Active Travel



Choosing a Spring Marathon

Oct 27, 2019 | Marathon Majors, Marathon Majors, Running, Running Advice | 19 comments

Choosing a Spring Marathon

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I want to run a BQ in 2020, but so far I’ve resisted signing up for any races. I mean, literally any which is so unlike me. All I have on my calendar so far in 2020 is the Brighton Half marathon.

However, with November rapidly approaching, it’s time to lock in a goal race. I’m looking for something ideally in late April/May, with a fast, flat BQ sanctioned course. I thought I’d share my thought process when trying to pick a goal race, especially now that I’ve ticked off a lot of those ‘bucket list’ races off, and now have another checklist to think about when picking my race;

Choosing a Spring Marathon


Do you have time to train for the race? Depending on what kind of shape you’re in currently will depend on how early you could sign up for your spring race. Additionally, think of any trips you have planned so that you don’t overlap during peak weeks (ideally) or go skiing during taper.

Also I want to have time to run another marathon in the summer before the Boston cut off if I need to.


Marathons vary so much in price, from New York City Marathon priced at a hefty $358 for non-US residents to £39 for the London Marathon (if you can get in!). You’ve also got to factor in costs of accommodation and travel to/from the race.

I love travelling abroad for races and that’s what I spend a lot of my income on (plus I am super lucky to work with races and have a husband that works for an airline!) However, it’s definitely a factor when picking my races…plus the thought of who I’d go with if it is abroad as it’s not fair to make others pay to travel for my hobby.


I’ve got a whole blog on traveling to races and dealing with jetlag/time changes, but I know I get quite a lot of flak for travelling so far to my goal races. Personally, I love it and run marathons around the world as a way of seeing new places, countries and cities that I may not have on my bucket list otherwise.

Choosing a Spring Marathon

Course Profile

Undulating, downhill, flat… A race with lots of turns, an out and back or point to point. Choosing a ‘friendly’ course that suits your strengths is key if you’re looking for a PB.

It’s also worth considering if it will be easy for spectators to support you, what the hydration stations are like (and potentially what they’ll be serving!), whether there are pace groups, and what the roads will be like.


Some races are notoriously hot, windy or cold. If you’re training in freezing temps then it’s probably not ideal to travel to Florida for your race. If you can simulate potential race conditions during your training then it’s likely not to be such a big factor on race day.

spring races to run

Races I’m considering;

London Marathon

My home city marathon! I’ve run this race three times, once as my first ever marathon, once pacing Tom (my husband) and once running as the official 4.45 pacer. I know this course better than any other race, which means I know the good, bad and ugly about this race.

The good – it’s close to home so no stresses about traveling, sleeping, getting to the start etc. I know a lot of people running, and even more on the sidelines. There are plenty of aid stations, Lucozade on course which I can practice with, plus my track friend Tam is also going for her BQ here so I’d have someone to run with.

The bad – There are a lot of turns in the race and some quite narrow parts of the course. Weather can also be a bit hit or miss!

The ugly – the crowds, this race is BUSY! I’m not sure where the Good For Age bibs start, something I will have to check out before making a decision.

Prague Marathon

I know a lot less about this race, but having asked online, I’ve heard it’s a fast, flat and really beautiful course. However, I’ve also had reports that it can be quite technical and there are cobbles (I hate cobbles).

Mountains 2 Beach Marathon

Currently this is top of my personal list for race course profile (gradual descent of 700ft over the first 20 miles, although there’s still some uphill thrown in so this isn’t a straight shot down!),a small but friendly course, and raving reviews from everyone that I’ve spoken to. It is consistently on the list of top BQ courses and is at the end of May which gives me even more time to get in great shape.

Only downsides are cost & jet lag because it’s in California.

But it’s also in California which is a state I love! If I do run this, my plan would be to get an Air B&B for the week before to fully get over the jet lag, sleep well, shake out run and eat healthily in the lead up to the race.

This race is the one I’m most excited about doing…if it’s the one I go for!

Geneva Marathon

I’ve run the half twice before, and have a friend living there which definitely adds to the charm of Geneva. It’s a pretty flat course with a gradual downhill the final 6 miles into town. My concern would be the on course aid stations (they’re not as regular as some of the bigger races) and last time I struggled to find water for all the wine at the finish line!

marathon race tips

Other races I’m looking at (but haven’t done much research on just yet)

  • Rotterdam Marathon – I’ve heard it’s fast and flat, if a little boring at times.
  • Manchester Marathon – this is on the list is because it’s in the UK, it’s flattish and my friend Robbie is signed up. But being honest it doesn’t excite me!

Something I need to consider is a long weekend skiing with Tom’s friends the final weekend of March…which means I can’t have a super high milage weekend because my compromise with Tom is that I won’t run while we’re skiing!

I think because I’m nervous and want to have as much time as possible, the May races feel less scary. Additionally, I have to think about the rest of my April travel schedule – with thoughts of going to Boston for race weekend as part of a book promo (and of course to cheer!)

