How to choose the race for your first try?
Tick off these 7 criteria and go register:
1.Season + preparation time
Now..it’s the most wonderful time of the year they sing..but we need to figure out what time of the year is actually best for your shape. Meaning that signing up for a spring marathon requires you to train your best in winter - depending on your country, it might not be as appealing to rock the ice getting in peak form. On the other hand, if summers in your country spare no effort to melt the road and burn the skin, then in fall your body can be too exhausted from three-month prep in the heat and hardly ready to hit your PB.
Europe’s favorite races (with most participants) commonly take place from August to the end of October - which allows enough time to build up throughout summer and have energy enough in nice cool fall races. Important here is to consider preparation time based on your current level of fitness and longest runs. Imagine going up 1km a week, let’s break it down as follows:
- a ‘freshly-baked’ runner with a daily volume of 5k will need around 30 weeks of preparation;
- an advanced 10k runner will spend 20 weeks gaining endurance; and
- a regular half(s) runner had better reckon a minimum of 12 weeks to polish up the pace and train self-talk after a 21km start line;
- running uphill should also be trained over (additional) time if never practiced before.
a) The main thing – learn your peak. And then decide on the marathon date. Getting ready for the fall season most of runners kick off the training season in March to have 4 months of solid training ahead. By July you can have a couple of smaller races completed to warm-up your engines and test your conditioning. Then, keep up the training and work on bettering your weak phases to be at peak from July to October. Somewhere later slow down the gear and get into свободный non-compete running mode his way – late summer and early autumn is your marathon season.
b) Once the estimation is done, have a look at the race calendar like https://www.ahotu.com and check with the major dates in your life: graduation, weddings, and conferences are more pleasant to be stressfree and rested (so you can genuinely spread your marathon enthusiasm)!
Long flights far West or East might not bring your fruitful results. The reason is – good old jetlag. Switching between time zones with over 5 hours gap is essentially a load enough for your body to direct all the energy to adapt for a while (and very likely to hit the hay until it is done) – which is considered to be in 10 days in a new setting. Well, if you do not have a luxury of spending a two-week-vacay for the marathon – don’t. First 2-3 days in acclimatization would make a good case for looking around and hitting the hay – doing that while running a marathon is a likely risk without a reason. Or you can find yourself falling asleep at the race, and to be honest, we tried it once – the energy stations are not made for that.
3. Weather / Climate
Nevertheless, the big run tends to bring you the excitement of traveling, even if it is not yet your dream destination – let it hang in until you are a level up. Weather can be another tricky thing to steal the show.
The reasoning behind science is that perfect weather for a marathon is +10–12°С. Every 1C° up detriments marathon time for approx. 0,3-0,4% – meaning that 25°С will take away 5 minutes from a 3-hours finish time. Higher humidity level in high temperatures can, at one point, turn down your running pace to walking, more likely so after the 30d km. That said, it doesn’t seem as most practical to opt for a marathon in Hawaii, as, for some reason, the Ironman World Triathlon Championship came up with. Yet the quality of air can be superior to your hometown which will benefit your breathing and hence easier run. We say: complete a marathon in a place close to your heart…and hometown, or study thoroughly monthly average of temperatures and humidity level of the unknown destination much ahead of time to adapt the training plan correspondently.
4. Race route profile
Climbing more than 200m in a marathon can worsen your ‘maximum’ result by another 5%. Refer to the race infopage, Strava, AllTrails maps, or just google the location and route profile. Estimate how much and how often it gains altitude over the course. Сonsider implementing enough uphill running training. You can, of course, try selecting a race with a ‘negative’ incline to allow boosting your overall time…but face explaining yourself to your running mates and proving improved time in from of the rivals at the next race.
5. Competition level
The most popular and well-etablished races are most competitive. If you aim at getting into the top-3 at your age group or maybe even to the leaderboard, choose those where the competition is not too strong. A marathon cah have a lower enrollment for no bad reasons, such as:
- the start takes place in an area inconvenient for mass tourism;
- start coincides with more popular races;
- the start takes place in a country where running is not super popular;
- heat and humidity are great for you;
- you live and train at an altitude of 1200 m, and the start is at 800 m;
- your form is at its peak in winter or spring.
6. Qualification and Entry Lottery
Where champions run’ – reads the website headline of the Abbott Majors, top marathon destination in the world – very ambitious, and so do we! Becoming a part of a BIG SIX is a dream you must not give up!
Don't forget about checking all the requirements first. For example, to qualify for the Berlin Marathon, a man under 44 must complete the race in 2:45, while a woman - no longer than in 3 hours. Still, submission of a qualifying time does not always guarantee entry. More details are to be found on the website of the respective race. Make sure your qualification performance is done at a race certified by the Association for International Marathons and Distance Races (AIMS). In this case, the post-race certificate will be accepted as a formal confirmation of your qualifying time.
To enter one of the top marathons, you have to:
- participate in the general entry lottery (with up to 500,000 people at a time);
- have finished a marathon with a certified route at least 5 minutes faster than the qualification in your age group;
- apply through a charitable foundation (where you are donating a substantial amount) or an official marathon travel agency that guarantees a slot.
Boston marathon - qual. men <3:00 / women <3:30), entry lottery (Sept.)
Bank of America Chicago marathon - qual. men <3:05 / women 3:35, entry lottery (October-November)
TCS New York City Marathon - qual. men <2:53 / women <3:13, entry lottery (17 Jan - 17 Feb)
TCS London Marathon- qual. men sub 2:40 / women sub 3:14 (only for UK residents!), entry lottery (May, 1-5)
Tokyo Marathon - qual. men <2:32 / women <3:19; entry lottery (August) <6:30;
BMB Berlin Marathon - qual. men < 2:45 / women <3:00, entry lottery (October-November)
This truly takes a bit of time and effort, but imagine the glow in your eyes with the acknowledgment that you are a part of a superb marathon community!
7. Organisers and race package
Reaching the final stretch of the marathon is quite an achievement yet not the last element of the experience. Every marathon is different and is sought to entertain its participants in a variety of ways. After all - you made your way to this race and completed a 42 km route - that is worth of getting the fun part now! You can find included in the package such things as pasta party, health and wellness activities, special offers with the race partners, food and coffee vouchers, and local tours - the creativity of the race organizers is not limited - how satisfying it to mix business with pleasure.
We hope it helps you to be determined and get the best of your next marathon!