So, you and your engine company have decided to train and run a marathon together. Now, as a team, you are trying to decide which marathon to run. There are several areas to consider when choosing a race, including the location, the season, the course, and the size of the marathon.
Location, Location, Location
The first consideration, and perhaps the simplest, is location. A local marathon where friends, families, and your department can come out and cheer you on is the easiest choice to make, provided, of course, that there is a marathon where you live or nearby.
Local marathons have several other advantages over having to travel to a race. Financially, you don’t have to worry about travel expenses or the cost of staying where the marathon is being held. It is not uncommon for hotels to increase their rates and have a minimum two-night stay requirement in cities where large, established marathons are held.
Another advantage of a local marathon is that you can sleep in your own bed after the race. This may seem unimportant, but the next day, when delayed onset muscle soreness hits and you have a nine-hour car ride home, you’ll regret not having run a local marathon. With that being said, an away marathon has an advantage in that it can be turned into a vacation as well. Most major cities and vacation destinations have marathons, including Las Vegas, Hawaii, Disney World, and St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, to name a few.
Timing is Everything
The second consideration is the time of year. Summer marathons, though popular, can pose serious heat, health, and training concerns. Not only are you potentially running the marathon in an extreme environment, but training can be impacted by not being able to complete or even do some of your long runs.
Winter marathons are the exact opposite of the summer marathons, where the extreme environment is cold. This requires layering for the marathon, and again, training. The marathon itself can be impacted by extreme cold weather and/or snow.
Spring marathons, especially those in late spring, often provide optimal weather as far as temperature and a lesser chance of weather extremes for running. This time of year is often the most enjoyable for running, especially in the northern states where many runners who have been on the treadmill all winter are ready to hit the streets. Also, if you’re training in the northern states, your long runs usually do not begin until the weather is warming up, which also allows you to acclimate to the warming days.
Lastly, fall is considered by many to be the best time of year to run, since the weather is cooling and many of the marathons are run as the autumn colors are at or near peak. Though, occasionally, a nice fall marathon can turn into a slushy, sloppy, and quasi-winter run.
Stay On Course
The third consideration you need to think about is the marathon course itself. Marathons across the United States have different kinds of courses. It is up to you what you would prefer. Your company would need to discuss the dynamics of the race – from a flat, fast race to a hilly, challenging course. Do you want a road race all on pavement or a course on trails, or perhaps a combination?
Even though trail marathons are often more challenging than traditional road marathons, they are actually easier on the joints. Of course, with trail marathons you give up the large crowds cheering you on, which is common for a road race. Hills, especially near the middle or end of a course, are more challenging and would take more determination and a different approach to your teams training. You can determine how hilly a course is by looking at the elevation chart, which most marathons have posted with the course map.
For your first marathon, it might be a safe idea, since the goal is for all team members to finish together, to start out with a flat, road course with only a few gradual hills. Regardless of the marathon course you choose, during training, there should be some hill work to develop under-utilized muscles. If you can run the hills successfully in training, you and your company will be mentally and physically prepared to conquer the marathon – hilly or flat!