In 2016 I plan to tackle my biggest challenge yet--a full marathon. I've put a lot of thought into which marathon to do and have decided...unless anyone suggests one I haven't thought of that meets my requirements, which are:
- Have the greatest potential for cool, preferably cold, weather. At a minimum, I'm looking for race-day temps that don't get above 50 at the warmest part of the day and, ideally, temps between 30 and 40.
- Be in a location that I like and/or be scenic if I haven't been there before.
- Be close enough to Pittsburgh that I can drive, take the Megabus, or have a short flight. Travel tends to stress me out in general, so I don't want to travel far.
Other plusses would be:
- Have an early start time for the corral I'll be in. I only run first thing in the mornings so won't be able to train for a later start time.
- Not have a lot of crowd support. I'm weird, I know, but crowds other than at the start and finish line stress me out.
- Have a course cut-off of longer than 6 hours. While I won't have a time goal, I'll be training at a pace that, if I have an awesome race, will get me to the finish line in about 5 hours. But I know that anything can happen in a marathon and if I start coming in closer to 6 hours, knowing that I'm close to the cut-off will be pretty stressful.
- Have pace groups that are 15 minutes apart. I plan to start slower than my race pace and ease into my pace, so I won't be able to run the whole race with a pace group, which does even splits. But I do love the idea of running with a pace group and would love to be able to start slow and catch up with one, which I won't likely be able to do if pace groups are 30 minutes apart.
- As far as course type, I obviously don't want to do a really hard course for my first marathon, but I do prefer some hills over a flat course.
I've ruled out all spring races. The weather is just too iffy after March. These are the fall races that I'd like to do but have ruled out.
- NYC. I love NYC. And I think it would be incredibly cool to see NYC in a way I haven't before, on the marathon course. While I think the crowds might be stressful, the biggest reason I wouldn't want to do this race is because of the late start of the corral I'd be in. I wouldn't even start a 3-mile run at 11 a.m., much less a marathon! And of course there's no guarantee I'd get into the race through the lottery.
- Chicago. I've only been to Chicago once but loved the city and would like to experience it again. Chicago is about the farthest I'd travel, and the travel wouldn't be that big of a deal. But, the weather is an issue. Early October could still be pretty warm, and the temps this year would have been too warm for me. And, of course, it's a lottery.
- Wineglass. I love trail races so love the idea of this scenic race, which also doesn't have a lot of spectators. But again, mid-October weather is too iffy. The temps this year would have been too warm for me.
- Columbus. I considered this mainly because everyone gives it such positive reviews and really loves it. This year, it was nice and cold on race day, and end of October has a better chance of being cold, but...again, it's still iffy. This is probably my second choice though.
- Harrisburg. I only considered this because my running buddy Amanda ran this as her first and really liked it. It's a small race in early November with not a lot of spectators. Normally November is a safer bet for cold weather here in Pennsylvania, but this November is teaching me that you never know. It was 61 degrees this morning when I went for my run! Plus, I used to have to go to Harrisburg for work. It's a small city and is nice enough--I like cute, small cities--but I don't think it will capture my interest for 26.2 miles. I just don't really love the city, and this may be my only marathon so I really want to run somewhere I love.
- Richmond. Again, I only considered this because so many people (Courtney and Anna) love the course and because it's in mid-November. It sounded like the weather was great this year, but because it's in the south, it has the potential to be warm.
You've probably guessed by now which one I picked. It's pretty much the only one that meets all my requirements--Philadelphia! The race is this upcoming Sunday, and the end of November has a very high potential for cold weather here. This year, the high is supposed to only get up to 48 in Philly on Sunday, which is absolutely perfect. A friend is running the full this year, so I plan to get all the details from her about the course. In addition to having an end-of-November date, I love Philly. When I told my husband I was thinking of doing the race, he was excited and said we could stay there after the race and do a mini-vacation. We both love Philly but haven't been there in years, so it would be really fun to go back. And while Philly is farther to drive to than Wineglass, Columbus, or Harrisburg, it's still a pretty easy car ride to get there. The only negatives I can see are that the pace groups are only ever half-hour (5:00 and 5:30) and there could be a lot of crowds. Still, the pros win out over the cons.
What do you think? Have you ever done Philly or known anyone who has? Are there other races that meet my requirements that I haven't thought of?