Where are you racing in Spring? Have you run any of the races I’ve mentioned – would love your insights!?


  1. lisa

    Manchester is a great bet for a BQ/PB and way better than London, my local too, which seems incredibly overrated to me. Manchester is flatter than Berlin and the route is not that bad and there’s a nicer route going through the centre this year. I flew in from LHR Sat afternoon and back out Sun eve. Got my BQ at Manchester and doing Boston 2 Big Sur Challenge. Zurich is another similar alternative to Geneva, run along a lake with reliably cool weather and also easy to get to.

    • charlotte

      ooh thank you I’ll check out Zurich! And congrats on your BQ at Manchester, I’ll certainly look into it a little more!

  2. heiki

    I’m still undecided about my spring marathon (didn’t make it into London). I’m thinking maybe Copenhagen, Helsinki or Stockholm? I’ll see 🙂 If you’re running Geneva I’d happily help with water/gels along the course!

    • charlotte

      Aww thank you! Ooh Copenhagen half is on my bucket list – Stockholm is supposed to be a really great one!

      • Kay Zaccarini

        I cannot believe I am saying this but DO NOT pick Copenhagen! I absolutely love the city and the marathon is amazing, the course is flat and pretty, the event is really well organised and relaxed, there are great aid stations and loads of supporters, but the weather…. I have completed the marathon there 3 years in a row and it’s been sunny and the temp has been between 20 and 25 degrees each time. I run there for fun, not for a PB /BQ…. Of course it could be cool, but it’s a big risk.

        I’ve not done Rotterdam, but know others that have. They recommend it for BQing. Good luck!

        • charlotte

          haha thank you, it’s really helpful! Will keep the Copenhagen half on the bucket list – also think it will allow me to enjoy the city more if I”m not there for a full marathon!

  3. Rebecca

    I’ve done Prague and got a PB (since scrapped off a couple more minutes). I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it and I can honestly say I didn’t notice the cobbles whatsoever. Another good one is Barcelona, great organisation and flat. Look forward to seeing what you go for ?

    • charlotte

      Thanks so much, that’s really helpful! I’m considering signing up for the Prague half just to check it out!

  4. Catrina

    Some good thoughts! I’ll second Zurich, it’s flat, not too busy and along the lake. It’s at the end of April, which is ideal temperature wise. Only drawback is that it’s quite expensive, especially if you stay in a hotel.

  5. Valentina

    Rotterdam is awesome!! I did it last year and absolutely loved it, the city is super cool and the crowds were amazing! It was an unusually hot day (even though it’s at the beginning of April) but other than the heat I really loved it! It’s very convenient because you can stay in hotels that are walking distance to the start line, it made a difference from NYC marathon and the travelling+long waiting times before the race! The course is super flat apart from one bridge and it wasn’t as crowded as Berlin or NY! Such a great race in my opinion!

  6. Michael Ward

    I am in Milan and Guernsey atm and having not got into London looking at Southampton or another. Likewise didn’t find Manchester appealing as it’s mostly in outskirts of the city and dull. Also considering Rotterdam

  7. Cari

    It won’t work for your timing for 2020, but one to think about if you haven’t run it is the A1A Fort Lauderdale. I run the half and save for an incline over the intercoastal, it’s a pancake. It’s mostly gorgeous along the atlantic and intercoastal, although the tail end of the out and back is boring as it goes in land thanks to highrises on the water. I’m glad it moved to January this year to accomodate Miami needing to move for the SUper Bowl – hoping it will be cooler.

    • charlotte

      Might have to add that half to the race list! Sounds great and nice to enjoy Florida sunshine post-race!

  8. Rose

    I’m running Rotterdam as a pb race this year. That is, if the weather permits a fast race. Weather in Rotterdam is hit or mis, just like London. The past 2 years it was a bit hot. But the course is fast and flat and the people of Rotterdam are crazy about their marathon, so spectator support should be good. I also like, that there’s no lottery, it’s not crazy expensive and you can submit your goal time, so you get to start in a corral that suits your BQ-goal. And in your case it might be an advantage that it’s relatively early in the season, so you can try again if necessary. Or you can sign up for two (not too expensive) races and choose when you know what the wheather will be like.

    • charlotte

      I’ve actually never heard of them! SORRY but thank you for sharing, desperate to go to Texas!

  9. Joan Dukore

    So many of my friends have run mountains to beach and loved it. Only downside for me is that it’s Memorial Day weekend, so EVERYONE is going to LA.

  10. jake

    I’d pick one with relatively short travel/jet lag risk. If getting the BQ time is your priority then you want the least stress and fatigue in the days before the race.Save the destination/long haul races for fun- they’re less likely to = PB. Keep race arrangements as simple as possible.
    Concentrate on the process rather than the outcome- if you’re fit enough then some slight undulations, crowded conditions or warmer weather shouldn’t be a deal breaker. Put your effort into consistent and solid training, decent mileage, week on week for 3-4 months and the BQ is yours.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *