A marathon-sized decision

The end of the year is fast-approaching, and with it, the one-day, January 1 fire sale the Air Force Marathon always holds. The last two years, NF and I have registered on January 1 to get the lowest price on the half – we figure, we’re GOING to run it, why not just go for it on day one for the lowest price?

Except right now, I’m still not sure what marathon I want to run next year, including whether I want to attempt the Air Force FULL this year. So here I am, blogging about the 26.2 thoughts spinning around my head. I’m looking for feedback, to be sure, but I also know that in writing it all down, pros and cons and all, I’ll probably get a better idea what I really want. Like when you flip a coin to decide, and when it lands against your secret gut choice, you know for sure.

So, with that, here are my top three four choices – in no particular order (or are they? Okay, actually just put them in calendar order, SO THERE YOU GO):

Air Force Marathon

September 20, 2014 – Dayton, OH


+We know this race, at least by its half-marathon brethren. It’s an easy enough drive from Pittsburgh. We’ll be going regardless because we love this race and its amazing atmosphere and great organization. I mean, the flyovers! (please, no more sequester), the flat, fast course! the amazing house we rented this year! the free beer!

+I have a bunch of friends who have run the full, including some who have PR’d the shit out of it, so I have plenty of ears to bend about the 26.2 course.

+We are 99.9% (or more) guaranteed to still be in Pittsburgh at this point, as NF will be just about to defend or have JUST defended (or lord, see the cons section), and if we are moving after he graduates, we won’t have yet, so getting there should be straight-forward. This is not necessarily the case with the other options.

+The weather has been great the last three years. Chilly in the morning at the start line, not really above low to mid-60s by the finish. Humid sometimes, but totally doable, especially after a long summer of training in the heat.

+Would make for a long off-season (late September through at least the end of the year/whenever we start training for our first 2015 race. Though I suppose nothing is set in stone, given we may be moving)


-Not much downtime after the Pittsburgh half in early May. A 16-week plan would begin about three weeks after that half. A 14-week plan (which I could probably get away with, since I wouldn’t be starting from zero and would – hopefully – have a solid base to build marathon fitness off of) would give me a solid month of mini-offseason/maintenance before jumping back into training.

-NF doesn’t want to run the full, at least not in 2014. I don’t blame him. Thesis stress + marathon training don’t necessarily mix well. So while he’d probably do a lot of the training with me, I might have some high double-digit runs solo/partly solo, and we wouldn’t be lining up at the start line together. Womp womp.

-He could have to defend within a few days of the race. Which would all kinds of suck. We lost one of our group going to Air Force this year because he defended the day before. Hopefully we’d be able to control this, but who knows?

-Our luck could run out as far as weather and it could be an extension of summer. September in southern Ohio can be hot.


Steamtown Marathon

October 12, 2014 – Scranton, Pa.


+Fast effing course, and supposed to be beautiful.

+Still driveable from Pittsburgh


Should I save this fast effing course for a BQ attempt in the future? You saw nothing.

-Will we even be in Pittsburgh still? If not, how are we going to get to Bumfuck, PA, if we’ve moved across the country or something? But it’s in earlyish October, so chances of this happening this quickly I suppose are still on the low side.

-Training plan headaches: Air Force half is 3 weeks before this race, which would mean a 20-miler, which obviously does not quite work. Maybe I should just delete this one? Oh well, you can see my process. LEAVING IT. *z snap*


Columbus Marathon

October 19, 2014 – Columbus, OH


+Close enough to drive from Pittsburgh, but also has a semi-major airport so flying in wouldn’t be impossible if needed.

+I still have friends who live in Cbus, so we’d have places to stay. Plus, parents could come watch (if they wanted/I wanted).

+Flat, fast course, from everything I’ve heard. And ends in Ohio Stadium, so that’s cool.

+Perfect time of year for running a marathon, unless global warming bites us in the ass.

+Not too huge of a race, but still seems like decent crowd support

+Has a half option, if NF does not want to tempt the 26.2 gods in 2014, given the Big Life Changes happening

+Timing for the final 20-miler is much better – would be the week after Air Force half, so that week would be at least somewhat of a cutback week.


-The last 20-miler would fall on the weekend of the Great Race 10K. But whatever, because we can’t seem to race a 10K without screwing over our legs with a long run the day before. SO WHY THE HELL NOT?

sprint suffer face
Great Race 2012 – day after 16 miler. PR.
Great Race 2013 – day after 12 miler. GIANT PR.

Not pictured: Burgh 10K – day after 15 miler – another big PR.

So… case closed? PR guaranteed after long run? K, cool.


Richmond Marathon

November 15, 2014 – Richmond, Va.


+Have heard nothing but great things from several people who ran it this year.

+Good time of year for running weather

+Still pretty driveable from PGH, and decent-sized airport otherwise if necessary? Maybe?

+Almost 2 months after Air Force, so pretty good for a tune-up half before this full.

+Has a half-option for NF, if he wishes.

+Not too big, but seems like still a good amount of crowd support.


-Makes for a long season (though I’ve survived a pretty long season before. Albeit ended up pretty burned out, but…)

-Housing may be expensive for just us two traveling there (compared to others where we could stay with friends or score another cheap house rental with a big group)


So there you have it. My rundown. This has helped a little, but honestly I’m still not sure. So I throw it back at you – the reader: Have you run any of these marathons before? Any pros/cons to add to my lists? Any favorites? Ones you’d rule out based on experience? What marathon are you running next year? Lay it on me!

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I'm a 30-year-old writer and runner. This is my running blog.

5 thoughts on “A marathon-sized decision

  1. Those are all excellent points; that’s a tough one. I still haven’t ruled out a 2014 full marathon, but I would love to take a few more cracks at half marathons as I was only able to run one in 2013. Unfortunately my thesis schedule won’t be any clearer come the AF fire sale. Blah!

  2. I’m a bit late on this, but here’s my 2 cents. The AF 1/2 is a good one, I’m doing it again this year. Signed up on Jan 1. Columbus was my first full – and it was awesome. It doesn’t end at the stadium but you do run through it around mile 18. I’ll be repeating that one as well I think. My big race is going to be the Napa Valley Marathon. Because traveling from OH to CA to run a race makes complete sense, right?

  3. Tough decision! The only one of these I’ve done is Richmond and I only have great things to say about the organization, course and crowd support… but starting 2013 they pushed the race back an extra week in November. And I FELT that week when training. It’s an extra week of cold weather training and makes for a long season. But I can guarantee an awesome experience! And they had fleece finisher’s blankets, which makes for an awesome memory.

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