Choosing a marathon may be simple, particularly if you want to do one that’s on your doorstep. But if you don’t live in a town or city that has its own 26.2-mile event, how do you go about deciding for a race that’s right for you?
1) BIGGER RACES
Pretty much every capital city around Europe has a marathon, as do many other cities around the world. These large events are run like well-oiled machines: there are hundreds of competitors and background support to make sure your run, and the race as a whole, goes like clockwork. This is what you’ll get at a bigger marathon event:
A. DRINKS STATIONS
Usually sponsored by a major brand, these will be located every one or two miles and will help you to fuel you around the course. They may even stock sports gels, bananas or (surprisingly) baked potatoes!
B. LOTS OF COMPETITORS
Races such as the Virgin London Marathon, Chicago, Rotterdam, Berlin or Paris attract hundreds of competitors. If you want to share your pain with like- minded people, then a bigger race is for you.
C. HUNDREDS OF SPECTATORS
Somebody once said a marathon is about 80% mental effort. When you begin flagging around the course, what better lift could there be than hundreds of spectators cheering you along the way?
There’s nothing worse than thinking you’ve clocked a personal best only to discover that the course was 50 metres too short. Bigger races will be ratified by a governing body and are almost guaranteed to be pinpoint accurate.
E. PRE-RACE PASTA PARTY
Although these are likely to differ largely in standard, many of the bigger marathons have a pre-race pasta party, which you may or may not have to pay extra for. These are good for swapping pre-race stories, overcome fears and running advice.
[quote] If you want a great pasta party, check out Jamaica’s Reggae Marathon, usually organised at the beginning of December. The food is excellent, it’s free to participants, and the event is accompanied by traditional reggae music.[/quote]
2) SMALLER RACES
These are going to have less than 2,000 participants, are often organised in smaller towns or cities, and tend to be more intimate affairs. Usually, they have fewer top athletes at the sharp end, but could offer a more picturesque route or other advantages, such as not having to wait a quarter of an hour to cross the start line.
The entry fee is likely to be lower and you’ll most probably not struggle to get into the race. There might not be the same level of spectators, but, often, even in these smaller races, the whole community gets behind the race and there’s a great atmosphere on the race day.
3) WHEN DECIDING, YOU SHOULD ASK YOURSELF:
■ Is cost important to me?
■ Am I willing to travel?
■ What will the weather be like?
■ Can I take my family with me?
■ Do I have any other commitments?
■ What’s the course like? Terrain? Hills? Difficulty?
■ Can I enter easily?
■ Is it well-organised?