Friday, March 20, 2009

Destination Date: National Marathon (but 2010, not 2009)

Next year consider adding the National Marathon to your race schedule. If you're looking to keep up the running motivation during the winter, race a spring marathon, or couple a training race with a weekend getaway, a trip to the Nation's capital could be just the ticket. The Fourth Annual National Marathon kicks off Saturday, March 21, and welcomes runners from around the country to participate in the full marathon and the sell-out half marathon. Yep, that's right, the race has exceeded its expectations in the half marathon year after year with an at-capacity crowd expected to toe the line this year and the half marathon racers outnumbering the marathoners two to one in 2008. But if that means success of a race in its infancy--and competing with a fall classic in the area, the Marine Corps Marathon--then it's a good thing.

But with the race season just getting started in Chicago around the same time, plus the difficulty of training through the winter in the Windy City (I'm just thinking of the struggles of those training for Boston), what incentive do you have to head to the capital to run a race?

  • It's a great getaway from the Midwest for the weekend. Not too far via a plane ride and not too close where you feel like you didn't really escape.
  • The tourist allure of the capital: its historic sites, free museums, saying you saw the White House when Obama was president, notable restaurants and more. There's more to do in the city than just coming to town to run a race and you have plenty to keep you occupied before and after running.
  • New terrain. While this can be a plus or minus heading into uncharted territory, it's a great way to see a different city and its sites. And in DC you'll get a little mix of hills that we lack here. And the course provides a great tour of the city with a route running past the Mall and marathoners even add a run along the Potomac.
  • Better weather. This one is all up to Mother Nature but the average temperature in DC this time of year is warmer than Chicago so things are already looking favorable. And if it's a mild winter you might get lucky enough to catch a few buds for the upcoming cherry blossom blooming. An early start at 7 a.m. is also nice in case there's a heat wave whirling through to keep temps down, and you'll finish at a reasonable time to still be able to enjoy the day in DC, or return home.
  • Capped race with fewer participants than the Chicago Marathon. Yes, the Windy City caps its marathon at 45,000, but it's still larger than the National Marathon where registrations only reach 8,000, with 5,000 of those in the half marathon. That seems tiny compared to the races hitting the downtown around here.
  • Another positive or negative depending on how you look at it are the qualifying standards for the event. This is mainly to control road closures and such, but it can also give you a goal to shoot for to gain entry into the race.
  • Winter motivation. If you go into hibernation mode when cold weather strikes and need a reason to run either on the treadmill or outside, keeping your eyes on a spring time race can be just the cure-all. You'll have to stay on top of your training or you might bonk come race day.
  • Training for another race. If you register for the half you can use the 13.1 miles to gauge your training for an upcoming race, even the Boston Marathon if you're running that in April. Or maybe as a trainer for an upcoming 70.3 or Ironman triathlon. Same goes for the marathon, especially if you're good at recovery. You can keep Ironman training in check by running a marathon early in the season (note: some may disagree with me on this but it worked for me).
  • Budget wise, you can usually find some pretty good flight deals from Chicago to Washington. Plus with two airports out of here and three into DC (Reagan, Dulles and even Baltimore) you should be able to find some option that works with your wallet. And once you arrive in DC it's easy to get around via the Metro or even walking (and the Metro runs early to get racers to the start on Saturday) so you don't need a rental car.

The race draws a number of runners from the Chicago area although most of the runners hail from the East Coast especially the Maryland, Virginia, DC vicinity. Oh wait, that's another reason to run: different competition, just in case you see the same faces at the races at home. Good luck to all of those running on Saturday and to my DC friends, maybe I'll run this one next year and drop in for a visit. Photo grabbed from Posted by Kate

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