Beginners and Beyond

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I am considering my first marathon... (Read 119 times)

Jack K.


I love sponge cake.

    and need to make a choice. A few details... I thinking of running in my first marathon in October and have two from which to choose. One is a three hour drive from home so it would require at least one night in a hotel. It is very small, less than 200 runners last year, but it is fully sanctioned and is a Boston Qualifier (not that I would qualify). It is in a small town called Paso Robles, CA and has a rolling course that goes through the wine country. It has all the swag, is staffed by local volunteer, has all the water and aid stations that a big race would have, and all the online reviews have been great. It has a very "small town feel" to it but has very few people along the course.

     

    The other is a big race in Long Beach, CA. From what I can tell, this is a very large race with thousands of runners. It has all the corporate sponsors, race expo, etc... everything you would expect from a big race. Also, since it on/near the coast, it is a very flat course.

     

    Whichever race I choose, I want to sign up soon as that it my motivation to train. I want to train and race it, and not go out for a little stroll. I like to race and know that I tried my best.

     

    Based on your race experiences, marathons or not, which do you prefer? Big races or small races? Destination or closer to home? Any shared info would be appreciated, as it will help me make up my mind. At this point it is a toss of a coin. Thanks in advance.

    2014 races

    Santa Anita Derby Day 5k - 5 Apr  

    Mountains to Beach Marathon - 25 May


    Bad Ass

      Hmmm, based upon the courses, the first one sounds pretty and the second one easy.  I would do the easy course (Long Beach) as your first, for two reasons:

       

      • Close to home so you can sleep in your own bed, eat your own food, and it provides less stress for those reasons
      • Easier course for your first, so you can get it out of the way and not make the experience harder.

      If you want the small marathon experience and the pretty course, go ahead, but I know the extra stresses travel can provide and for the first, I recommend a local one.

       

      Good luck!  I want to do Long Beach, but cannot do it this year.  I might do Surf City Marathon next year.

      Damaris, Marathon Maniac, Ultra Runner

      Blog

      "The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire."


      delicate flower

        Size:  I'd prefer to have more runners around me to pace off of and keep me motivated.  I find it easier to keep my pace when I have others around me.  I would imagine it might get lonely at times with only 200 participants.  A larger race will also have more crowd support, entertainment, and good noise.  I've done three marathons and they all had about 2500 runners.  I think that is a nice size...not too big, not too small.  There are always other runners around but never crowded.  I'd certainly run a marathon with only 200 runners, but I'd need a reason (my backyard, people I know doing it, perfect place on the calendar, etc).

         

        Proximity:  Two marathons were close to home and one was an overnight trip.  Both were fun.  Close to home is good because you have a better chance of sleeping well and it's nice to just get home after the race.  Family can come watch and cheer as well.  Overnight was fun because we had a group of six and made a weekend out of it.  Shopping, eating, racing, and hanging with friends for two days.  All other things being equal, I prefer staying close to home.  Problem is, that limits my options to one marathon.

         

        I do love the Hartford Marathon.  It's close to home, is the perfect size, is well run, is a flat course, has good crowd support, and is on a Saturday.

         

        Klompus:  Good luck.  You're going to do great.

        proud sherpa

        yeoldefatguy


        Resident Nickelback Fan

          I've only run what you would consider mid-sized marathons in Grand Rapids and Vancouver. A big city marathon has the appeal of crowd support throughout the course, which is nice. I would say whichever race and atmosphere you are more comfortable in. I have absolutely no desire to run a huge race like Chicago, Detroit or Flying Pig because I really hate running through enormous crowds of people.

          Of course it's a real gun, it's a real race.

          monkkey


          I admit nothing

            I would also vote for Long Beach, because it is local and because it is bigger.   I love small races too, but I was glad my first marathon was a race with lots of other runners and spectators and more of a party atmosphere. Looks like Long Beach gets around 3000 runners and Poso Robles gets around 90.  That is really tiny and you may be running by yourself for most of it.  (Of course, some people prefer that.)

