This past weekend, I ran the Carmel Marathon in Indiana. It was a wonderful race experience complete with great energy, friendly people, perfect weather, and a marathon PR! (Get all the personal race tidbits including why I had to wear a Breathe Right strip on my Instagram).
Many people may not have heard of the Carmel Marathon—after all, it’s not a huge race but after my marathon experience, it’s one I think should be on any runners’ marathon list—especially if you live within in driving distance to Indianapolis.
Carmel is an adorable town just north of Indianapolis. I had no idea how pretty it was to be honest. When my husband and I arrived, we were like “Carmel, Indiana—who knew??!!” It is a huge artists’ town so the charming streets are filled with sculptures and art fixtures.
There is no shortage of cute stores, quaint coffee shops, and farm-to-table yummy restaurants. Indeed, we could have spent more time in Carmel browsing in stores and visiting museums. But we were there to run!
In this article, I’m going to give you the nitty-gritty of the Carmel marathon.
In this article, I will answer:
- Carmel marathon overview plus pros and cons
- Race day logistics including the transportation, start and finish line experience, and the port-a-potty situation
- Carmel weather
- Carmel marathon spectator information, and
- Carmel marathon course insights and race strategies
Let’s get going!
My Experience Running the Carmel Marathon
I had an incredibly positive experience running the Carmel marathon. This race checked all the boxes for what I am looking for in a marathon—great energy, smooth logistics, and a fast and flat course. The icing on the cake was a later start in the sunshine, fantastic weather, upbeat music, and a lively crowd.
I even came away with a marathon PR of 2:54, breaking the current master’s record, and placing 7th woman.
What is the Carmel marathon race?
The Carmel Marathon in Carmel, Indiana is a flat course with lots of crowd support for runners looking to nab a personal best marathon time.
Is the Carmel marathon a Boston qualifier?
Yes, the Carmel Marathon is a Boston qualifying course and USATF certified course. According to Marathon Guide, the Carmel Marathon consistently ranks in the top 25 for qualifying runners for the Boston Marathon. This year almost a quarter of the Carmel Marathon runners qualified.
Is the Carmel Marathon a fast course?
Yes! I ran my marathon PR (2:54) on this course. One of my training partners qualified for the Olympic Trials marathon with a 2:36 marathon time on this course. It has minimal sharp turns, few hills, and mild weather.
How much elevation gain is the Carmel half marathon and marathon?
The Carmel Marathon and half marathon have less than 140 feet of elevation gain. It is a slightly rolling course with barely any perceptible hills.
Related: 26 Race Day Tips for Going 26.2
How many people run the Carmel Marathon?
The Carmel Marathon has about 1, 200 runners. More than 4,000 people participate in the Carmel marathon events including a 5k, 10k, half-marathon, and marathon.
Does the Carmel Marathon sell out?
Yes, the Carmel Marathon can sell out. It has sold out for the past three years of the race’s 13-year history.
Related: How to Predict Your Marathon Time
What makes the Carmel marathon a good race?
The Carmel Marathon is a well-organized race that is convenient, supportive, and offers a flat, fast, and pretty course. It is a go-to for those wanting to run a half-marathon PR or marathon PR, and is an excellent course for both runners and spectators.
How do I get marathon results?
The race organizers will email you a link for race results and runner tracking the week of the event. You can also get it on their website and on the Race Day Events app.
Carmel Marathon Pros:
- The course is flat with minimal turns
- Runs through pretty neighborhoods and a greenway
- Course goes through the center of town and past the finish so spectators can see their runners at the start, halfway point, and finish without even having to move
- Plenty of parking and bathrooms
- Starts when the sun is up
- Start and finish is in Carmel’s beautiful art district with plenty of places to warm-up and park
- The size of the race is just big enough for lots of energy and support, but isn’t overwhelming
What are the Cons of the Carmel marathon?
No race is perfect even though the Carmel marathon is pretty close to it! Here are some drawbacks to the Carmel Marathon.
Carmel Marathon Cons
- Could snow on race day
- There are no energy gels at aid stations
- Many roundabouts on the course. (I advise cutting over the curb to run the tangent. Curbs are slight).
- As you hit the wall, you run through a barren industrial park that makes it feel harder. There is no crowd support, a slight uphill, and a headwind for my race.
- Around mile 19 there is a strange out-and-back that breaks your momentum
- Potholes at the start. (I twisted my ankle in the first 200 meters).
- Small purse for winners looking to make some money
What’s the weather like for the Carmel Marathon?
The average high is 63 degrees and average low is 41 degrees in Carmel, Indiana in April. It rains 9 days on average in April.
The weather for the Carmel Marathon this year (2023) was PERFECT running weather. It was a sunny 36 degrees at the start and warmed up to the upper 40s by the time I finished. It was in the lower 60s when others finished.
The only drawback was a headwind that I encountered mostly in the last 7 miles of the race.
The year before (2022) the weather was terrible–cold and sleeting. Therefore, the weather at the Carmel marathon can be a mixed bag.
What is the lodging like for the marathon?
The Carmel Marathon has a few race hotels to choose from—all within about 1.5 miles from the start and finish line, offering shuttle services. One hotel is within walking distance.
We stayed at the Home2Suites and cannot recommend it enough.
The staff was super accommodating and friendly. They even gave us a late check-out of 2 p.m. so we could have time to shower and recover before driving back to Knoxville. (Call ahead to see if you can get this about a week before). They offered us a half-price room to stay longer if we needed it.
There was a delicious breakfast starting at 6 a.m. Since you don’t need to leave until around 7 a.m. for the race, runners have time to take advantage of the breakfast if they’d like. We got coffee and bagels and ate in our room.
