You’ve decided to run a marathon but you’re just not sure how to pick the right one? Well, if you have plenty of time, plenty of money and kids don’t affect your decision, the options are endless. You can literally go ANYWHERE and run a marathon. However most of us just go where our friends go. If you are part of a local run club or you have a training partner, ask them …… oh wait, you probably won’t have to ask, they will tell you! If you sign up for the race they are running then you can train together. Slugging out long miles with a friend will keep you on the plan and accountable! Win, win!
If it’s just not that easy, then here are a few tips:
- Look at the family calendar and the schedules of your kiddos. Most schools schedule the same major events for the same weekend every year. This makes trying to plan your life a little bit easier. If you want to run a spring marathon and your 11 year old daughter (okay mine!) runs track & field, then avoid picking a Saturday marathon because you won’t be running but instead sitting in the bleachers on the track watching the conference track meet while all your friends are running the Illinois Marathon. So figure out the time frame of when you want to run, and if you have a SAT/SUN preference.
- Is $$$ an issue? If money is an issue, then try to avoid the big races: World Marathon Majors (Chicago, New York, Boston, Berlin, London and the newly added Tokyo), big city marathons that have to shut down the entire city using half of their emergency & police personnel to support the race and also races with a popular name with a series of races in just about every city. Remember a big name race that offers bands at every corner has to pay for that and they will pass the cost to you. If you want to go cheap, go small.
- Boston Qualifier – I know that Boston is all the rage and a major accomplishment but if you want the elusive BQ, then think about the race you pick seriously. Sometimes smaller is better for these things. The fewer people in a race, the fewer people to maneuver around, the fewer people at aid stations and just possibly fewer distractions. You can still BQ at a big race too but check to see if there is a corral system to get you into a good position at the start to avoid a lot of traffic.
- Spectator Support – What kind of marathon experience do you want? Do you want a million people throughout the course cheering for you? Or would you just like to run your 26.2 in peace, look at the scenery and concentrate on the task at hand? There is a different answer for everyone and you probably are already drawn to one or the other.
- Who’s going to watch the kids? If you have to take the kiddos to Grandma’s before you run, then pick a race by Grandma’s house. I do this ALL the time. I actually check with my mother before I register for a big race. I make sure she is available, interested and willing to either watch my Monster Man or drag him & Aby to the race to be my cheer section. I don’t really need anything other than for her to manage my little “angels” but usually give her a couple of options of how it can happen. I want her to have the best experience possible since she is doing me a huge favor so I get her involved in the planning process. Thanks, Mom! I love you and REALLY appreciate your being my #1 supporter!
- Travel Plans – We all browse the list of the best and most beautiful races via various websites and magazines but do you want to travel for a race or not? A destination race, particularly for a marathon, requires a bit of planning. If it’s something you are seriously considering, look at the local weather for the time frame in question, think about the foods in the area and how they will fuel you for the race and think about how you want to spend your time. If you get there early to acclimate to the area for the race, then be careful with the pre-race foods since you will most likely be eating out more than normal. If you want to stay after the race, then consider how you “might” feel after a marathon and keep the post race planning to a minimum. Also, pick an area that has decent medical care in case, heaven forbid, you need medial assistance before, during or after the race. Be smart.
- Once you’ve thought about some of the above, have a time frame in mind then start doing some research. One of my favorite websites is MarathonGuide. This website has a very thorough calendar for both US and International races, has runner reviews of each race, registration & event details, results, advice, and news on major races around the world. Great resource!
Now that you have figured out where YOU want to race, go ahead and try to recruit all your friends cuz we all know that the more people you know in a race, the better the experience. The more the merrier, right?
Good luck! Let me know which race you pick and if you still can’t decided, then feel free to come to the Lansing Marathon and run with me on April 21st! Yes, the $10 off code: CHICAGO10 is still valid. Register HERE.
** Happy Marathoning ** Amanda – TooTallFritz ** firstname.lastname@example.org **
I also think you have to choose a course that will suit your strengths. This can easily be the difference between a decent time and a great time relative to the runner, of course. Temperature, elevation gain, and terrain all play so much into your performance. As such, I always suggest picking a race that resembles your training environment at the very least.
Agreed. I don’t have a lot of hills and don’t really know how to run them.
Me neither, especially when it comes to biking hills. I learned that the hard way at Great Floridian this year. Thus, why I think course conditions are so important and will not make that mistake again !!
I would also factor in weather. I wouldn’t want to do one in 100 degree heat in July, but know I would struggle to be in race shape in April coming out of a MN winter.
Agreed, the hot weather does me in every time.
I am hoping to do my first OFFICIAL 1/2 this year and possibly my first full in October. I’ve been doing a poll of my running friends to get a feel for what a good 1st race would be. Just started blogging all my experiences. http://www.colorushealthy.com
These are great tips and very helpful for me! I’m seriously considering running my first marathon this year, there’s just so many things to think about, it’s kind of overwhelming!
Great tips! I’d love to do another marathon next year and to go someplace I haven’t been before. I’m excited to check out the options and to pick a great race. I’ll have to keep all of this in mind!