Considering 26.2 in 2016? Most runners know fall brings many options and your best chances for a cool and fast finish time. Some marathons are better for time, others for crowds, and others for scenery. The following list includes just a few of the many options available.
If you’re going for time (check here for the current qualifying times for Boston Marathon http://www.baa.org/races/boston-marathon/participant-information/qualifying.aspx), most would agree the Baystate Marathon on 10/16 in Lowell is your best bet (http://baystatemarathon.com/). This race has a number of benefits: very flat and generally cool, close to home, well represented by BRCers as runners (this means people to train with you) or cheerleaders. On the downside, Baystate won’t qualify you for next year’s Boston because it’s after registration (as is the case for most fall marathons), and it’s a double loop which can be a mental challenge for some. Another great option includes the Mohawk Hudson River Marathon on 10/9 in the Albany area (http://mohawkhudsonmarathon.com/), a popular recommendation for those wanting a PR or BQ and a beautiful race route.
If you don’t mind traveling, Marine Corps Marathon on 10/30 in DC (http://www.marinemarathon.com/) has phenomenal crowds and regularly getsvoted as a wonderful first-timer experience, which is why I chose it back in 2001.On the downside, the People’s Marathon is difficult to get into; the race is already full for this year unless you enter through charity fundraising. The same goes for Chicago on 10/9 (https://www.chicagomarathon.com/), which is pancake flat, and New York City on 11/6 (http://www.tcsnycmarathon.org/), the world’s largest marathon with 55,000 entrants. For those big time races, you need to enter lotteries when they open early in the year, or unfamiliar to many, qualify. Chicago has age-independent qualifications so you’re in luck if you’re young. NYC offers an option to qualify with either a full or a half marathon, but has noticeably tougher standards than Boston.
Other ‘travel-to’ marathons include the non-mega-marathon Philadelphia on 11/20 (http://www.philadelphiamarathon.com/), still open for registration and worth considering, but minimal crowd support the last five miles and far fewer runners since the half marathoners finish earlier in the course. And yes, if you have the energy afterwards, you must run up the Rocky Steps at the Art Museum by the finish area then jump up and down with your arms up. Another option includes the Wineglass Marathon in western New York on 10/2 (http://www.wineglassmarathon.com/), which gets great reviews, and you guessed it, takes place in the heart of wine country. Bottoms up!
For those trying to BQ for 2017, you’ll need to look a little earlier in the calendar, carrying with it the risk of warmer temperatures. The Via Marathon in eastern Pennsylvania on 9/11 (http://www.viamarathon.org/) includes a net downhill with good shade coverage most of the course and follows the Lehigh River along the canal tow path from Allentown to Bethlehem to Easton. The course passes by the iconic old Bethlehem Steel site and the Sands Casino. I selected this for my first BQ effort, which went very well a few years ago. The race has made a name for itself as a Boston qualifier favorite.
For more information on what’s around, and enough data to make your mind melt, check out the website Find my Marathon (http://findmymarathon.com/index.php). You can sort by a variety of different criteria such as month, state, PR score, BQ percentage, etc. Now pull the trigger and register ’cause it’s just about time to start training!
Stay speedy my friends,
Got any other recommendations for a fall marathon? Give us a shout and we’ll post your comments below.