So you’ve successfully completed your first half marathon, and you’re thinking it’s time to move it up a notch. Or, maybe you watched a friend run a marathon recently, and thought to yourself, “I want to do that too!” You’re thinking it’s time to cross “Complete a Marathon” off of your bucket list.
The problem is…how do you decide which marathon to do?
There are a lot of factors to consider.
1. Do you want to travel for your marathon?
As you can tell from Dustin and my 50 state goal, we like to incorporate a marathon into our travels. The Berlin Marathon in 2013 (thought not one of the 50 states..who knew?) was a perfect example where we planned a trip to Europe around a destination marathon. The Newport Marathon in Oregon was another example, as we turned that marathon into an amazing week-long exploration of Oregon (such a cool state to explore! Read about that trip HERE, HERE, and HERE!)
I definitely love a traveling marathon, but I wouldn’t recommend it for your first marathon. Traveling adds another level of stress to what is already a challenging experience. For a first-time marathon, it makes more sense to select a race that is close to home. Then you can sleep in your own bed, make your own pre-race meal, and eliminate some of the inherent stress of travel on top of the stress of the marathon. Most likely, you are also more familiar with the course and the terrain of a local race. You are also better adjusted to the weather if you run a marathon close to home.
2. When do you want to train?
Some people really hate training in the cold winter. If so, a spring marathon might be a challenge, as most likely you’d have to start building your base in the cold months. On the other hand, maybe you can’t commit to the weekend long runs in the summer- too many weddings, too many cabin weekends- I get it! If so, then a winter or spring marathon might be a better fit for you. Most training programs are about three months long with more time at the beginning to build a base if you’re starting from scratch. Select your marathon accordingly based on when you want to do the training.
3. How much money do you want to spend?
Some of the world majors like the NYC marathon are nearly $250 for registration. Add that to a potential flight and hotel and you may determine that a marathon like that is out of your budget. There are plenty of budget friendly marathons out there (Steamtown is one of my favorites, and it is only $85 for registration, and hotels are cheap in Scranton.) Do a little research into the associated costs for your selection and determine if a different marathon would fit better into your budget.
4. Consider your friends and family, a.k.a. your biggest fans!
An expensive marathon might be within your budget, but what about your friends and family who want to be there to cheer for you at your first marathon? Selecting a local race or one closer to friends and family allows them to participate in your marathon as your biggest fan(s). After all, they supported you throughout all your training, this is their chance to partake in your joy!
Besides, cheering for a marathon is almost as much fun as running in one so I guarantee your friends and family will want to be there on your big day.
5. Do you need large crowds to keep you going?
In 2012, Dustin and I ran the Marathon-to-Marathon, which went from a tiny town in Iowa called Storm Lake to an even tinier town in Iowa called Marathon.
There were only 200 marathoners at that race, and barely any fans. Running a race that small can be mentally challenging for most, whereas the amazing crowds at a marathon like the Chicago Marathon or the Twin Cities Marathon might be a better fit for a first timer. The big crowds can really help you when you’re struggling at the end!
Keep in mind, however, that most of the big marathons involve a lottery for entry. You may have to select a backup option in case you don’t get into your first pick marathon.
6. Do you want really cool SWAG or gear? Do you need bands/music along the course?
If a really cool medal is important to you, check out THIS ARTICLE and THIS ARTICLE for some of the best options.
The Rock n Roll marathons definitely go all out with the gear, so if that’s important to you, try to find one of those that works for your schedule. They also have music and bands along the course. The Memphis Marathon that Dustin and I did in December 2012 (read about it HERE) was very music focused, and offered a lot of bands along the 26.2 mile course.
*Cool medal idea -The St. George Marathon medals are made out of granite!
7. Is it the natural beauty of a marathon location that keeps you going?
If you’re looking for a scenic route, I don’t recommend the Rock n Roll marathons. The ones that I have done all included a lot of out-and-backs on concrete highways, such as in 2010 when we did the Rock n Roll Seattle Marathon (you’d think Seattle would be gorgeous!). If you want beauty, run the Big Sur marathon or St. George, Utah– those are definitely two of the most beautiful that I have ever run. Check out THIS LIST or THIS LIST for other gorgeous marathon courses to choose from.
|Game face at the St. George Marathon
For more honest reviews of most, if not all, US marathons, check out www.marathonguide.com. We use this website to select our next marathon nearly every time.
I hope these tips help you select your FIRST (or next) marathon!
Any other factors that come into play for you when selecting your next 26.2 journey?