How To Select a First Marathon: Runners Have Many Marathons and Options To Choose From

Runners selecting a first marathon should consider such things as size, location, type of course, and time of year. The proper choice depends on individual runners. Consider these factors when reading the marathon calendar.


Size of the Marathon

Very large marathons such as the New York City, Chicago, or Marine Corps marathons often have tens of thousands of runners. Runners may choose one of these marathons as their first marathon because they are well known. Unaware of the options, runners overlook the possibility of running smaller less famous marathons.

Advantages of large marathons include:

  • Always running near someone who can give encouragement and support,
  • Large often enthusiastic crowds,
  • Associated expos and other events,
  • Usually excellent organization, and
  • Name recognition.

Smaller less well known marathons offer:

  • Less crowding at the start, finish, and everywhere in between,
  • A more personalized touch,
  • Shorter lines at restrooms and aid stations, and
  • No need for a timing chip as all runners cross the start relatively quickly.

The difference between a large and small marathon is similar to the difference between living in a large city and a small town. Individual runners must decide which they prefer.

Location of a Marathon

Selecting a marathon close to home minimizes travel expenses and simplifies the logistics of running the marathon. Runners selecting this option can concentrate on their training and mental preparation rather than arranging flights and dealing with possible luggage problems. Runners seldom need time off work to run hometown marathons.

Other runners might prefer to select a destination marathon and schedule a vacation around it. But remember that first time marathoners are usually quite sore and barely able to walk for a few days afterwards. The fatigue, which is especially bad after the first marathon, makes enjoying a vacation difficult. Consider taking the vacation another time.

Choose a Flat Hilly Course for First Marathon

Marathon courses range from flat fast courses to extremely hilly challenging courses. Because the marathon distance is by itself challenging, it is usually better to select a fairly flat course for a first marathon. Get some marathoning experience before running the more challenging courses.

Runners who prefer challenging race courses and who have experience with shorter challenging races may however want to select a hilly challenging course for their first marathon.

Time and Weather

If spectators are not a little chilly, it is too hot to run a marathon. Because of the energy expenditures ideal marathon weather is a little cool but not extremely cold.

Consider the season and likely temperature when selecting a first marathon. Summers are usually too hot for running marathons. In cold climates, winters may be too cold. In most locations spring and fall are the best times for marathons. Runners who don’t like temperature extremes should select a spring or fall marathon with ideal temperatures.

Consider training during the months before the marathon. Runners who find it difficult to train during the hot summer months, should select a spring marathon. Runners who find it difficult to train during the cold winter months should select a fall marathon.

First time marathoners should consider their realistic finishing times and select a marathon that will keep the course open long enough. It is also important to select a first marathon far enough ahead of time to allow proper training.

The goal in selecting a first marathon is to maximize the chance of successfully completing the marathon distance. Be well trained and mentally ready. Enjoy the race, allow enough time to recover, and keep running marathons.

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