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How to Select Your First Marathon

Everything You Need to Know to Select Your First Marathon

The following post was written by Amanda Brooks, who blogs at Run to the Finish and is part of POPSUGAR Select Fitness.

Feeling inspired by last week's Boston Marathon? Motivated by the upcoming swimsuit season to run just a little bit farther?

If the marathon bug has finally nipped at your heels, spurring you to action, here are four tips to help select your first marathon and ensure it's a memorable experience.


Location: Should you race near home or select a destination race?

  • Local races mean sleeping in your own bed, no travel stress, and eating your regular foods.
  • Local races also mean knowing the course and exactly how far you have left (for better or worse).
  • Destination races mean seeing new sights and immersing yourself in the race atmosphere of something new and exciting.
  • Destination races mean more logistical planning, which can add to overall stress.

Support: What kind of support will improve your experience?

  • Including your closest friends and family in this experience can make it that much sweeter.
  • Have you selected a race that will make a great vacation for them or allow them to easily spectate?
  • Can you train with a local group to ensure you have others on the course with you come race day?
  • Will the roar of a crowd help keep you moving? Or do you prefer to stay in your zone uninterrupted?

Course: Which course will give you the best results?

  • Will you have similar training terrain? For instance, training for a race that happens in the mountains is much harder when you live at sea level.
  • Course elevation charts will help you determine the amount of hill training needed.
  • Race reviews will help you find courses that are more scenic, challenging, or unique.
  • During training, do you like running loops, out and back, or point to point? Choose a race with your preferred running style.

Timeline: How to know when you are ready to run a marathon?

  • If your current long run is a 5K, select a race at least 24 weeks in the future.
  • If your current long run is a 10K, select a race at least 20 weeks in the future.
  • If your current long run is a 13.1, select a race at least 16 weeks in the future.
  • Evaluate other major life events; it's not ideal to be planning a wedding or studying for major exams during training.
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