Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Spring marathons: the contenders

In this corner, weighing in at...

I'm looking toward a marathon as a goal race (read: run as fast as possible) in the late winter/early spring of next year. I'm leaning toward an early race because I'd like to be able to run a good Cherry Blossom and continue my streak of ever-improving April 10 milers. I'm also just itchy to get that 3:19 off the board and replace it with something faster. One option would be Boston (think I'm still qualified), which would be OK with CB, but to run really well there you have to be skilled at downhill running. That would require lots of race specific training and the race itself is expensive and a logistical hassle.

So, here are the contenders.

7 March 7:30AM - B&A Trail Marathon, Severna Park, MD
I'm assuming it's This "trail" marathon is mostly an asphalt bike path from what I understand. You do an out and back to the south and an out and back to the north for a 26.2-mile loop. Looks about as flat as you'll find. There's one 70 foot hill that you go over twice. It's a small race (~250) and 3:10 would be somewhere between 10 and 15 without much company. Temp/wind at 11am on 7 March:
- 2009, 47 deg, 11.5 mph
- 2008, 45 deg, 7 mph gusting to 16
- 2007, 25 deg, 8 mph
- 2006, 39 deg, 8 mph
- 2005, 49 deg, 14 mph
- 2004, 51 deg, 7 mph

20 March 7:00 AM - National Marathon, Washington D.C.
Convenient. Nice size. 2000 means not too crowded but some company at my pace. They have pacers from 3:10 - 4:00. It looks fairly hilly. There's a 200+ foot climb from 4-7 which isn't terrible I guess, but that almost 3 heart break hill miles if you think about it and it looks tough on the course tour video (4:00 - 6:00).
Temp/wind at 10am on 20 March:
-2009, 43 deg, 13.5 mph
- 2008, 46 deg, 23 mph gusting to 33
- 2007, 58 deg, 10 mph
- 2006, 44 deg, 18 mph
- 2005, 48 deg, 7 mph
- 2004, 47 deg, 16 mph gusting to 23

21 March 8:00AM - Shamrock marathon, Va Beach, VA
The course is absolutely pancake flat and I can drive there. I might even have a free place to crash since I know someone with a house there. The weather can be an issue though and especially the wind on the largely exposed course. Temp/Wind on 21 March 12:00PM:
- 2009, 46 deg, 12 mph gusting to 17
- 2008, 55 deg, 16 mph gusting to 24
- 2007, 51 deg, 10 mph
- 2006, 40 deg, 17 mph
- 2005, 54 deg, 11 mph
- 2004, 58 deg, 16 mph


The weather data seems to back up Shamrock's reputation as a windy race. We were just extraordinarily lucky this year. The course is also largely unsheltered (on the coast) which magnifies the effect of the wind. I was really surprised by all the wind in DC though. Six years is a pretty decent sample and half the years are above 15 mph. B&A has the least wind and I'm guessing it's pretty sheltered anyway. It's pretty unlikely to be hot on 7 March. Snow or ice is more of a concern.

Shamrock and the National Marathon are about the same size (2000 and 2500 respectively) and I'd have some company. 22 people between 7:00 and 7:15 pace at National and about 50 at Shamrock. With only 250 at B&A I'd be alone a lot. On the other hand, I don't mind that too much.

I've just about made up my mind to run the B&A marathon on 7 March.


Mindi said...


Greg said...

Some help you are! It certainly would be a better event, but check out the elevation profile. (By the way, that's the best graphic I've ever seen for an elevation profile.) For reference, heart break hill is only an 80 foot climb.

Mindi said...

True. And given the later you go into march, the higher chance you have for winds. So if the "trail" run is really an asphault path, I change my vote to that one!