What is the best fall marathon for you?
Even though you may be entirely focused on training for a spring marathon, now is the time to begin thinking about what is the best fall marathon for you in 2016. Many fall marathons open their registration windows in February and March, and some of them fill up rather quickly. If you like variety and want to try something new, but are overwhelmed with the number of choices out there, this decision-making process will help you hone in on the best options.
Below are 10 criteria. Rank them in order from most important to least important:
- Distance from your home
- Number of runners
- Course difficulty/elevation profile
- Average race day temperature
- Specific date or weekend
- Race management/organization
- Fun or interesting “destination”
- Scenery and/or crowd support
- Friends running the race
What are the ideal circumstances?
Once you’ve ranked them, determine your ideal circumstances. For example, you might imagine a race that’s within driving distance of your home, that has about 5,000 runners on a course that’s mainly flat, with an average starting temperature of 45 degrees. The price is $120 or less and the marathon has an excellent reputation for how well it’s organized. That “dream race” might not be possible, but it gives you a place to start. Or, you may be looking for a fun destination race that has at least 10,000 runners with plenty of crowd support, and you know several people running it.
Time to research
Once you’ve ranked your list and have envisioned the fall marathon you want to run, it’s time to do your research. Two great resources for selecting a marathon are Marathonguide.com and FindMyMarathon.com. MarathonGuide.com offers a race calendar, basic information about each race, and a wealth of reviews from past runners. But choosing a marathon isn’t like buying a T.V., where some models are objectively better than others. It really depends on what you’re looking for in a race. FindMyMarathon.com offers a hand “PR” score that indicates how easy the course is. But once again, you might not be looking for a PR– you may be more interested in visiting a fun destination. And if you’re curious about last year’s race results, head over to Athlinks.com for all the data.
My own preferences
If you still have too many options to choose from, there are several that I recommend that have a little something for everyone.
The Columbus Marathon opened its registration earlier this week. The organization is superb, the course offers a nice variety of scenery, the weather is usually ideal, and the course is relatively fast. There are plenty of hotels within a close proximity to the start/finish line (as well as the expo), so logistics are a snap. Follow them on Facebook and Instagram for inspiring content and encouragement year-round.
The Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon is another excellent option in early October, and with an entry fee of just $80, it’s a bargain too. It’s a point-to-point course with less than 3,500 runners and has excellent start-line amenities. Instead of waiting in a corral for an hour before the race, enjoy the warmth of a high school with bathrooms that have running water! And, you don’t have to share the course with half marathon runners, because there is no half marathon. Registration is now open, and this race sells out quickly due to the small field size.
The Richmond Marathon is a must-do. The scenery of this course varies so much that it never gets boring. It features residential areas, a park, a lakeside, and the downtown area. Dubbed as “America’s Friendliest Marathon,” the race lives up to its name with ample volunteers, cheer stations, and a fun atmosphere. The last half mile is a huge downhill, so once you get there, you fly toward the finish.