Fall Marathons – don’t tell the NYRR, but it really isn’t just about New York…

Fall Marathons – don’t tell the NYRR, but it really isn’t just about New York
By Geoffry Vincent
So you didn't make the cut for the NYC Marathon lottery but you really wanted to run a marathon this Fall.  Or maybe you just don't want to run New York this year, preferring to venture away from home to log your 26.2 miles.  Whatever your reason, there are plenty of opportunities both close by and farther afield, and the place to start your planning is the new Fall Marathon Calendar at www.pptc.org.  We've got city marathons, country marathons, marathons in the USA and Canada, marathons by the ocean, in deserts, in forests.  Big marathons, small marathons, flat marathons, downhill marathons - even a wicked uphill marathon with 6,000' of elevation gain!
If you're undecided about whether you should try the out-of-town experience maybe the comments of some of your fellow PPTC members might persuade you.
“I personally prefer to run out of town marathons to the New York marathon. I don't like running in crowds of people. Last year [besides the Amica Matahon] I also really enjoyed the Sri Chinmoy marathon in Rockland County and the Blues Cruise 50K in eastern Pennsylvania, both within driving distance of New York. I also really like the Yonkers marathon in Westchester: only 100 people and quite scenic in parts.”
“I loved the Steamtown Marathon and would recommend it to anyone looking for a smaller (2500 runners), scenic, mostly flat and downhill course. The race starts in Forest City and runs through small towns with locals cheering the runners on through to the finish in Scranton. It's a fast course with a few miles of flat trails. Early October is the peak of fall foliage in Northeastern Penn. so it is quite beautiful all along the course.”
“I loved the [Hudson Mohawk Marathon].  About 700 runners, a flat course-running from Schenectady to Albany-mostly on bike trails at the height of fall foliage season.  No hoopla, spectators, jugglers, bands or costumes. Water and Gatorade held out to you every 2-3 miles.  We stayed in a bed and breakfast in Albany; there's a bus in the morning to take the runners to the start, and best of all I got to urinate 1 minute before the race start. I can't imagine a faster course.”
“I've participated in one of the Philly Marathon races for the last 3 years.  I ran the half back in '07, and the marathon in '08 and '09.  Overall it's a great race and I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to run a November marathon that is not New York.  Given that the start and finish are right downtown, travel and hotel accommodations are a snap.   As a matter of fact, it's so easy, I left my hotel at 6:35 for a race that starts at 7am.  The course, while not as flat as Philly likes to bill it (it's no Chicago), is relatively flat and fast.”
For myself I swore off marathons more than 25 years ago, but every now and again I like to fantasize about where I'd run if I was to go the distance again. 
If there’s one thing I enjoy as much as running it’s a glass of wine, so the Wineglass Marathon in Corning, NY might be an option. And it’s rated by Runner’s World as the 10th best marathon for getting a Boston qualifier (worth noting that the Bay State and Hudson-Mohawk marathons both ranked even higher – 1st and 2nd respectively).
I was lucky enough to win a stay at a spa in St. George, Utah a few years back.  It’s a beautiful part of the country, with good hiking and rock climbing in the area - and the St George Marathon.  It starts north of town (buses provided) and the route includes scenic Snow Canyon Park, with a drop of over 2,500’ from start to finish – little wonder it was included in Runner’s World’s 10 Most Scenic and Fastest Marathons!  The field is capped at 7.400 runners.
Not sure why I’ve always been intrigued by the Civil War era, but here are a couple of races that that combine history and running.  The course for Freedom’s Run Marathon in Shepherdstown, West Virginia is mostly National Park – Harpers Ferry, the C&O Canal, and Antietam Battlefield. Or try the Chickamauga Battlefield Marathon in Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia – if you plan on taking kids along this was rated Most Family-Friendly by Runner’s World. 
If you’ve ever had the urge to run one marathon in two countries then maybe the Detroit Free Press Marathon (Detroit, Michigan) is the race for you.  Yes, the race starts in Detroit but crosses into Windsor, Ontario (that’s in Canada for the geographically challenged) and finishes back in the Motor City.  The course includes one mile underwater as you run through the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel.  Since this is a cross-border event it’s closely supervised by Homeland Security – you don’t want to know the consequences of failing to notify them if you’ve had a recent Nuclear (Radiation) Medicine Procedure recently (I kid you not – check the website).
I guess that really if I had my druthers I’d go for something scenic though.  If I was a surfer I’d probably go for the Malibu International Marathon (Malibu, California) and channel my inner Dude as I ran the Pacific Coast Highway. That’s not to say we don’t have good coastal scenery for a marathon here on the East Coast.  If you’re a lobster lover check out the Mount Desert Island Marathon (Bar Harbor, Maine) – don’t worry, you don’t have to run up Cadillac Mountain on what Runner’s World describes as the Most Scenic marathon (and runner up for Best Overall)
The Pacific Northwest has been a favorite area of mine for a long time, and I got to drive some of the Columbia River Gorge a few years back.  Who knew you could run it too?  Check out the Columbia Gorge Marathon (Hood River, Oregon) which has been described as the “most scenic” - and then there’s Portland close by with good food and even better beer. Note: this race is not a Boston qualifier, if that matters to you.
Heading south a little but sticking to the West Coast is the Humboldt Redwoods Marathon (Humboldt Redwoods State Park, California).  This is out of the way – 200 miles north of san Francisco, 40 miles south of Eureka – but everything I’ve ever heard says it’s worth it.  If you like trees this is the race for you!
After a year’s absence (it was last run in 2008) the Grand Canyon Marathon (Grand Canyon, Arizona) is back on the calendar for 2010.  Here’s your chance to run the South Rim of the Grand Canyon! Be prepared to suck wind – the elevation is around 7,000’ but you’ll be doing it with a very intimate group of people as the race is capped at 300 (there were only 54 runners in 2008).
Finally… the wicked uphill. Take a trip down to southern Arizona for the Mount Lemmon Marathon (Tucson, Arizona). You can be one of the 2,500 hardy souls who tackles this all uphill run starting in the Sonoran Desert with its saguaro cactus at 3,100’ and finishing in the pine forests of the Catalina Mountains at 9,147’.
Wherever you choose to run – have fun, and share the experience with your friends at PPTC!