Well, I’ve officially decided: I’m downgrading to the half marathon in March (DC Rock n’ Roll.) At first, it was an anguishing decision because I had my eye on the prize. I was doing my Smart Coach training plan to a T and felt committed to the correct training.

Then, the back. I think it’s January — I’m cursed with injury every year. Perhaps it is the cold that doesn’t let my muscles bend as they need to. Either way, one week off took me out of the game. I considered letting a week be a week and getting back in the game but the back tingly/pain sensation remains.

I’d rather sit this one out, figure out the problem and be ready to go for my fall marathons — which is exciting in and of itself because I get to pick which ones I’m doing! Ideally, that’s only two. Three would be pretty ambitious.

When I saw this month’s Runners World had a piece called “Fast, Faster, Fastest” — a guide to running your best 26.2 ever, I got to some serious reading. It listed a the, essentially, “easiest” marathons to PR in. And, let me tell you, I have no shame in selecting an easy course just to satisfy the gnawing need for a sub-4!

The only two that called out to me on this list were Chicago & Jacksonville. I have done Chicago but Maggie plans to do it this year and has somewhere we can stay for free (huge factor!). And I have family in Jacksonville, plus I NEVER have an excuse to go to Florida (it’s been forever!). Runners World explains:

 Chicago Marathon, October 7, 2012

The fastest women’s marathon on U.S. soil. Four world records. Two American records. While elite times do not always translate to PRs for recreational runners, they often do here, thanks to a flat course, superb organization, and a well-executed seeding system. Chicago is one of only three U.S. marathons with a negative race-time bias, meaning the ARRS ranks it fast. More than 45,000 participants, 40 entertainment groups, and 1.7 million spectators create an electric atmosphere.

GOOD TO KNOW: Chicago has wildly unpredictable weather—a dangerously hot 88 degrees in 2007; below freezing in 2009—and monster crowds. Read race instructions to minimize anxiety.

RACE-DIRECTOR TIP: “The course has multiple turns, so run the tangents to save valuable time.”—Carey Pinkowski

BONUS: If you’ve run a 1:50 half-marathon or 4:00 full or faster, Chicago lets you be among the first 12,000 to line up.

                 Jacksonville Bank Marathon, December 16th, 2012

Doug Alred was itching to better his 2:29 in the marathon, so in 1984 he launched the Jacksonville Bank Marathon and designed the course to minimize the city’s biggest potential hazard: the sun. Eighty-five percent of the course is run under the shade of oak and magnolia trees, which also block the bay wind. And the out-and-back route is flat, even for Florida; there isn’t a single bridge or underpass to climb or descend. At least 20 percent usually get to Boston.

GOOD TO KNOW: Although race-day temps hover in the mid-50s, humidity is at its peak in the morning, averaging 88 percent. The full, half, and 5-K all start together, but with a total field of only 2,200, the roads open up quickly.

RACE-DIRECTOR TIP: “Mentally prepare for the last four miles, which are exposed to the sun and any wind that’s blowing that day.”—Doug Alred

BONUS: An announcer shouts out the name of every runner as they round the track to the finish at Bolles High School’s stadium, where lentil soup awaits.

No matter what I choose, nothing feels better than THIS!

QUESTION: Are you picking out your 2012 races yet? What are they? What made you decide on them?

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