Tackling 26.2 is no joke and making sure your first marathon is as great as possible is key, especially if you plan to run another one, or two in your future.
My first marathon was awesome for many reasons, and you can read about it here, but mainly because I followed these tips below.
When I started looking for a marathon I asked myself a few questions: what time of year do I want to run my marathon in? How long will I need to train? And which marathon is the best for first timers? I was sold when I read that the Richmond Marathon was Americas Friendliest Marathon. How could I not sign up for that??
Here is what Courtney had to say about picking her first marathon: “Choosing your first marathon might be one of the toughest choices you will make in your running career. When I chose my first race I wanted it to be BIG with lots of runners and a lot of stuff to check out when I was running. That’s why I chose the Marine Corp Marathon. With over 30,000 runners and tons of spectators with amazing signs, I knew this was the race for me. Plus- the course covers most of the monuments and museums that DC has to offer.”
Here are some tips when selecting your first (or any marathon for that matter) marathon:
1. Ample time to train. Give yourself a solid 4 months to train. I signed up for a November marathon in Early spring so I could make marathon training a priority. I started training July 1st and continued through the summer and fall. Marathon training was my life for those months but it paid off because race day was a walk in the park– well maybe a run but you get what I am saying.
Here is Courtney’s take on this: “Make sure you have plenty of time to properly train. Signing up for a marathon in a month and your longest run to date is 10 miles- hmm, probably not a smart move. Trying to train for a marathon in too short of a time period will just lead to the potential for injuries. And when you live for fitness and running, an injury could really put a damper on things.”
2. Season of choice for training. Marathons seem to fall in 2 main seasons (on the Mid-Atlantic anyway) fall and spring. Both seasons can be hot, cold, rainy or sunny but your training will take place either the cold winter for a spring race or the hot summer for a fall race. Depending on when you pick your race be sure you consider your training season.
Along with seasons, Courtney weighs in with weather…“Think ahead to the weather of your destination city. What will the weather be like race day? Will it be similar to the weather you have been training in?”
3. Find a Training/Racing partner. I know this may not be as easy to come by but Court and I both highly recommend finding someone or multiple people to train with. Having someone by your side for those long training runs make such a difference and seem much easier than if you have to run 20 miles solo. If you can find someone to actually run the marathon with you that is even better! For my first I had my BRF there and it made each mile enjoyable!
Courtney says, “So you can’t find someone who will RUN those long runs with you? No problem. Try and recruit someone who will bike next to you. This works out great for two reasons: (1) you have someone to talk to and you won’t be out on those empty back road by yourself and (2) your bike partner can carry some extra water and snacks for you!
4. Read race reviews. While this may seem risky because you may find only “negative reviews” or “only the good stuff reviews” you can gain valuable insight about your potential race and help avoid mishaps on your race day.
5. Select the perfect race size for you. Do your research and decide what is going to be best for you. There are a lot of medium size races out there that can meet your needs, but do not count out those large or even small local races!
Courtney says “Do you like running in a crowd or do you prefer solidarity? For your first marathon- I tend to think that larger is better simply because there is a higher energy level, more crowd support, water stations, bathroom stops, etc. however, if crowds aren’t your thing than a large race is definitely not the way to go. Having done several large marathons and one small- I definitely prefer the larger size.”
6. Easy race morning logistics and the course. Check out the course map, starting line location and available hotels. If your race is a point to point and will need transportation to the start can you arrange this? Is there a hotel within walking distance of the start? Is the finish line near the start or hotel. These are all thing so check out no matter the distance of the race. There is nothing worse than a stressful race morning so be sure that this will not be an issue on your big race day!
Along with the starting line, Courtney has some additional thoughts about the race course to consider. “What kind of course do you enjoy running? Do you like hills or do you hate them? Do you like running through a city or more country roads? Review the race course (especially the incline) and see if the race meets your preferences. You are going to be out there for 26.2 miles so you might as well pick a course you think you would enjoy.”
If you are thinking of a Fall Marathon now is the time to start researching and selecting. We hope our list adds some valuable insight as to helping you pick your first 26.2!
Did we miss anything? What do you consider to be the most important when selecting a race? What marathon would you recommend for a first time 26.2-er?