I've registered for my two centerpiece races for the fall, and may add other races and possibly a marathon in December. My training program is done, all I need to do is follow it.
First is the Salem Lake 30K in Winston-Salem, which is Sept. 25 this year. It's one of my favorite races, and I missed it during my five years in Virginia. Now that I'm back in North Carolina, I can't wait to run those trails again.
Salem Lake is entirely run on trails, mostly hard packed dirt but also some paved trails. Half marathons are helpful in preparing for a marathon, but an 18.6-mile race is a much better test than a 13.1-mile race.
Second is the Marshall University Marathon in Huntington, W.Va., which is Nov. 7. West Virginia sounds hilly, but it appears to be a flat course and that's been confirmed by the comments on marathonguide.com, which are very positive.
Both races are very reasonably priced as well: Salem Lake is only $20 and MUM is $60, which sadly is inexpensive for marathons these days.
For the $60, in addition to what appears to be a well-run race, you get a fleece jacket, a long-sleeve technical shirt and a free pasta dinner the night before.
The MUM also has an interesting finish. The finish line is one of the goal lines inside Marshall's football stadium. They hand you a football as you enter the stadium to carry over the last 100 yards of the race.
It's not the only marathon that has a similar finish. I know that the Sunburst Marathon ends in Notre Dame Stadium and the Green Bay Marathon finishes in Lambeau Field.
The closest I've come to that sort of finish is the Oriole Advocates 5K, which I've run twice. You run through the tunnel at Oriole Park at Camden Yards and finish inside the stadium. The men finish at the center-field warning track and the women finish behind home plate. Sadly, I see from its website that the race wasn't run for the second straight year because of financing issues. (Maybe Buck Showalter can fix that while he's trying to fix the Orioles.)
The Grandfather Mountain Marathon, which I ran in 2001, starts in Appalachian State's football stadium and ends on the field for the Highland Games but that's not quite the same.
I'm pumped up to start serious training and, for the first time, I'll actually be able to do all of my long runs on a weekend. All of my long runs will be done the same day of the week (Sunday) as my target race. I've never done that before because I always scheduled my long runs for the second of my two days off, which have varied over the years from Wednesday to Friday.
Hopefully the hills in Durham and Chapel Hill I'll be running in training will help me run a good time on a relatively flat marathon course.
Marshall will be my 25th marathon and West Virginia will be the 13th state in which I've run a marathon. Should be fun!