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The Hometown Race

I've been lucky enough to run in a lot of places around the country and the world. Travel running is exciting and inspiring; I don't think I'll ever tire of exploring a new spot on foot. At the same time, when it comes to racing, it can be hard to beat one in your hometown.

Hometown race: Your backyard race, the one you and your dad have run every year since time immemorial. The race that lets you wake up in your own bed and run the routes you train on every week. When your neighbor learns you run, she asks if you've done this race.

I use the term "hometown" pretty loosely. While I was born and raised in Wisconsin, I've lived in Austin, TX for eight and a half years. My life is pretty firmly anchored in this city, where we're all just trying to "keep it weird" as we log miles around Lady Bird Lake. While we have some great races in this city, for me, the title of Austin's hometown race definitely goes to the  Cap10k.

With one of my favorite running buddies at the Cap 10k 2023 starting line

Founded in 1978, the 2023 edition of the Cap 10k had over 16,000 participants. It’s the largest 10k in Texas and the sixth largest nationally. In addition to its longevity and size, it takes in iconic parts of the city, including the Capital and Lady Bird Lake. It features live music along the course, plenty of hills, and a terrific finish line festival. I like the 10k distance for a hometown race because it's not as overwhelming a challenge as the marathon for a newer or more casual runner, but it's still a good test for a more advanced runner. And of course, who wouldn’t love the mascot, Dash the (Arma)Dillo? I love biking down to Auditorium Shores, warming up over to the start line on South Congress, and seeing the huge numbers of people that come out to run, jog, and walk the course. I’ve run this race several times, but the 2019 weather cancellation will always be particularly memorable to me as I was in labor and on my way to the hospital that morning to give birth to my daughter! 

While the Cap10k takes the crown, there are a number of strong contenders for the runner up position. In no particular order:

Baby's first race, 2021 Run for the Water Kids K
  • The Austin Marathon started in 1992, has over 17,000 participants, and is the 25th largest marathon in the nation. It also features a half marathon and 5k, and their course map does a uniquely good job highlighting different parts of the city.

  • Founded in 1979 by the Austin Runner’s Club, the Decker Challenge has half marathon and 5k races. It has a reputation as being brutally tough - Steve Hoppe’s 1982 book The Austin Runner’s Book says “if you are inadequately prepared, a Decker Lake run can be torturous…completion of a well-planned run can stand as a singular accomplishment.” 

  • A 10-miler and 5k, the Run for the Water benefits Austin's own Gazelle Foundation and is a perennial fan favorite.

  • Zilker Relays, a four person relay race, was founded in 2003. Run each September in the evening, the race is invariably brutally hot, but each runner only has to survive 2.5 of the total 10 miles. 

All of these race courses are pretty tough - they either have lots of hills or lots of heat - both Austin staples. If you want to run a flashy PR, they may not be the race for you…unless you’re counting a course PR! Personally, I’ll be looking to set one at Cap10k this April...

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