How do you decide on your next dash of glory?

Statistics claim there are almost 600 marathons to choose from each year in the U.S. alone and, more than 500,000 of us finish one every year. On average, this adventure will set us back $67 in entry fees or, as much $266 in the case of the New York Marathon and 40 some odd “high ticket” races.

With the marathon distance becoming more commonplace, runners are challenging themselves by running the distance in multiples.

Runners who are part of the British 100 Marathon Club have completed 100 or more races of marathon distance or longer. Club chairman, Roger Biggs, has run more than 700.

imageOver 350 runners have completed a marathon in each state of the United States plus Washington, D.C. and some have done it as many as eight times.

In September 2011, Patrick Finney of Grapevine, Texas became the first person with multiple sclerosis to finish a marathon in each state of the United States. There are similar feats by runners with a prosthesis, cancer survivors and even heart attack victims.

I read that a distance runner can only feed their distance hunger in one of two ways: speed or distance. We satisfy our craving by running the marathon faster and faster or by running further and further. Thus the boom in ultra races of 50+ miles.

So… do you decide the site of your next dash of glory?

Obviously, cost can play a role. Traveling to Ireland or Africa to run a marathon might be fun but isn’t necessarily in the cards for everyone.

My preference is for the small, rural marathons where you find 300 – 400 runners instead of 35,000. They’re more intimate and relaxed and I enjoy running through the countryside more than the urban jungle.

Another consideration may be time of year. You won’t find many marathons scheduled in the heat of summer leaving us with fall/winter or winter/spring scheduling.

For several years, I have run a fall marathon…loosely translated “wake up at 5am to beat the heat on the long run training plan.” I don’t particularly like waking up at 5am every summer though.

Finish times tend to be about 20% slower on trail races than road races since there’s less traction on a trail versus asphalt. But, the ground being softer than the road theoretically means the trail is more comfortable. That leads to the question of whether you want to qualify for Boston.

Marathons must go through a certification process to be a Boston Qualifying race – important if your body chooses to perform its best on that particular day. You wouldn’t want to be on an uncertified course and have a PB all for naught.

Some runners enjoy being the first ones to run a race so they seek out inaugural races. When my husband and I owned our own business, he would often say, “Indians get shot.” It may be exciting to be “first to market” but, it comes with its own set of perils.

If a runner is kind enough to write a review of the race, I read it. Sometimes I’ll read the reviews for several years back. If complaints are registered about the course or too few porta pottys for years on end, I’ll likely take my business elsewhere.


Having given each of these points careful consideration, I have decided on the New River Marathon for my spring Marathon.

The New River Marathon courses primarily along the banks of the South Fork New River, one of only 14 American Heritage Rivers in the United States. Of the 17 miles with pastoral vistas of the New River, 13 miles are along Railroad Grade Road, a North Carolina Scenic Byway. For the 9 miles that wind away from the flat and fast New River Valley, the course offers several short, aggressive climbs, rolling country roads, and a challenging 2-mile section between 15.5 and 17.5 miles (the near 180 degree view at mile 17.5 is breathtaking).

The reviews are great, the course a bit challenging and, based on the past two years’ results, the competition squarely within reach. New River, here I come.

New River Marathon in Todd, N.C., May 3, 2014

7 thoughts on “How do you decide on your next dash of glory?

  1. I feel like each paragraph of this post could fill pages — so much to discuss! I’m one who finds himself vacillating at the fork in the road between distance and speed. I’m not the person that runs two marathons a year and trains dedicatedly to each one, nor am I the one who runs 20 marathons a year at a 15-minute pace. I’m in that perilous in-between where I try and gun it for (almost) every race, a little more frequently than perhaps I should.

    As for HOW I choose my races, being an aspiring 50-stater helps because all I have to do is look at a map, then a calendar, and simply make it happen. Once that’s done, then yes, it’ll be a task to choose which race will earn the marquee slot. I think I’ll start doing international races once the states are done. But I have to become fabulously wealthy first … need to work on that one …


    1. Good for you! I’m still lumbering through one/year. And, I’ve really wanted to try running an ultra but my husband would hear nothing of it…which, as I get older seems ok too. It must be great fun to see our beautiful country through the lens of a race. Expanding that worldwide even better. I’m with you though, the lottery just hasn’t come my way….yet!


    1. Hi! Yes, I’ve been training with this race in mind but, the first day of training was also the first day of school. I wasn’t sure if “training” would survive the WFR so I was reluctant to actually pay my money. There’s still a couple of hurdles. This is a transition week back to long runs – I’ve missed two. And, the last week of training before the taper is also the weekend of our 3-day class hike. I’m committed now though – I paid my money last night. 🙂 I’m excited to run this one. One guy said it was the most beautiful course he’d ever seen. That’s a pretty good review!


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