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Dec 12, 2013

Things to consider when choosing your first marathon

Bayshore Marathon 2011
Before I even talk about this, I want to make it clear that I'm no expert here.  I've only run five marathons(Bayshore, Detroit, Flying Pig, Grand Rapids and Monumental Marathon) and they have all been on the roads.  I've got a trail full coming up in August(North Country) as well.  These are just a few things to think need about before deciding on your first marathon.
Size - they say size doesn't matter.......well, not exactly - at least when it comes to the marathon.  Size of the race should be a consideration on your first marathon.  Are you looking for lots of crowd support?  You might want to go with a marathon like Detroit, Chicago, New York where you'll have lots of people cheering for you.  Perhaps you don't like crowds or worries of getting into your corral?  If so, a smaller marathon like Bayshore up in Traverse City might be the way to go.  It still provides a great race atmosphere yet you don't need to be in the corral so early or even hours as some marathons but the crowd support is minimal.
Grand Rapids in Fall colors
Time of year - this is a big one.  When do you like to train?  Do you run better in cold weather or hot weather?  If you enjoy it cold, then a Spring marathon might be better for you.  Like to be hot and sweaty - go for a Fall marathon.  While the training might make you hot, usually race day is cooler which can be an advantage for you when you've trained in warmer weather.
Location - Should you do your first race out of town or one in your hometown?  I ran Bayshore for my first marathon but I also stayed at my cottage so I got to sleep in a bed that I'm used to.  Of course, going out of town is also a great way to get in a vacation or see a new City at the same time.  I really enjoy going to races in other cities.  One of my favorites was Monumental Marathon in Indianapolis.

Cost - yeah this is always a big one for everyone.  I can run the Detroit marathon here locally and get it for $70-80 when signing up early, go down race morning and run my race.  Going out of town certainly adds a big cost to the race but even if you live in a city where there is a large race, race entry fees are typically higher.  New York for example is $255 to get in - if you can get in.  Chicago is $175.  You can find some smaller races as low as $50 too.

Bling - I'm all about the bling.  What do you get for your money?  Most give a shirt and medal.  What's the shirt made of?  Cotton or Tech.  What's the medal look like?  Is it huge and tiny?  Are there any extras?  I received socks from Bayshore and Grand Rapids.  I received a duffle bag from the Flying Pig marathon.  I got a winter beanie at Monumental Marathon.  See all my medals for all my races.
Flying Pig Expo
Expo - Do you like going to expos and try and seeing all the new running stuff?  The bigger the race, the larger the expo.  The largest I've been to was for the Flying Pig.  The smallest - Bayshore.  In fact, I just had my buddy pick up my packet for me since it was so small.
Just before the Monumental Marathon
Who's running - Do you have someone to train with for it?  It really helps if you do.  Get a couple running buddies to run them with you.  It makes the training more fun and the race an entirely different experience.  I really suggest having or getting to know at least one person that you can go and train with.  Meet some runners at SEMR and run with them if you don't know anyone running it.
Flying Pig marathon elevation
Course - if you can, take a look at the course before deciding.  I always research the course before signing up for a marathon.  What's the elevation?  How are the roads?  Is it all road, some trail, all trail?  Is it scenic?  Is is rural or urban?  Ask other runners who have run the race before.  Check Marathon GuideRead my reviews.

In the end, for my first marathon, I was looking for a great scenic route that was fairly flat, a buddy to run it with and something that was not too large but still enjoy runners around me the whole race.  I also didn't mind training through winter and did not want a race that was going to be too warm.  I always felt that Bayshore was the right choice for my first.

Hope this helps those thinking about running their first marathon.

What tips do you guys have?

Have a great day and....Keep Running!!!!


  1. Great points! Similar and related to maybe all of them is to decide if finishing time matters. Big marathons are harder to run faster times with the crowded starts and crowded aid stations, but I find them to be more of a fun spectacle.

    1. I may have lost my desire to go fast. Next marathon is all trail. No goal, just fun.

  2. Great tips - I still haven't pulled the trigger to sign up for my first marathon yet, but I will keep these in mind for when I do...maybe 2015?

    1. Marathons are fun, just do it... yesterday I was talking to a couple of my athletis and we were saying: Don't you just hate it when you look up from your PC and you find you have entered a race...

  3. WOW you do make it difficult to choose a marathon... so many things to think about! That said I guess I think about all those things before I run a marathon now adays with over 60 run...