             

            However, I would not necessarily assume the flatter course will be easier - flat courses can be fast but they can also tire out your legs from the monotony.  That's an individual thing though, and some runners like their courses mostly flat and some like rolling.

            running Pride Run 5M 6/28, Finger Lakes 50k 7/5

            FSocks


            Gramps

              Personally I like mid-size marathons of 500-1500.  I've run in small and large also (120 and 5,000+) but I didn't enjoy them as much.  The mid-sized ones usually have good crowd support, organization, aide stations, end refreshments (that the smaller ones can struggle with) without being the cluster-f/ck of the mega ones.

               

              Also, being local is a big plus in my opinion for reasons already mentioned.

               

              YMMV

              Running is dumb. 


              SheCan

                I think it's a matter of personal preference.  I like small, less urban races best.  The largest race I've ran had 2000 people in it.   A three hour drive and overnight was in fact what I did with my first marathon.   Getting the hotel and all the production around it, make it feel special, at least to me.

                Cherie

                "We do not become the people who this world needs simply by turning our backs on anyone we don’t like, trust, or deem healthy enough to be in our presence. "  ---- Shasta Nelson


                Muddling through

                  Something else to look at is the distribution of runners from last year's result around the time you expect to finish. that will give you a better idea of how crowded it will be in your vicinity.

                   

                  Local has a lot of appeal because of the reduced stress, travel, and expense, however staying overnight can help with focusing on the race and not being distracted by all the activities at home. In a small race you have to contend with running alone and possibly having no support along the way between aid stations. If you're fine with that, the smaller race with its more intimate feel that you as an individual matter, can make a big difference.

                  2014 Goals: Run first trail ultra, first 100K, and see what I can do in a 24-Hour race


                  YAYpril - B-Plus

                    I'm registered for my first marathon on September 8. It's local - comes within 2.5 miles of my house - which is nice because a) I don't need to travel and b) I can train on parts of the course. It has a marathon, half marathon (starts at the halfway point), and marathon relay.

                     

                    Last year there were 544 marathon finishers, 655 half marathon finishers, and 219 relay teams (2-5 members per team). The other local marathon we have caps out at 550 participants for both the half AND full. However, this was my first half marathon in 2011 and even though the participant numbers aren't huge, the crowd support is wonderful. There are lots of volunteer "cheer stations" and lots of people walk from their houses to the course to cheer on participants.

                     

                    It's also one of the top Boston Qualifier courses in the country, not that it's something I'm concerning myself with right now (or ever). The only downside is because it's fast (net downhill), lots of fast people run it, so I'd probably end up in the bottom 20% of finishers. But that's okay.

                     

                    I have never done a mega-race and I don't feel like I'm missing anything. I once did a 5k with 1500 participants and that was annoying enough.

                    fourouta5


                    Healed Hammy

                      My first marathon was Disney earlier this year and I recommend the larger one for you.  I found having people around me all the time was more interesting, I passed plenty and plenty passed me.  Larger races tend to have more support and organization which minimized potential bugs.  My race did not have many spectators along the course - that is where the larger number of runners can overcome that.

                       

                      I know many of the more experienced runners prefer smaller races, perhaps I will after I get a few under my belt.  For now I highly, highly recommend the 2nd choice not to mention it is flat and will probably have more pacers and more folks to run your speed with.

                      LRB


                      Dreamer

                        By sheer happenstance, my two marathons were one of each of what you are deciding between.

                         

                        My first marathon Charlevoix, was a six hour drive to a resort town and was small, 2,000 or so total runners.  The drive and staying overnight are really just a byproduct of runners doing what we have to do, so I do not look at that as a negative.

                         

                        For my second marathon Detroit, I went from my driveway to the starting corral in about 35 minutes, and there were 24,000 participants.

                         

                        Of the two, it's not even close, it's Detroit by a landslide.  But it has nothing to do with anything, I just liked it more.

