If you’ve been reading my blog for any time at all, you’ll know that I’ve been chasing that elusive sub-5 marathon for a wee while now. Whilst I came seriously close in Barcelona this year (and managed to bag myself a shiny 11-minute PB of 5h05!), I’ve learned the hard way that when chasing a time goal, your choice of marathon is almost as important as the training you put in!
If you’re looking for a goal marathon race, here are a few things that you might want to consider before you sign up:
1 What time of year will it be?
Do you like running in warmer weather, or does the heat sap your energy? Work out your personal preference, and plan accordingly. Personally, I find running in the heat quite hard; so whilst a late spring marathon allows me to train through the cooler winter months (which I find much easier!), race day is almost guaranteed to be hotter than what I’ve prepared for.
2 Where will you run?
Whilst a marathon-slash-holiday to Thailand or China or another equally exotic destination might sound like a fab idea, can you replicate the conditions in training? Consider the weather and the climate for the time of year you’ll be running. You don’t want to get caught out in monsoon season, high humidity, gale-force winds or blizzards! 😉 (Some of those may be less likely than others 😀 ).
3 What’s the course profile like?
The main question is generally ‘how hilly is it’? And whilst that’s a pretty important point, there are other things to look at, too. For example, are there any sharp turns that might cause bottlenecks? What’s the terrain like? (I’m not just talking tarmac vs. off-road here. Even road races can have unexpected obstacles – like the cobbles in Rome, for example!)
4 How busy is the race expected to be?
I’ve always opted for bigger events, as I’m on the slower end of the spectrum and prefer to have some company in the latter stages! But it has to be said, large-scale events have their good and bad points. The atmosphere is definitely better with more runners, as there tends to be more crowd support; but more runners can mean a lot of crowding, especially in the earlier miles and around the aid stations. 26.2 (or more) miles of dodging and weaving isn’t ideal when you’ve got a time limit in mind!
5 What’s the race start time?
As a general rule, European races have a pretty standard start time of around 8h30/9h00, whilst American races and those in hot countries (UAE, Thailand, etc.) can start quite a bit earlier; but there are plenty of exceptions. In Paris last year, I was quite surprised to find that my wave wasn’t due to cross the start line until well after 10am! More extreme examples are events like the Midnight Sun Marathon (Tromso, Norway) and Bilbao Night Marathon (Spain), which both have pretty unusual start times! Always check the event website carefully before you register.
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Which events are on your list? What do you consider when picking them?