Where should I run my first marathon?

I loved running the Marine Corp Marathon 10K but if I’m honest, the whole experience was a bit of a downer. My previous race, the Disneyland Paris Half Marathon was SO fun and exhilarating,  from flying to Paris with friends to seeing everyone in costumes and of course running 26.1 kilometers in and around the parks where I used to work (you can read my race recap here). The Marine Corp Marathon and 10K are right here in D.C. and only ran the 10K, which is in the shadow of the bigger and more impressive  marathon. I consistently found myself downplaying the race. I wasn’t running the MCM 10K… I was “only” running the MCM 10K or “just the 10K.”. And that lessened my excitement for the race and my feeling of accomplishment afterwards. I had “only” ran 10 kilometers when everyone else crushed it and ran an impressive 46.2! Also, I didn’t really know anyone else that was running unlike Disney where I had Caitlin. This race definitely got me thinking again about wanting to push myself further and run an actual marathon. 

I haven’t been in a hurry to sign up for my first marathon because I always knew when and where I wanted to run it: in my hometown, the year I turned forty. And then I would run my second and last one the following year, the famous Marathon du Médoc, and drink all the wine and not really care about my performance! Well, it turns out I think I  don’t want to wait that long! And maybe I don’t want to run in Paris 😉 There are thousands of marathons organized around the U.S. and the world every year so I actually have a lot of options to chose from and I kinda love the idea of a destination marathon, especially in a place that’s either special to me… or completely new, maybe a bucket list place or somewhere truly amazing. If it’s not going to be the year of my 40th birthday, I still want to make a big deal of my first marathon! So I’ve been giving it a lot of thought and here are the marathons I have narrowed down my list to:

1. PARIS (APRIL 8, 2018) 
Of course, Paris is still my top choice! Leading up to the Disneyland Paris half marathon last September I joined the facebook group Runners France  and I’ve been having major running FOMO ever since. I really want to run a race in Paris, whether it’s the marathon, Paris-Versailles (September 30th 2018) a 16 kilometer run from the castle to the Eiffel Tower, the 10 kilometres l’equipe (June 10 2018) a race whose finish line is a few blocs from where I grew up and where my parents still live, or another. There are a few reasons holding me back from signing up: the timing of the Paris marathon isn’t ideal for me as I’d not only have to train in the winter but I also have a big work conference a few weeks before that would derail my training just as I’d be needing to do some 16-20 miles run. I’m also not sure I can be ready so soon. I still struggle through a 10K! But how amazing and special would it be? I mean, the start line is on the freaking Champs Elysees!!! So if it’s not Paris, maybe it could be another race in France? The Marathon du Mont Saint Michel (May 26 2018) has a better timing. And while I’m more of an urban runner,  the setting would be pretty incredible too! Along those same rural running lines, Run in Reims (October 21 2018) sounds super fun and is a quick trip from Paris. Also, champagne!!  That one also has a 10K and a half-marathon so I may do it anyway, but perhaps not as as my first marathon…

2. THE MARINE CORP MARATHON  (OCTOBER 28 2018)
The People’s Marathon is D.C.’s most prestigious local race and it would definitely be the easiest for me to participate in.  The timing in late October is pretty perfect. Other than those summer runs I’d be doing my longest runs in early fall when the temperatures are still nice but getting cooler. The crowd is always awesome and supportive and not only would I probably spot a few familiar faces on the sides cheering, I’d probably know a few runners too. I know quite a few people who have run it, so I’d have a pretty supportive network around as well. It’s definitely a top contender but it’s a lottery registration so I may not be able to sign up even if I want to.

Picture courtesy of Rock’n’Roll Oasis Montreal marathon

3. MONTREAL (SEPTEMBER 23 2018)
Obviously, Montreal holds a special place in my heart so I absolutely love the idea of running 46.2 kilometers in my old college stomping grounds. The timing is pretty good for me, though I’d have to do my longer runs in August which is really hot and humid here in D.C. The location is the main appeal though: it’s a short international flight, there’s no time difference and it’s in a big city (that i love love love) … Montreal basically has everything I want in a marathon AND French speaking runners as a bonus. I can already taste the celebratory Molson and poutine afterwards! Actually, the course ends at Parc LaFontaine where La Banquise is… convenient 😉 Being a Rock’n’Roll race, there’s not too many hurdles to signing up so if I don’t get a bib for MCM, I might fall back on this one!

4. BERLIN (SEPTEMBER 16, 2018)
I ran a half marathon around that time this year, one that also required some international travel, so I know I can work with the date and tag it along a trip to Paris. Believe it or not, I’ve never been to Germany, despite growing up one country over, so this would be a fun reason to finally visit! The course is mostly flat and passes along some of the city’s most important landmarks (it starts at the Bradenburg Gates!) so I’d get to see the whole city while running! Alternatively, still in Germany, I am also considering the Sparkasse Marathon  (October 7, 2018) which would bring me to Germany as well as Austria, and Switzerland. 3 countries in 46.2 kilometers… now that would be true international race! Bonus, it’s during Oktoberfest so I’d be guaranteed some pretty great post-race beer!

Picture courtesy of Honolulu marathon

5. MAUI (OCTOBER 14 2018) OR HONOLULU (DECEMBER 2018) 
Having visited 43 states already, I’m on a bit of a quest right now to cross off the last 7. I’m headed to Seattle in a few weeks, so Washington is getting off the list soon. I’ll visit Oklahoma early next year as well and my parents are planning a family trip to Alaska next summer. So as long as I can make it to Nebraska/South Dakota/North Dakota before October, I *love* the idea of running my first marathon in my 50th state! Alternatively, to give me a little more time to visit all these states, I’m also considering the Honolulu marathon which is in December. It’s a really big event with over 30,000 runners and a crazy 5AM start time (yikes!) but it’s a pretty flat course and there’s no qualifying time to enter, unlike some more competitive races. There’s also no cut-off time to finish which is really nice! And, you know, it’s in Hawaii so recovery will be spent lounging on a beach eating spam musubi and poké. On the other hand, I don’t know if I can get anyone to come to Hawaii with me (especially in december right between Thanksgiving and the holidays) and being by myself on these gorgeous islands might get me down, which isn’t how I want to feel during my race.

So these are my top 5 contenders for my first marathon. If you’ve already run a marathon, where was it? How did you decide which one to do for your first race? 

3 thoughts on “Where should I run my first marathon?

  1. I think the most important consideration for the first marathon is to consider which one will be logistically the least stressful for you to travel to?

    In Sept 2018 there is a Mount Rushmore Half in South Dakota, so that may be a good reason to visit 🙂

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    • Ah! I was wondering about races in that area. Do you know what it’s called? That could be what finally gets me out there 😉 And yes, on logistics alone the scale is definitely tipping for DC….

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