With spring right around the corner, runners all over the world are contemplating the thought of completing a marathon. Whether they have trained through the winter for a spring marathon or are thinking about starting fresh with training for a fall marathon, knowing what to look for can help you find the course that is just right for you.
The first thing to consider before choosing a marathon is location. How far are you willing to drive? If traveling overnight is not something you can commit to, then you need to find a local marathon and plan your training schedule around the local dates. Adding hotels, air fare, and rental cars can add up fast. Local courses can be a fun way to explore your own city and parts of the city you haven’t gotten to see by foot.
Another thing to consider is temperature. You can’t control the weather, but just be aware that if you choose a marathon in the northern states in the fall or winter, there will mostly likely be below freezing temps and possibly snow. If you live in the south, you might not have trained in weather that cold before or have proper gear to protect yourself from those types of climates. The same is true for people who live up north who want to do a marathon in the south.
Another thing to think about when choosing a marathon is the course elevation. What is your training like? Do you mostly run flat surfaces or do a lot of training miles on a treadmill? There are marathons that are known for being flat and fast. The race directors pride themselves on those courses and will describe the courses on the race website. If you enjoy rolling hills or have access to hills for hill training, that opens up more opportunity for other courses. Many of your states in the Midwest region have very hilly courses. You could risk injury if you train on flat surfaces and try to run your trained marathon pace on a hilly course.
Lastly, course size is the other idea to consider when choosing a marathon. Do you enjoy smaller courses with only a few hundred participants? Or do you like the social aspect of having a large expo and a course shared with 20,000 other runners? The smaller courses are more intimate and the competition field is much smaller. You don’t have to run Olympic speeds to have a podium finish on a smaller race. There is usually no expo or vendors and the medals are small. The larger events can host up to 20,000 runners! They have large expos with many vendors and freebies/deals for the runners. The medals are usually large and something that is treasured by marathon runners. Some runners will chose their marathons based solely on the medal design!
Now you know what to look for when choosing your first marathon. Pick a race, get training, and run!
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