Thursday, 27 June 2013

How To Pick The Best Marathon To Run

Summer is finally here and after an extended period of recovery from doing both the London and Edinburgh marathon I am back out pounding the streets and trails.
I love summer. I think it’s a product of growing up in Britain – our summers are so fleeting and fragile that you value them the way people from other countries value rare gems or endangered species. But while I’m enjoying this season I already have one eye on the coming autumn, or as we runners like to call it the “2nd marathon season” (OK – maybe I’m the only runner in the world who calls it that  - the first marathon season starts around mid-March and ends at the beginning of May).  
So with that in mind I am now looking at which marathons I want to run this autumn. I’ve already left it too late to register for Berlin but apart from that the world literally is my oyster.
So I thought I would share with you all the factors I use to weigh how to choice a marathon:
1.       Where In The World? Runners are now spoilt for choice. Nearly every major city and every country  has a marathon now; from  Adelaide to Zanzibar. With the opportunity (and excuse) to go to such amazing places then pick somewhere you would be interested in going even if you weren’t running. (Just for the record Zanzibar hold a half marathon but A-Z just sounds good)

2.       How Much? The world might be my oyster but unfortunately I can’t afford to buy every pearl I see. How much does it cost to get to? How much does the marathon cost to enter? Are hotels expensive in the area? Etc? etc?  You get the picture.

3.       Why Am I Doing This? Am I trying to beat my PB? - Then I need a flat course. Am I trying to fulfil my ambition of running a marathon on every continent?  - I’ve done Europe and South America – so three’ish more to go. Or is this marathon going towards my ambition for running the Six World Marathon Majors (London done so still have Tokyo, Boston, Berlin, Chicago and New York to go!)

4.       Does Size Really Matter? I much prefer small marathons. When I run I am in my own world. I preferred the Whole Foods Breakfast Run for example, with less than two thousand runners and hardly any spectators, than the London marathon where I feel the spectacle is almost as important as the running itself.
And Finally:
5.       How Big Is My Ego? Although marathon running is about personal challenges, when you listen to runners chat there is often a fair bit of bragging rights. I like the kudos I get when I tell people that I’ve run the Rio marathon for example. I am in awe of some of the trail marathon runners who go off road and can tell you about the mountains they had to climb to get to the finish line!
So with those five criteria at the forefront of my mind I have picked two marathons for the year’s “2nd Marathon Season” (I don’t feel this phrase will catch on).
Drum Roll please:
Warsaw and Nairobi.
Warsaw: I’ve never been to Poland and I’m fascinated by Eastern Europe. It’s cheap to get to and accommodation isn’t too expensive. Although I have a qualifying time for the 2014 Boston marathon entry is staggered in stages and I can only enter in the last week when all the places might be taken so I need to beat my PB by 2 minutes to guarantee entry and Warsaw is very flat. It’s a big one so you can’t have everything. It scores high on the running bragging rights of “I didn’t even know Warsaw had a marathon?!?”
Nairobi:  I need an African marathon under my running shoes (Asia and America after that). I’m married to a Kenyan so accommodation is sorted. It’s a small marathon so it should be pretty intimate. And as far as bragging rights go – I’m running with Kenyans! Need I say more?
Now I’ve just got to start training properly. Only three months to go till Warsaw.
(The picture today is of me running the Cannes half-marathon which ticks all the boxes: great part of the world, cheap, got a PB, small number of participants, and as far as ego goes - did I tell you I got a PB already?)

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