It’s a marathon, not a sprint… And that’s before you even get to the race itself. We’re talking about the decision-making process that’s a necessary prerequisite to hitting submit on the registration form. Running a longer-distance race — such as a marathon, half-marathon, or a 10K — requires even more dedication than most would initially suspect, so there’s lots to consider, even aside from deciding whether you’d rather wrap in a trip to Walt Disney World or Disneyland, picking which training plan is the perfect fit for you, and gearing up. We spoke with six experienced marathoners and professional fitness buffs about what you need to take into account before you commit.

A happy woman takes a break from running to hydrate

1. All the Costs: “The entry fee is just the tip of the financial iceberg of running a [race]. While you certainly don’t need all the fancy, gorgeous running clothes you see other runners wearing, a good pair of shoes is a must. [For a full marathon], you’ll want at least two pairs of shoes for training and then a third pair of shoes to break in just before the race that you will wear on race day itself. Shoes alone will cost more than $300. Add in a few pairs of quality socks, and there’s another $50. There is also the cost of training nutrition and bigger grocery bills. You will eat more when training for a marathon!” (Karen Shopoff Rooff, health coach and owner of Running on Balance)

2. Your Prior Experience: “Never have your first race be a full marathon! If your goal is to run a marathon, start by first completing a 10K and a half marathon — at least. Get a taste for what’s involved before you commit to a full-blown marathon. Plus, experience counts for a lot when it comes to your individual preparation. After a few races, you’ll get a good sense for what your body responds well to on race day.” (Alina Kennedy, physical therapist and owner of SprintRehab)

3. Time of Year: “When signing up for your race, you need to think about the hours of training you’ll be doing and what time those training runs fall on your calendar. You will be training for about four months on average for a marathon, so spring races mean winter training and fall races mean summer training. Do you live somewhere with frigid winters or sweltering summers? There are thousands of races a year in the US, so pick a date, time, and location that enables you to train in comfortable weather that is similar to what you’ll expect on race day.” (Paul Ronto, chief marketing officer at RunRepeat.com)

A group of runners celebrate at the finish line of a race

4. The Time Commitment: “The physical time of training for the [race] is pretty big. Depending on pace, you’re looking at approximately five to eight hours per week in just running time. Layer in recommended cross-training, stretching, and potentially massages and physical therapy to keep your body happy, and you kind of have a part-time job. Running long is fatiguing, which means you need longer sleeps at night and post-run naps. Really look at your life and lifestyle and consider whether this is something you’re ready for right now.” (Gillian Goerzen, fitness and nutrition coach at Super You)

5. Type of Event: “Some events are extremely competitive and feature star runners. Others are much more relaxed and cater to beginners. Be sure to pick an event that aligns with your goals and your temperament.” (Jeanette DePatie, fitness trainer and author of The Fat Chick Works Out!)

6. The Why: “[Long-distance races] are hard — hard to train for, to complete, to recover from. I encourage my runners to really consider why they want to run a long-distance race (or another one!) before signing up, because this isn’t just a race. It’s four or more months out of your life. Take it seriously, and you’ll really enjoy the process. But if you don’t, you could fail to meet your goals, do something risky to your body, or, worst of all, get injured in a way that prevents you from running in the future.” (Meghan Stevenson, certified running coach at Your Best Run)

What race would you love to run? Tweet us @BritandCo.

(Photos via Getty)

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