Picking a Marathon: Decisions, Decisions

In case you missed my goals post, I’ve declared 2018 the year of 26.2! So now that I’ve put it out there, the obvious question is which race?

I’ve been mulling over all lots of options…LOTS of options! My husband will tell you that I’ve become a little obsessed.

I know I want to do a fall race. While it’s hard to anticipate potential conflicts with my boys’ school schedules, I have marked a couple of weekends that are no-gos, as well as crossed off Columbus Day weekend for a family wedding. Late fall is looking like the best bet – and, given the sometimes “too warm for this girl” conditions that September and early October can bring, I’m ok with that.

So I’ve narrowed it down to 3 options: MCM, Richmond, or Philadelphia.

Marine Corps Marathon – October 28


  • “The People’s Marathon” has a reputation for being a great race that is first-timer friendly.
  • Offers a tour of DC monuments, the emotion of the blue mile, and then there’s that whole Marine presenting you with your medal at the finish thing!
  • Race management with the precision of the military
  • An awesome finisher’s medal


  • Registration by lottery. (Yes there is the option of running the 17.75K for a guaranteed entry, but of course, that involves incurring more travel expenses).
  • No corals at the start – 30,000 or so folks trying to self-seed?!
  • Time limits along the course – there are two “Gauntlets” plus the infamous “Beat the bridge” (Do I want that kind of pressure for my first time?)
  • Uphill finish

Richmond Marathon – November 10


  •  “America’s Friendliest Marathon” also gets great reviews, especially for first-timers.
  •  Scenic course and relatively flat, with a downhill finish
  • 7-hour course limit
  • Awesome swag
  • New to me city to run in


  • Traveling to a new city – hardly a stretch but as this is the only “new” city among my options, do logistics come into play?

Philadelphia Marathon – November 18


  • Another race that gets high marks for first-timers
  • I’ve run the half so there’s some familiarity with the course
  • Course is a mix of city and suburbs with some hills, but nothing too ugly
  • 7-hour course limit
  • I’m planning to run RnR Philly in September which could be a good preview


  • Is there boredom in familiarity?

Have you run any of these races? Which would you choose? Any other suggestions?

I’m linking up with ErikaMarcia, and Patty for Tuesdays on the Run.



  1. You should run in Richmond!!! (I’m totally biased because I live there, haha.) I ran the Richmond half a few years ago and it was awesome!

  2. Girl, the fact that you want to run a marathon has me applauding for you! My choice for marathon would be… NONE – LOL! But feel free to do the LA marathon and I will come cheer you on!
    GiGi Eats recently posted…“Can Ya”… Keep Up With Our Kenya Safari? Part One Of Our TripMy Profile

  3. Philly was one of my favorite marathons ever!! Good crowds, good course… I didn’t do so great, but still loved it 🙂

  4. That’s a tough decision. They are all great races. When would you know about if you get in to MCM? Could you bank on that and if not, still sign up for one of the other ones?
    Lacey@fairytalesandfitness recently posted…Ready to Launch…or notMy Profile

  5. I have run all 3 of those races and they are all great, for different reasons! I absolutely LOVE the feeling during the MCM. DC is such a great city to run through and the spectators come out in force. Plus, Marines. And the uphill finish is only .2 of the whole thing. 🙂 Philadelphia was my very first marathon (I think before they even changed the course?) and that one holds very special memories for me. Sweet Caroline at the mile 20 turnaround with the whole crowd singing along will forever be etched into my heart. And I loved Richmond because my family was able to make it to every single “cheer zone” to see me. THAT’S a well choreographed race right there.

    No corrals at the MCM? That has not been my experience the two times I’ve run it. They may not have specific corrals for a delayed start kind of thing but they do have time markers up. It’s really not too terrible.

