How To Pick Your Perfect Goal Marathon

By Rick Morris

You put a lot of thought into developing your marathon training plan. You dedicate yourself both physically and mentally to successfully carrying out your marathon program. Are there any other steps you need to take to insure a fully enjoyable marathon experience? Did you miss anything? Maybe you did. Did you put a lot of thought into choosing your goal marathon? Many marathon runners do not. Picking the wrong marathon, while not a fatal mistake, can throw a small wrench into your marathon works. Here are some things you should probably think about to pick your perfect goal marathon.

Training Time

In terms of physical and mental preparation, this one is probably the most important. The exact amount of training time you need before your marathon will vary depending upon your experience level and your current level of fitness. Generally speaking an experienced runner at a high level of fitness could get by with as little as six weeks of training while a new runner may need as much as 6 months. Don’t forget to add in a three week taper when calculating your training time.

Marathon Type

All marathons are not created equal. There are road marathons, back trail marathons, mountain marathons, flat marathons, hilly marathons, marathon hill climbs, easy marathons, extreme marathons and everything in between. Before you pick a marathon you will need to figure out what type you want to run.

Marathon Goal

One thing that will help you choose a marathon type is your marathon goal. Make sure you determine a marathon goal before picking a race. If your goal is to qualify for Boston, you will probably want to pick a flat, fast road marathon. If you are looking to enter a marathon to test the limits of your strength and endurance you should probably pick a mountain, hill climb or extreme marathon. Match your goal to the marathon type to insure your success and enjoyment.

Secondary Goal

Many times a runner will combine a running goal with a secondary goal. For example, you may want to combine your marathon with a family vacation. In that case you should think about a marathon that is located in a resort area that has the attractions and amenities for your family vacation.

Weather Conditions

What type of weather do you like to run in? If you love the warm weather you should probably avoid a northern race in the winter months. If you hate running in the heat, a summertime desert marathon is probably a really poor choice.

Travel Distance

The distance to your marathon can play a surprisingly big role in your marathon success. If you are planning a marathon vacation, then distance is less important since you will probably be spending a week or more at your marathon location. That gives you plenty of time for travel, relaxation and recovery. On the other hand, if you are just going out for marathon day, the stress and time involved with travel can send you into race day in less than ideal physical and mental condition. You also miss out on some important post race recovery time.

Marathon Size

Do you really enjoy the solitude of distance running or do you prefer to have a lot of fellow runners nearby to keep you company. Think about that before choosing a goal marathon. If you prefer solitude then think about picking a smaller, less well known marathon. If you prefer the company of many other athletes you should probably run in one of the larger and more well known races.

Party or Performance

Sometimes I consider the marathon to be a party to celebrate the completion of a tough but successful training program. I run to enjoy the race and the atmosphere. A other times I consider the marathon more of a test and I am primarily concerned with performing my best. If your marathon is a party you should pick one with lots of pre and post race events and lots of amenities. If your marathon is more of a test or is more performance oriented consider a marathon that is all business and less play. Fewer pre race events and less amenities lends itself to more focus on performance.