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Help Me Choose a Fall Marathon. Please.

The Choice
Marine Corps Marathon vs. Steamtown Marathon

The Pros and Cons
I missed Marine Corps last year because of an injury, and I really want a redemption race. I thought that signing up for the Nike Women's Half Marathon in DC next month might serve as a redemption race, but I'm not sure it will (although I'm still excited about the race!). Mainly, I'm afraid I'll always feel that I let myself down for that race. And then there's all of the to-do of Marine Corps that I keep hearing about: running through the historical landmarks, being encouraged by tons of local crowd-supporters, and being greeted by all of the Marines at the end (okay, that last one is the main draw). But that is both a pro and a con, because I don't like feeling stuck in large, overpopulated spaces. I don't think that would happen at nearly the same level at Steamtown, whch takes place in Scranton, PA (yes, of Office fame). Also, Steamtown is a net downhill race, which seems like a good idea at first, but running downhill for a long time can be taxing on a runner's legs, particularly the quads. And I've heard that Marine Corps is "hilly"; but not tons of hills, rather a few significant hills, like at the very start and end of the course! Here's a visual, for comparison (pictures help everything, right?):

MCM Elevation

Steamtown Elevation

I will say that I'm inspired by the triumphant-looking running figures in the Steamtown graphic. I just imagine the one runner with raised arms yelling "Weeeeee!" while running downhill. But perhaps I'm glorifying the image.

The Cost
This often helps me make a decision, but I could only find the cost for Marine Corps, which is $99. I don't think that's an unreasonable amount for that particular marathon at all; in fact, I think it's a pretty good price. Steamtown will likely cost a bit less than Marine Corps, if not  the same amount. But you also get a--shall I say--"different"experience for your money. So there's no help there.

The Friend Factor
I like to know I will have friends at a marathon--not only to share the experience with, but also to endure the training with. Granted, these two marathons are only two weeks apart (October 13 for Steamtown and October 27 for MCM), so I'll be training with friends regardless, but just on slightly different plans. Some folks in one of my local running groups are planning to run Steamtown, and although Scranton is notorious for being an uninteresting place to visit, I know I could have a good time with my friends. On the other hand, I know one friend in Maryland who is running Marine Corps (a former running friend from Tampa), and another large local running group (Run Tampa) is doing Marine Corps for their group marathon. But I don't run regularly with these folks; I would just know some familiar faces at the race, which still helps.

The Deadline
Marine Corps registration opens at noon on March 27, and will fill to capacity within a few hours, so I need to make my decision by then (Steamtown registration doesn't open until April 1). Any help?


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