Why You Should Keep A Race Log

Keeping a race log

I often write about spending some time after a race considering your performance or asking yourself some questions (especially if it was a bad race). Personally, much of my recap energy goes into race recaps for this blog, which are basically formalized versions of the race journal entries I always did.

But I also keep a race log – a shorter, just-the-facts list of races, dates, and times.

Keeping both may seem excessive, even for a journaler and note-taker like me.

Why keep both?

Keeping a race log

A Race Journal vs. A Race Log

As I keep them, a race or running journal is longer-form and narrative.

A place to consider how you felt about your race. How your training went, or how prepared you felt on race day. A place to consider what you can improve upon and what you should change going forward.

A race log is just the facts – the race, location, and the distance. Your finish time, maybe your finish place. I’ll often include a line or two about my most vivid memories.

I didn’t keep a race log for the first many years I ran. But then I started doing the same races over and over. While I could mentally keep track of all my races when I’d only done 5 or 6 races, it got a little more challenging when I started doing the same race 5 or 6 times.

I’d be curious about my PR on a particular course or I’d forget if the super hot year of that half marathon was in 2008 or 2010.

Sure, I had all that information spread out over many journals, but it wasn’t very user friendly for keeping track of my 10k PR.

My race log is the easy, searchable, shortcut – a quick way to remember my races.

A race log is how you can spend less than 5-minutes now in order to save your future running self the memory strain of trying to remember if you finished that race that one year in 2:05 or 2:15.

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Race Log Decisions

The main decision you have to make when starting a running log is if you’re going to go analog or digital.

Analong

  • Index cards
  • A note book
  • Radom pieces of paper

I’m usually a pen and paper girl. My race (and real-life) journals are all analog.

I’ve tried keeping race logs in a notebook or on index cards, but as a race log, paper just doesn’t do it for me.

Sure, it contained all the right info, but it never felt quite right. Largely because in a race log I’m looking for data to be easily accessible and reviewable (think: what is my 5k PR or what was my time last year for this race?)

For me, analog is ideal for my mushier race journal entries (did I train properly? what was my mindset for this race), but it doesn’t work as a log.

Digital

  • Word
  • Excel (or Pages)
  • A database app

There is no shortage of programs and apps that can be used to track races, and more are being created every day.

Stick a table into a Word (or Google Sheets) document, set up an Excel spreadsheet, or play around with a database app.

Digital logs are easily sortable, searchable, and linkable.

Airtable

My app of choice for my race log is Airtable.

I’m still fairly new to Airtable, but it quickly became favorite – no doubt because it has soooo many ways to color code my log.

I’m a sucker for color coding.

My race log in Airtable
My running log in Airtable

Airtable is a free app that is basically an excel spreadsheet on steroids. There is also a paid option with advanced tools, but the free plan will likely work just fine for your personal needs.

It holds many different types of information, is easily searchable, and is super easy to use.

And did I mention color coding?

Check out my race log template in Airtable

Create Your Own Race Log

Whether paper or digital, creating your own race journal will require the same basic steps:

1. Pick Your Tool

Index cards? Excel? Airtable?

Aren’t sure? Try one and see if you like it.

If you don’t, try something else.

You aren’t writing in stone here.

2. Decide What Information You Want to Track

Just the facts? Something a little more narrative?

Some ideas:

  • Race
  • Date
  • Distance
  • Weather
  • Finish time
  • Finish place/age group place
  • Top/favorite/most vivid memories

If you are a stats person, add more stats.

If you are a social runner, note the people you ran with.

Track whatever is important to you as a runner.

3. Gather Data On Races You’ve Already Done

If you are just starting your running career, this step will be pretty straightforward.

If you’ve been running for a longer time, this may tax your memory a bit. I’ve been running for 20 years, and while the last decade is pretty well documented, my records of earlier races were a little scattered.

Tools to help document your earlier races:

    • Medals
    • Bib numbers
    • Race websites often have results from prior years
    • Race aggregators like Athlinks and Ultrasignup (I was shocked by how much data is in Athlinks- it goes back at least 20 years!)

4. Maintain the Log Going Forward

After every race, make it a habit to complete your race log – when your memories, and the hard data of your race, is most accessible.

Why Every Runner Should Keep A Race Log

Shameless Self-Promotion Alert

Looking for another way to track you races? I sell Race Notes race bib number stickers on Etsy.

If you are sentimental like me and keep your race bibs, after your race, place this sticker on the back of your race bib, and record much this race log information right on your bib number (instead of, or in addition to, a race log).

Race Bib Number Stickers
Race Notes Race Bib Stickers now on etsy

I’m just saying…


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