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Camaraderie in Fitness: Running a Marathon – Part 3

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!

Size Matters

The last thing to consider is the size of the marathon. That is large or small, or new or established? There are advantages and disadvantages for both. A larger, more established marathon brings in more spectators to cheer on the runners and your team, but for parking, bus shuttling, and weaving through the crowds, trying to stay together as a team can be a challenge.

If you would like more of a small-town feel that is not so crowded at the start line, look at doing more of a rural, road marathon. You will be surprised at the number of rural towns across America that hold marathons once a year. The cheering might be less, but you would not feel claustrophobic at the start line. It is also easier to keep your team together, and friends and family can easily find you at the finish line.

Just Run

If you and your team simply cannot find the time to train for a marathon, there are many other options which will allow you to train together, build camaraderie, have fun, and race together. There are 20-mile races, half-marathons, 10 milers, and adventure races, such as the “Warrior Run or Oyster Racing Series.”

Another area to look into is running for charity. There are a limited number of marathons where the proceeds go to charity, like The National Marathon to Finish Breast Cancer in Jacksonville Beach, FL. Charity races typically are on the 5K, 10K, and 10-mile races, where charities can attract more participants. The training required is more feasible by individuals and teams, and it generates more dollars for their cause.

That concludes our “So Your Company Wants to Run a Marathon” series. Maybe this is the year your company decides to run a marathon (or perhaps challenge a neighboring department to a little marathon wager?). Let us know if you do, what you did for training, the race you selected, and how it went! Next month, we will join the North St. Paul Fire Department as we look at static and dynamic stretching to keep you ready for the next alarm. Until next month, be safe!

SCOTT TOMEK MA, EMT-P has been a paramedic for 25 years with 23 of those at Lakeview Hospital EMS in Stillwater, MN. He is a faculty member with the Century College Paramedic Program and wrote the curriculum for and served as the interim director of their public safety degree program. He is a frequent contributor to EMS Magazine, a frequent presenter at EMS conferences in the Midwest and an educational consultant to fire and EMS services. He can be reached at scott.tomek@century.eduNICOLE OLSON is an undergraduate student at Mankato State University where she is majoring in health science with a minor in psychology. Her areas of interest are childhood obesity, nutrition, and endurance sports. She is an accomplished sub-four hour marathoner. She can be reached at