A week from tomorrow I am running the Exeter Marathon, and in an email that Mike Tammaro (the race director) sent me this afternoon he told a story about why running a small marathon is better for him than running a larger race. I can certainly relate to his take so I got permission from him to share his story with you.

I have a friend who’s never run a small marathon. This came to light when she asked me the other day about “chips” at the Exeter Marathon. (There will be no chip timing.)

There’s no doubt that the big, mega-races have their appeal: the history, the excitement, the crowd support. My PR race is Boston 2006. The crowds were great that year. At Boston 2004, the “85 degree year,” the crowds weren’t so great (through no fault of their own, of course). Thousands of non-runners yelling, “You can do it!” as I ran-walked the last 3 miles wasn’t helpful to my pace or spirits.

Last spring I ran the Walter Childs Memorial Race of Champions in Holyoke, where there were only 82 finishers. It was one of my favorite races.

What’s so great about small races?

For one, the logistics are trivial. When you finish the race, your car is right there. There’s no line to the bathroom and no staggering 37 blocks to find your baggage bus.

But the best part, to me, is the competition. It sounds counter intuitive that the competition would be better at a small race, but I find that in mega-races, even at my above-average-for-an-amateur pace, there are so many runners around me that I fail to focus on the competitive aspect of the race; that is, competing against other runners.

In the small races I usually know my place and I recognize and identify the other competitors. At the finish, instead of promptly moving away from each other (some to family meeting area A, and the others to areas F, R, T…) the runners come together, which facilitates further bonding.

Sure, you may get stuck running alone for much of the race…but you may experience a legendary battle that would have not happened in a much larger race, and it’ll be something you’ll never forget.

2010 will be the only year that the Exeter Marathon has fewer than 100 competitors. I’m looking forward to it. I wish I was running. I’ll be back at Holyoke two weeks later.

If you are interested in running the inaugural Exeter Marathon, it is 2 days before the Boston Marathon on April 17th this year. You have to have run a qualifying time in order to be admitted to the race, and the qualifying standards are 5 minutes faster than Boston across the board. If you’re interested in the racing me and want to join us, you can get more information at the website: http://www.exetermarathon.com