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Top marathons for first-timers

We've scoured the country and found the best marathons for newbie runners.

By Ron Johnson
  
There are hundreds of marathons run around the world each year. In Canada, there are dozens from which to choose from the big boys in Toronto, Ottawa and Vancouver to smaller, more relaxed events. Committing to a marathon is a big deal. It's a major challenge both athletically and mentally, and one that shouldn't be undertaken lightly. It's also pretty great, life affirming and what not. But how do you choose the best marathon for your first experience? Well, that's where we come in. Herewith, a handful of races befitting newbies.
 
1. The County Marathon, Prince Edward County, Ont., www.pecmarathon.ca, Oct. 4
 
The marathon in beautiful Prince Edward County south of Belleville is a flat and fast Boston Qualifier sanctioned by Athletics Canada. The fall run features plenty of pleasing trots down colourful and quiet County roads festooned with scenic vistas of Lake Ontario and more than a few quaint wineries. Race features also include beer the finish line, always a bonus as well as the all-important and all-you-can-eat pasta dinner and much more.
 
While you're there: Wineries are there to be visited, not just to look at on the fly. Try Trumpour's Mill, it's lovely, www.grangeofprinceedward.com.
 
2. BMO Okanagan Marathon, Kelowna, B.C, www.okanaganmarathon.ca, Oct. 10-11  
 
With a myriad of marathon-type options throughout British Columbia, this little gem, though popular, has yet to be overrun. As a result, newbies won't get lost in the shuffle or feel overly intimidated by the masses and hysteria of it all. This run, so famously dubbed a flu half-marathon by John Stanton of the Running Room is a scenic Boston qualifier, and offers up a nice Kids Zone, which makes it perfect for a family getaway weekend.
 
While you're there: If your legs can handle it, first take a dip in Lake Okanagan and they hit Myra Canyon park.
 
3. Prince Edward Island Marathon, www.peimarathon.ca, Oct. 16 - 18
 
The course is, again, mostly flat and with wonderful scenery of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, red sand beaches and much more. In fact, the entire island is pretty much as flat as you can get, windy maybe, a little hill and the odd knoll. In autumn, Prince Edward Island temperates range from five to 15 degrees, perfect running temperatures, and the route demonstrates the wondrous diversity of terrain that characterizes this enchanting island.
 
While you're there: Eat. A lot. The Island specializes in seafood so don't you dare leave until you sample some lobster rolls, a lobster dinner and a plate or two of Malpeque oysters.
 
4. Manitoba Marathon, Winnipeg, Man., www.manitobamarathon.mb.ca, June 21
 
The Manitoba Marathon is something of a legend. The current course was designed in 1980 by Fred Dawson, and has hosted some big competitions over the years. Obviously, this particular marathon has big appeal to proud papas wanting to demonstrate that they can child rear and tackle an endurance race. There is also music throughout the course, 21 hospitality stations, and, of special note, there is a maximum elevation change of just 10 feet.
 
While you're there: Hit the Forks, this national historic site at the junction of the Red and Assiniboine rivers is a fine urban oasis with plenty to see and do for the family.
 
5. The Canadian, Ottawa, Ont., somersault.ca/eventcanadianrun.htm, September 5 
 
Here's a thought. Running in the cool evening is always a treat during the summer. The humidity dips and there is no need to worry about those pesky UV rays. And, that's the big drawing card for The Canadian marathon that is held in late summer in Ottawa. The event begins and ends in Terry Fox Stadium, and runners complete eight laps of the course in the evening, which also includes lovely Mooney's Bay Park. But, participants only have five hours to finish.
 
While you're there: Parliament Hill, sure, why not. But don't miss ByWard Market, which is chockablock with some of the city's best pubs and restaurants.
 
 
 

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