So you’ve decided to tackle the marathon, all 26.2 miles of it. But now that you’ve made the decision to go for it you have to pick a race. Picking a race and signing up are the first step towards tackling a distance that may seem daunting, if not impossible. But being a little choosey when it comes to your first marathon can make the difference between a good experience and one that has you swearing off marathons forever. Here are a few tips for picking a race that will make tackling the distance a little easier:
Often times you’ll read that you should pick an easy course, one that’s as flat as possible. But I’m a firm believer that you should pick a course you think you will enjoy, with scenery that speaks to your soul. If you love running along quiet, scenic roads don’t pick a marathon that’s in the city simply because it is flat. If that means picking a marathon with rolling hills, then by all means pick that one and do your best to run on rolling hills in preparation for the race. Likewise, if you love the city and want to see a new place by taking a tour on your feet, don’t pick a rural marathon where the only spectators are cows. Choose a course that speaks your language.
To Travel or Not to Travel.
Traveling to a marathon is a big undertaking. If you choose to travel to the race you’ll not only be running a distance you’ve never tackled before, but also sleeping in a new place, navigating a new area and trying to find places to eat that have familiar food. All of that logistical management takes energy, energy you will need on race day. Consider running a local marathon, one that allows you to sleep in your own bed and drink your own coffee on race morning. And if you travel take a friend or family member along who can manage the logistics for you while you put your feet up.
Small or Big?
There’s a big thrill that comes from being surrounded by crowds of people getting ready to take on 26.2 miles and that can be a huge energy boost. If you love the idea of strength in numbers then a big race might just be for you. But bigger races are often harder logistically, which often means waking earlier, being bused to the start, security checks and more. If you want a no-frill experience that allows you to focus in on you and your running, then a smaller race might be for you. Though with logistical ease often comes fewer perks.
First Timer Friendly.
Some marathons offer first timer perks, like pre-race informational meetings at the expo which walk you through the course and aid stations. Others have pace groups that allow you to get in with a group of people that are running at your speed. Do a little homework online to figure out what kind of first timer perks are valuable to you and choose a race that you think fits the bill.
Getting a first-hand account on a race can be helpful. If you are considering a specific race ask around to see if anyone is willing to share their experience (and what marathoner doesn’t want to talk about their marathon??). But keep in mind that someone’s experience of a race is unique to them and may color the way they view the race.
Are you a first time marathoner looking for a race? If you’ve run 26.2, how did you pick your first marathon?
Sarah is a certified running coach with the RRCA and USATF. She and her husband Mark Canney, CPT CSCS collaborate in coaching clients of all ages and abilities to help them reach their running goals. You can learn more about their coaching services HERE.
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Email: RunFarGirl [at] gmail [dot] com
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