 2015 Race Report Contest! If you, or someone you know, wrote an epic race report this year, find out more details and enter here to win! 

While we’re on the topic of race reports, we want to know what you love about them or what makes your eyes roll when you read them. Do you love all the nitty-gritty details about driving to the race city, the expo, and the porta-potty line before the race? Or, do you like your race reports to be more of an exercise in creative writing than filling data into a template? Are you a sucker for a runner who makes lemonade of a bad race or does a great report require a big hearty laugh?

Tell us!

What makes a great race report great? Or, what drives you nuts about some? And feel free to tell us why you hate them if that applies!


Salty Running boss and mother of 3 little ones with PRs of 3:10:15 (26.2), 1:25:59 (13.1) and 18:15 (5k). I love to write about running culture, mental training, and fitting in a serious running habit with the rest of a busy life.

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  1. I personally love race reports that leave me on the edge of my seat. I love feeling all the nervousness of the racer and crossing my givers and hoping she’ll pull it out or avoid disaster. I am not a fan of unnecessary details, especially about prerace stuff. I just want to get to the good stuff and a big heart laugh, a cry, or a big surprise in there certainly help!

    1. Oh, I forgot that I cringe any time I read something like “I could have gone faster but …” or the belaboring of suboptimal conditions to either make an excuse or to impress upon the reader that the race could have been even more amazing but for the 3 mph headwind and humidity on the 50 degree day 😉 There are those 90 degree marathons and then the conditions are the big story, otherwise the conditions and such should just be background.

  2. I like race reports to be kept real. I wanna know the good, the bad and the ugly. No race is perfect, and there is not a race where SOMETHING positive can’t be pulled from it- so I like hearing about all of those things. Maybe it wasn’t the best race, but you pushed through and ended up chasing down a dude in the chute which made it an interesting finish! Maybe it was a great race, and you’re so excited and inspired to keep training- tell me more. Whatever it is, have it be real though- no need to sugar coat every sentence- some aspects are allowed to suck (just don’t be ALL negative). I also like numbers being a nerd, I like splits, I like data, and I like knowing what people do for pacing or fueling and if it worked for them.

    1. Agreed! Realness and honesty are a must! Oh, and I love the data and nutrition stuff too because so many people struggle with finding the right stuff it’s really helpful for s lot of people.

  3. The best report I’ve read lately was Cinnamon’s NYC Marathon report. She somehow captured the essence of the day, the running, the crowds, her feelings, what her body was doing, stats, but not too much. I do like learning about the setting, the hills, the unexpected, the post-race feelings.

    1. Aw Sage, I’m blushing! For me, the only stats that matter are what your goal is, what method you employed to get there (pace per mile? some other metric?) and what the outcome was. Then I don’t need to know what each mile split was, just if it was on target or not. The rest is about how your day was. Was it your day? Was it not? I appreciated Pimento’s NYC report a lot too, because even though she had a bad day, you could FEEL the stress when she was rushed to the corral and FEEL the crushing pain when she hugged her husband on first Avenue and that sinking, pit of “I’m having a bad race” was tangible.

      1. I loved your report, Cinnamon– I felt the joy and elation, and seriously had shivers and an empathetic hallucination with you when you described the sucking love vortex.

  4. I might be in the minority here, but I think that splits and race strategy are interesting but not the heart of a report. (But that just might reveal what kind of a racer I am…) I love reading about the atmosphere of a race, and definitely the positive moments. To add to Sage’s props to Cinnamon, I’m also thinking about Clove’s Badwater reports. If there’s a race I’ve never done before, I want to know all about what it takes and what it feels like to run there. Hearing about others’ experiences might make me say, “Ooh, I want to run there!” or “I bet I could do that too.” You Salties are my inspiration. 🙂

    1. I totally agree on wanting to know about the atmosphere and the race- I love travelling and trying new races so I want to know if it is a race I’d consider!

  5. I totally agree on wanting to know about the atmosphere and the race- I love travelling and trying new races so I want to know if it is a race I’d consider!

    1. Yeah, I think that’s key! It’s good to find a balance between telling your story and considering why your audience would want to read your report. To the latter end, I like to read race reports for two things: to learn about a runner’s race strategy and to hear about what the race’s ‘personality’ is like, to pull from a recent Honey post.

      1. Excellent point! Meh race reports are basically just a play by play. Amazing race reports are narratives of the race told for an audience to enjoy.

  6. The common thread I’m noticing here is that we want to experience the race in a report- we want to feel all the feelings (highs, lows, tears of elation and frustration, etc) and picture the race as it unfolded that day. If a report can do that, whether or not it include the stats for the data-nerds, or the nutrition for people wanting to know more about that becomes almost secondary. I’ve read reports that have all the details but still connected with my emotions, and I’ve read others that mention almost no details but connected. After my crappy NYC, reading Cinnamon’s report seriously gave me the excitement/experience of the course that I missed out on- and I’m definitely going to visualize sucking in the love and positive energy of the spectators at my next race.

  7. well I know I tend to go to the emotion/overall feel of the race and less on the tech side. I tend to be the emotional mush writer, not the facts writer. Maybe its because I’m an engineer by trade and need the creative outlet? I think it’s also because when I started my original blog, it was more of a keepsake for me to remember the experiences. I share those with my family and friends who aren’t necessarily runners so I share a lot more of what we did before and after the race. Itry to tell a story that would interest someone who wasn’t a runner too. As a runner, I like some stats – but I don’t want a race report that is like a machine spitting out data. I want to know the facts, but not make the facts be the only thing you write. I want to know what your plan was, did you execute? why or why not. what went right, what went wrong, and how did you respond? How were you feeling? etc. I want the whole story!