The hotel room was clean and spacious with a kitchenette. They only gave us 3 pillows though for our king, so I was happy I brought my Lagoon Sleep Pillow with me. (Highly recommend these pillows—save 15 percent with code TMR15).
The hotel staff was extremely nice and even offered goody bags for the runners with race information, a banana, and Gatorade.
From runners I chatted with, the other race hotels such as the Renaissance were also clean and accommodating.
What is transportation and parking like for the Carmel Marathon?
The race hotels offer a shuttle service. The shuttles from the hotels ran about every 20 minutes to the start line from 6 a.m. until 8 a.m. Then it ran every hour. They drop you about 400 meters away from the start/finish line. The bus ride is about 5 minutes long.
The only issue was at the finish, the shuttle was a little bit late so we had to wait and got nervous that we missed it. It did come but was about 100 meters down the road from the drop spot.
The shuttles are school buses, so look for a school bus about 400 yards from the finish if you need a ride.
However, if you drive yourself, there is plenty of on-street parking and several lots and garages within the start/finish line. We just didn’t want to mess with it on race day.
Is the Carmel Marathon spectator-friendly?
Yes, the Carmel Marathon is very spectator friendly! This is great for those wanting to watch the marathon and for runners who need that extra morale boost. Roads aren’t completely closed which means it is easy to find spots along the course to park and cheer.
Because the marathon course goes through many neighborhoods, there is plenty of side streets and on-street parking.
The start and finish lines are the same and the marathoners run through this area at the halfway point, meaning that spectators don’t even have to move to see their marathoners three times (start, finish, and halfway mark).
What is the Carmel Marathon course like?
The Carmel Marathon is slightly rolling but fast and scenic with less than 400-foot elevation change over the entire distance. It is the best marathon course I have ever run. I liked it even more than the CIM marathon course.
You don’t have to try to control yourself and waste your mental energy on this course. With CIM, because it has rolling hills and a net downhill, you have to really be sure to reign yourself in in the first several miles.
With the Carmel marathon, you can run easily run even splits, and just home in on your race pace. There are turns and a lot of roundabouts, however. If you cut the roundabouts, it’s still pretty straight. Thankfully, they are graduated curbs that are easy to step onto without breaking your stride or crushing your tired legs.
There are crowds throughout most of the racecourse. You run through neighborhoods, downtown, and on a greenway. Around mile 19 you enter a barren industrial park just as you’re entering the pain cave which kind of stunk. And there is a weird out-and-back that kind of breaks your momentum. Just expect it and know that you just got to put your head down and work.
What is the elevation of the Carmel marathon?
The elevation of the Carmel marathon starts at 739 feet and maxes out at 880 feet with less than 400 feet of elevation change. See marathon course details here.
What is the expo like at the marathon?
The race day expo is at Carmel High School which is bigger and nicer than a lot of small colleges.
The expo small which means you can be in and out in a couple of minutes—with just a few vendors selling key race day items. My husband and I got some throwaway gloves.
The expo is a couple of miles from the start and finish line.
What is the start and finish line including port-a-potties like?
The start and finish line of the race has a big race feel. It is located in the art district of Carmel which honestly looks like a big city. It has big, beautiful limestone buildings surrounding a retention pond perfectly placed for a warm-up.
There are plenty of port-a-potties though the line did get long as race start neared (about a 15-minute wait) so I ended up ducking behind some pushes to go tinkle.
There is music and an announcer and lots of excitement to get you ready. Plan to line up about 10 minutes before the 5k and 10k start at 8 am if you want to get close to the start. The marathon and half marathon start at 8:10. The sun rises around 7:30 a.m. so you aren’t standing in the dark which is a nice touch.
Get the order of events here.
I had an elite bib and had to hop a fence to get to the beginning of the start line. You begin with a tiny uphill which is perfectly positioned to slow you down so you don’t go out too fast. There are some potholes, and I did twist my ankle right out of the gate.
The finish line is near the start line for both half marathon and marathon, right after you run down the greenway and through the center of town on a brick path. There are cheers, cowbells, music, and tons of excitement to make you proud.
When you finish, you get a huge medal, water, and a banana, and there are thousands of pancakes if your tummy is up for it. There is also a stretching tent but the wait it usually about 30 minutes to get in.
That evening, the race offers an afterparty at a local winery.
Related: How to Run in Snow
What are the aid stations like for the marathon?
The Carmel marathon has a robust army of volunteers at every aid station position about every two miles. They offer Gatorade and water in different colored cups and the volunteers did a great job telling you who had what.
There are NO energy gels at this race so make sure you bring your own!
Related: Marathon Fueling 101
What is the finisher’s medal like for the Marathon?
The Carmel Marathon medal is one of the largest medals for a race I have ever seen. If you are into medals, then you will love this one!
How should I run the marathon?
As noted, you don’t need to waste mental energy pacing yourself for the Carmel marathon. I recommend going out a few seconds slower than race pace for the first two miles so you warm up.
Then kick it into race pace through the halfway mark. If you have more in the tank, quicken your speed after mile 13.
Note that around mile 19, your pace may slow due to some hills—and also potentially hitting the wall. The hills won’t slow you down as much. I had a headwind which definitely decreased my pace, but obviously, that was unique to my weather on race day.
Because this race is so flat, you can really just focus on the splits you need to run that day.
Carmel Marathon Bottomline:
I cannot recommend the Carmel Marathon enough. It has all the amenities of a bigger race without the hassles. And it is my favorite marathon course I have ever run.
If you want guidance with your running or marathon goals, check out my run coaching services. Also, be sure to check out my free training plans:
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