There are many differences between big and small marathons, which may already affect the choice of race, and where you want to run. Both have good and bad sides, and you should consider them when choosing a race venue.
Big marathons, such as major marathons, are often events that last the whole weekend, where there is a running fair, as well as other events besides the marathon itself. There are many good aspects of big marathons. With us, the number of runners is large, so the risk of having to travel alone is small, often the pace service is also more abundant. Due to the number of sponsors and thus their wealth, maintenance usually works really well, and there are e.g. several drinking stations and energy stations along the way. Since marathons are often in cities, the atmosphere and encouragement along the route are worth experiencing in themselves.
The downsides are that they are crowded because there are a lot of runners, especially since the start of the marathon can get congested and slow down. Traffic at the race venue and exit also require advance planning. It can also be really difficult to get into the competition itself. Many, especially major marathons, require a certain time limit or the race place is drawn among everyone. Other big marathons that are filled in order of registration may also fill up within a day, so you have to be on time. In addition to that, you should book accommodation well in advance if you need it. Big marathons also cost much more.
The pros and cons of small marathons are sometimes the opposite of big ones. In small races, there is no traffic and often things work very smoothly. The competition itself may have its own attraction, such as the exoticism of the competition venue or the theme, which creates its own atmosphere on the route. It is often easy to participate in a marathon, even in a relatively short period of time. Small and especially medium-sized marathons often start to fill up after the race spots of large marathons are announced.
The downside is, on the other hand, that running can be quite lonely. This is fine for some, but if you want to set a new record, for example, a boost from other runners can be good. The same applies to the supporting, which can be significantly lower along the route. You should also check the number of drinking stations and other offerings, some of the smaller marathons are not able to offer the same comprehensive service, so you have to carry more energy yourself.
There are many good and bad sides to big and small events. It’s worth thinking about what things are important to you or what kind of race you want. However, remember that even though big marathons are hyped, it’s not wrong to run small ones. The distance is always the same! And it doesn’t make the performance any less insignificant even if there are 100 runners in the race and not 50,000.
I recommend trying different marathons, even medium-sized city runs with around 5,000-10,000 runners can have a really great atmosphere. A lot also depends on which country or city the competition is held in. For example, according to my own experience, the medium-sized marathons run in England are in a completely different class in terms of atmosphere than those of the same size in Finland. Everyone who has run a marathon knows that the atmosphere and encouragement even from strangers give a lot of energy and speed, especially at the end.