                         

                        From my stand point, when choosing your first marathon the overriding factor is course difficulty.  You simply want to put yourself in position to have a positive race experience no matter where it is, or how many people are running it, at least that's how I look at it.

                         

                        Yes, your perspective will change after you have two or a few under your belt, but for that first 26.2 mile stroll, how many people are screaming your name, or what type of swag you get is not going to matter those last 6 miles when your ass is in distress.  You are just going to want it to be over whether you are running on the yellow brick road, or through the depths of hell.

                         

                        Of course, we are all different, and different things mean more to some than they do to others so take my opinion accordingly.

                         

                        I would only suggest that you set your self up for on the course success, and everything else (travel, lodging, etc.) is just a part of what goes into this crazy thing we do called running.

                        MRT: This too shall pass

                        Jack K.


                        I love sponge cake.

                          Wow.... thanks so much, all of you. Those are great thoughts, opinions, and perspectives. You have no idea how torn I am. For what it's worth, I am a small town kind of guy and I do like running alone, though not all the time, BUT there is nothing like a nice crowd to cheer you on with their funny posters and rogue beer stands. Also, I don't mind the travel and hotel stays. If anything, I sleep a bit better there because I don't have to get up at 4:00 am to get to a race and worry about parking and all that. As LRB said, my "ass will be in distress" in the last six miles, and I think that will be the case in any marathon. I still have some time to consider and either way, I think I will do fine. I just want to have a great experience. Thanks for all your words of wisdom.

                          2014 races

                          Santa Anita Derby Day 5k - 5 Apr  

                          Mountains to Beach Marathon - 25 May

                            good luck either way, I am sure you will do great.

                             

                            I would choose the big one. While I dont think that I want to run with another person, I like seeing others around. Rolling course sounds pretty for a car ride, but after 20 miles running you might get a WTF am I doing thought.

                             

                            I will say that the ease of the small one of getting out of your car and running and it being easy to get back into your car afterwards might be something to think about.

                             

                            What plan are you going to use, or are you coming up with your own?

                            ”Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.”

                            “Whether you think you can, or you think you can't--you're right.”

                             

                            Tomas

                              Has anyone seen this site?

                              http://findmymarathon.com/

                              I only stumbled on it recently, so I'm not sure if its new.  But it has been a nice one-stop shopping for marathons and good for comparisons.  Of course they don't have details for every race just yet.

                               

                              Paso Robles and Long Beach:

                              http://findmymarathon.com/compare.php?compareName1=Paso%20Robles%20Harvest%20Marathon&compareName2=Long%20Beach%20International%20Marathon

                              Not much info on Paso Robles.  But 94 finishers?  That's crazy small.

                               

                              For my first I would probably go with Long Beach.  There are certainly negatives in dealing with the big crowds, but that is part of he experience.  There is something about the energy of the masses and yes even the crowds at the start and finish that is worth being a part of.

                              Full: 3:48:01


                              Bad Ass

                                That site is also good to see how your fitness is at when comparing your PR say on a flat course with your PR on a hilly course (it makes them the "same").

                                 

                                Has anyone seen this site?

                                http://findmymarathon.com/

                                I only stumbled on it recently, so I'm not sure if its new.  But it has been a nice one-stop shopping for marathons and good for comparisons.  Of course they don't have details for every race just yet.

                                 

                                Paso Robles and Long Beach:

                                http://findmymarathon.com/compare.php?compareName1=Paso%20Robles%20Harvest%20Marathon&compareName2=Long%20Beach%20International%20Marathon

                                Not much info on Paso Robles.  But 94 finishers?  That's crazy small.

                                 

                                For my first I would probably go with Long Beach.  There are certainly negatives in dealing with the big crowds, but that is part of he experience.  There is something about the energy of the masses and yes even the crowds at the start and finish that is worth being a part of.

                                Damaris, Marathon Maniac, Ultra Runner

                                Blog

                                "The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire."

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