Marathon Monday – StareoftheJogger’s guide to selecting the right marathon

Before even lacing up a running shoe in anticipation, would-be marathon signatories must run a gauntlet of a different kind – event selection. So as you hover a nervously over the ‘enter now’ button, have you first done your homework first to help you pick the best race for you? Of course, many will simply opt for the national blueriband event, for the UK, see London etc. This seems like a pretty good strategy too, but for all those people looking for alternatives and a chance to tailor the best race to their needs, here are some ideas:

  • Tourism – Let’s face it, most sporting events take place at weekends, so what’s stopping you packing an overnight bag and soaking up that city vibe for longer than just the few hours you’ll need to ‘bag your 26 miles.’ If of course you don’t have time to turn your race into a mini-break, selecting the right host city is still important, as the positive vibes you’ll get at mile 19 when you pass one famous landmark or another will lift your spirits no end.
  • Travel – The start of a Marathon can be testy and stressful, an anxious time filled with uncertainty. Fast forward four or five hours and your biggest concern is getting back to a hot bath and a well-earned celebratory drink. Be it by car or public transport, the last thing you need on the day is a surprise three mile walk from the carpark to the starting line, or worse still, a four hour wait after the event for the next train home. Pick a race with decent transport links and do your research before you go. Better still, take a friend to act as driver.
  • T-Shirt – Before parting with his hard earned cash, my old running buddy Steve always says of a race he wants us to enter, “yep, it looks good and for that price you get a medal and a T-shirt.” It might sound crazy, but after you’ve run 26 miles, you’ll feel righteously deserving of a bit of bling. Most races will offer both, but if you want to be sure, you best check what’s likely to be in the goody bag before you sign up.
  • Time of year – The timing of a race is vital. An autumn race probably means lots of warm and pleasant summer training in the months prior, whilst an Easter race conversely might leave you pounding pavements in the snow and ice. It’s not just the weather either. When are you busiest at work, when will the training routine be hardest for you to stick at? Select a Marathon with a date that enables you to maximise the potential of these variables in your favour in the months leading up to the race.
  • Friends –Not everyone needs a familiar face as they motor around the course but let’s face it, it helps. If you want a boost from your own personal fan club, you’re going to have to select a race in a part of the world you can reasonably expect your entourage to follow you to. Mo Farah’s fans might cross the Atlantic to watch him race, but will yours?
  • Terrain – Some Marathons are flatter than others, it’s as simple as that, though very few are totally so. And even though the odd incline may seem innocuous enough on a training run, a rogue hill at mile 24 might be one obstacle too many. If you want a genuinely flat race, you’ll have to do your homework to find one. And if you can’t hunt a flat one down, then make sure you know where the hills are in order to be prepared for them.
  • Entry fee – If it’s a one off event you are doing, the cost may not be an issue, but if you are wanting to enter races regularly, things can quickly add up, especially when you factor in transport and hotels the night before or after. Know the going rate for entry fees in your part of the world and, if you spot one that varies widely, ask yourself why.

There’s plenty to think about here, but forewarned is forearmed. Fire up your web browser, do the research and go grab that credit card. Best of luck.

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