So many states, even more marathons…
There are a lot of marathons out there. Even with a goal of doing 50 marathons in 50 states, there are still a lot of choices to be made, and since my body can’t afford to repeat states (not to mention the time and money it takes to travel), I want to “spend” my marathons wisely. So how do I choose which marathons to run?
My first stop is MarathonGuide.com – it’s an excellent website that lists just about every marathon everywhere. You can view marathons by date or by state, and most races have a lot of helpful reviews by people who have actually run the race. I like to skim a page or two of the reviews to get a sense of the race to see if it’s something I want to do. Basically, I’m looking for how well-organized the race is (which is becoming more and more important as I do more races – a sloppy or confusing expo or course with poor support can add mountains of misery to the race experience), how difficult the course is (hilly, trail, elevation, open to traffic, typical weather), the value extras (which includes the medal and any other stuff like the shirt/jacket/post-race food/beer), and overall experience for the runners (which includes everything from special entertainment along the course, the spectators, the location/scenery, to general atmosphere).
If a marathon sounds promising from the reviews, I then visit the marathon’s webpage to learn more about the location, difficulty of travelling there, hotel options, etc. And if everything sounds good, I add it to my list of potential races (or I start making reservations!). I started with a Word doc but now I have an Excel sheet uploaded into Google docs to keep all my race notes organized. I have the races listed by state and by month so I can see when and where I should start scheduling a race. I have columns for name of the race, town, state, date of race, when you should register, cost of registration, website, and general notes. (I also added columns for hotel, airline/transportation, and car rental, but that’s mostly so I can share my info with you guys to help you plan your next marathon.)
Some races fall into a special category because they are so well-known (e.g. Chicago, New York, Boston) or have some personal interest for me (e.g. Big Sur, Flying Pig) that they’ve been on my wish list for years. I’ve already “spent” California and will probably never qualify for Boston, so I might not run my wish list, but I have multiple marathons listed for most states, which is also necessary for scheduling. For example, I have only 2 or 3 solid potential marathons for the month of July but 12 to 17 marathons for October, so I probably won’t run all of the October races on my Excel sheet.
Finally, I try to gather reviews and recommendations from other runners I meet. Sometimes I’ll learn about a marathon that wasn’t on my radar at all, and yet sounds so interesting it’s suddenly top on my list. I also look at all the race ads and reviews in Runner’s World, which have sparked many a dream marathon in my mind. I’ve also taken note of the various marathon booths at expos, and now that I’m able to join the 50 States Marathon Club, I’ll probably get even more info about which races I should be doing next.
It’s an ever-evolving process, and I’m trying to hit my “special” races and finish the Eastern seaboard first. I’m putting off tough trail marathons and high elevation races until I improve as a runner, and I’m saving Alaska and Hawaii for my 49th and 50th states. Sometimes my race choices make practical sense (Baltimore is an easy train ride away and knocks off Maryland), and sometimes they are a bit more random (Little Rock has a really big medal). Regardless, choosing marathons is a fun process (often more fun than actually running them), so I encourage you to start a marathon wish list of your own, if you haven’t already.
What’s on your marathon wish list? Share in the comments!