First: CONGRATS to everyone is who running/ran the Marine Corps Marathon today! What a great race! Hopefully it isn’t too wet out there today. I saw folks picking up packets earlier this weekend and I got super jealous, but this morning I am cozied up in my home and sort of happy about it.
And now to the topic at hand: When possible, I don’t like to sign up for races too too far in advance, just in case something comes up and my plans need to change. At the same time, I also don’t cut it so close that the race might fill up, and my plans are thwarted, or so close that I have the option of quitting the whole idea when I get to my 17-mile training run. But even when I haven’t hit the “Register” button, I still need to map things out well in advance. In fact, I have a nice little Google spreadsheet that I use to keep track of my races and states, completed and uncompleted. Here is a snapshot:
As you may be able to see, I have the columns sortable by state and month, so I can say “hmmm… let’s go to Indiana! What’s there?” (No, really, that’s a question. Any answers?) Or I can say “February is looking open… let me choose a race then.” I also include the city of the race because some of these states are damn big, and I might be excited to go to one corner but not the other. And when the city doesn’t have an airport, but I’ll need to fly there, I include a reference to the appropriate airport. Finally, I include a note if there is a lottery or qualification requirement for the race. It doesn’t make sense to plan a whole marathon cycle around the New York City Marathon, especially if you forget to register for the lottery.
So now that 2015 is coming to a close, it is time to refer to my spreadsheet and really start thinking about 2016 and what races/states I’ll be tackling.
I’m already signed up for the Mississippi Blues Marathon in Jackson, Mississippi. I chose this race because reviews online were positive, because Jackson looks like a decent place to explore for a quick weekend, and because I’m trying to pick a race in each state that gives a bit of the state’s flavor. I’m pretty sure the blues are VERY Mississippi-ish. Other things I liked about this race:
- Its Size. There is a time and place for giant races, but all else equal, I prefer smaller and mid-size races.
- Its Accessibility. There is an airport serving Jackson. So we don’t need to rent a car or factor in major driving. (Thanks, Uber!) We can’t fly direct to Jackson, but we just have one little stop in ATL, which is hopefully painless! I will miss some work on the Friday before the race, but this trip should be relatively unobtrusive.
- It’s on Saturday. Sunday races can be nice because you have all of Saturday to travel and get situated. But Saturday races are also good, because you get the running done and then can explore and eat to your heart’s content on Saturday afternoon/night, and then you can leave as early as necessary on Sunday and get back home.
- Its in January! There are only so many races in January, but I don’t want to let my winter go to waste, so this is a great opportunity to get a marathon in during what is often the “offseason” for marathons.
- I Get to Fly South. Hoping we don’t get snowed in here, and hoping it is relatively warm in Mississippi.
(Once I finish Mississippi, I will officially have done 10 states (DC getting the short end of the stick once again), and I can join the 50 States Marathon Club!)
As for other races, my goal is to get in three more in 2016–one per season. I haven’t decided on a spring race yet. Maybe something in the midwest or New England in April or May. Suggestions welcome!
For the summer, I am eying the Mesa Falls Marathon in Ashton, Idaho. My mom has always wanted to go “out west” so she’s agreed to accompany me on this one. (Husband says no.) The race had really strong reviews, and I am very excited to see Idaho. Logistics aren’t too bad for this one, although we will need to rent a car.
Finally, for fall, there are SO MANY OPTIONS. My husband and I have spoken several times about wanting to go to Portland, Oregon (I’ve been; he hasn’t), so we are thinking about doing a little marathon/first anniversary getaway there in October. The Portland Marathon has mixed reviews, but Portland itself is so attractive as a destination, I don’t think we can pass this one up. We are going to eat so, so much. And maybe drink some pinot noir (post-race).
This whole 50-states goal is not a joke, so I’m even looking ahead to races that require lottery entry or very advanced planning for 2017. I’m always monitoring the lotteries for key races such as NYC Marathon and Big Sur so that I don’t miss those opportunities. And I think 2017 might be the year for Alaska. (I’ve been and have family there but never done a marathon there!) That one might require some advanced planning depending on who will be joining me and how long we will be staying. Finally, I’ve been brainstorming the cities where I have friends stationed–I definitely want to cross those states off the list while I have friends to play host. Madison, Wisconsin is one example, so I will probably target that for fall 2017.
Of course, y’all know what they say about the best laid plans, so I try to remain flexible but smart with my planning.
I’d love to hear how y’all pick your races, and if there is a race I might not have on my to-do list, please let me know!
Cleveland is a nice marathon. I’m from Ohio and I have ran that one before. Good one for Ohio!
Thanks so much for the tip! Have you done or heard about Flying Pig or any of the others in Ohio? I’d love to know how they compare.
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I’ve heard great things about Flying Pig but have never had a chance to run that race. I’ve ran another smaller marathon called Towpath. Amazing small race. If you are looking for a larger marathon Columbus Marathon is a great option too.
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Love your spreadsheet…it is very similar to the race planner spreadsheet that I created to map and plan my own races. I have a spreadsheet list that organizes races by state along with other demographics such as date, race size, general reviews, bling quality etc! I then slice the data into pivot tables that allow me to look at races in each state by month and quarter. I have 89 races organized into the 50 states, so a few to choose from! I’m also hoping to run 4 marathons – roughly one per season in 12 week training cycles, so the table and charts allow me to view what is feasible in any given year. I’m going to post an article on it over the next few weeks as well so hopefully you’ll get a chance to check it out.
Next year we are looking at Maui, Salt Lake City, Missoula, and Boise…a note on Idaho, my Dad lives in Boise and just found out there will be a new race that will feature a full and half marathon in Boise making its debut in October next year and apparently it is a premier event designed to showcase the city…that’s their hope anyway. I’ve ran a half marathons in Boise before and it is a great city to visit. Of course the October timing conflicts with Portland. Mississippi Blues looks really cool and is on our list for a future year. Look forward to following your progress as you journey across the states!
Can’t wait to read your post. I thought I had a pretty sophisticated system (the columns sort!!!), but yours sounds awesome. I will be on the lookout for the Boise event. I likely won’t sign up for summer or fall 2016 for a while unless there is something I decide to do that is going to fill up quickly, or if I need to commit for flights/hotels.
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