    Good luck choosing!! (PS. if you run the 17.75k, we’ll have to meet up since I’m running too!) 🙂
    Jennifer @ Fit Nana recently posted…Shoes News and other Exciting ThingsMy Profile

    • Jennifer thanks so much for sharing your experiences! And, good to know about MCM’s corrals. I had been told no corrals by another runner but perhaps what she was referring to was no staggered start (?). I’ll let you know if I take the plunge on 17.75 🙂

  6. This is exciting!!!! I want to do MCM someday. I’m actually contemplating R’n’R Savannah (Nov. 3rd). I want a fall marathon (if any), and I’ve heard great things about Savannah. Good luck choosing!!!
    Kimberly Hatting recently posted…If These Shoes Could Talk…My Profile

  7. I have never run any of them but Living in DC lots of our MRTT moms have done Richmond as a first race. The weather is usually a little cooler than MCM and no lottery. Just my 2 cents! Excited for you
    Deborah Brooks recently posted…Southwestern Avocado Egg SaladMy Profile

  8. This was an awesome breakdown of marathons! I will have to pass along to my runner friends 🙂
    Abbey Sharp recently posted…Sausage Strata with Spinach and Swiss Cheese | Healthy Brunch Recipe with Eggs!My Profile

  9. My take on it is for your first marathon, you should run where you are comfortable! Running a hometown marathon takes one unknown out of a day filled with unknowns. But that’s just me…
    Wendy recently posted…Why Are All the Best Running Songs About Getting High?My Profile

  10. I never thought about having to break down each one I would want to do! This is a great way to think about it!

  11. If I were you I’d get in the MCM lottery and see what happens. MCM is one of my all-time faves. The course isn’t too hard and there’s so much to see and be inspired by. The uphill finish is over in a blink of an eye. You know what a hill weenie I am.
    Marcia recently posted…Polyshoeism: It’s a ThingMy Profile

  12. So many good races to choose from! I’d say Philly since I’m close to there, ha!

  13. How exciting! I haven’t run any of those races but I have friends that have.

    I have heard that MCM is a little hilly and I know it’s been warm the past few years (but you never know about the weather)! I’ve heard that the swag for Richmond is awesome and that the Philly course is great.
    Kim G recently posted…The Liebster Award 2018My Profile

  14. What a great goal!!!!

  15. Okay, obviously I did miss your goals post and missed that you are going for the 26.2 this year! Yay! So excited for you and to follow you along the way!

    I intentionally chose a local marathon in my home town to eliminate even more stress for my first marathon. I figured sleeping in my own bed and being able to go home and crawl in that bed after finishing would make things a little easier. Lol
    Teresa recently posted…Marathon AnticipationsMy Profile

    • In so many ways that would be my ideal too! Originally I had hoped to do the Newport Marathon which is a close drive from home, but it’s held the weekend my nephew’s getting married. And, given that a couple of the others in the area are uber hilly I figured it’s time to hit the road 😉 Thankfully my husband will be the ultimate sherpa!

  16. I haven’t picked a fall marathon yet but I am looking into MCM. I love Washington DC.
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  17. Ooh, tough choices! My vote is for MCM so I could cheer you on. Even if you don’t get in the lottery, there usually are bibs to be had in the transfer period. 😉 That said, I’ve also heard great things about Richmond.
    Coco recently posted…Hiking Close To HomeMy Profile

  18. good article
    thank you for sharing

  19. Those are all great choices for a first marathon! Richmond was my first half and it was a great race 🙂 It’s really well organized, big enough to be interesting but not so big as to be disorienting. MCM is a great race too, of course. But it does seem like those extra cut-offs could add stress. It seems like any decision you make will be a good one!
    Chaitali recently posted…2018 RacesMy Profile

  20. How exciting!! The Philly Marathon was my first and overall I had a good experience though the wind was brutal and the crowds were limited, especially since I started in the last corral. The other thing was that since I live in Philly, the course was a bit boring for me…so since you’ve run in Philly before, knowing the course could be a good thing or a bad thing!

    People seem to love Richmond and MCM…I don’t think you can go wrong!
    Janelle @ Run With No Regrets recently posted…New Jersey Marathon Training Weeks 3&4 RecapMy Profile

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