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8 tips for marathon travel

Posted by Pascal Landshoeft

Apr 16, 2015 8:07:00 AM


8 Tips for Marathon travel

I have traveled to Frankfurt and Vienna to run a marathon so far. Generally take care of two things, that you are well prepared and if it is your first marathon consider to do it as close to home as possible and not get fancy with it.

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Check the fine print of your booking

If you book a packaged deal with a hotel and the marathon ticket make sure to check the fine print of the E Mail you are getting. They include vital details on how to register and by when. When you get an Email saying “Your registration for…” it does not necessarily mean that you are already registered. There can be additional steps. That was my case for the Vienna marathon and because of that I had to jump through a lot of hoops to make it to the starting line. Entirely my fault and staff was very helpful, still annoying and stressing. You do not want to be stressed before race day.

What you also want to get your head around is where you will get your race number and how transportation of your sports bag will be handled at the race itself. Some races send the number to your doorstep, but most require collection at some public place in town. Mostly they are good to reach by public transport, still I recommend you to check and make it your first priority to collect that race number once you arrive. I did it both times and it put my mind at ease.

Regarding your race baggage check what kind of a course you are running. If it is a closed loop you usually drop your bag somewhere at the Start / Finish at a central place. If the course is a straight line like the comrades in south Africa and start and finish are some miles apart there will be some kind of transportation arranged. Find out where to drop the bag and even more important, where you have to collect it. If it is far from the finish, maybe consider to prepare yourself while on the track with some extra food or having someone around with a blanket in the finishing area.

Take someone with you

I went on my own to Frankfurt and took my girlfriend to Vienna. Both times I was far off the time I wanted to achieve. In Frankfurt one of my friends showed up unannounced on the track to race the last few miles with me. That was great and I think I would have felt very miserable if none would have been around.

Don’t get me wrong I would consider myself more of a lone wolf and I can be socially awkward at times. I would be the person to walk away from an adult conversion to go and play with all of the little ones in the other room and stay there for quite some time.

Still you pet yourself under a lot of stress when you run a marathon and if you fail your goal you will devastated. It is good to have someone around to cheer you up than and I thank my friend and my girlfriend for being so supportive. So do yourself a favour and take someone along, you will also get more out of your stay abroad / in another town.

Stay a bit longer

The first time around I only stayed for two days and basically just hit the hotel. We stayed in Vienna for four days. That gave us the opportunity to do more and enjoy the surroundings which was good as I had a different take away from the trip than just the time that I would run at the marathon (and as that was not my best time, I am glad I have something else to say about the trip when I am asked).

I would recommend at least four days. The first day is most likely occupied with getting your race number organised. If you book an early flight you should be done with this around 12 – 2 and you can go to a nice evening activity like the opera or a concert (which we did). The second day is free to do something nice after your 20 minute / 3 km run in the morning. We did a city tour on that day and ate lots of cake, which was very enjoyable, but maybe not the best preparation for the race. Third day is race day. In most cases the race will be somewhere around 9 – 10. You will be finished around 2 – 3 depending on how fast you run and how well the event is laid out. Depending on how you feel do something while seated. Bus tours or a carriage ride. Anything where someone else takes care of your mobility. The last day will be the travel back, as I do not recommend to fly back out on the same day, if it can be avoided.

Do not attend the running parties

If you want to meet some fellow runners from other countries, this is the place to go. You can also use it the running party as a meeting point to then move on from, but that’s it. The food is mass production, you have to stand in queues, it is loud and the super runners with their big thighs and minuscule running plans will just freak you out. At least that is what happened to me in Frankfurt. I compliment the organisers for getting these meet ups organised, but there are nicer places to go in every town to do your carb loading than the fair. To think you want to get the maximum out of your registration fee by attending is false economy thinking in my book. If you are not up for mass event cheap food, loud music and pseudo expert talk, do not go to the “runner’s party” and use the regained time wisely.

Bring your gear

A basic point but still important. When you collect your number you will have to pass a lot of people who will try to sell you something. The collection points are always at the back of the venue to maximise revenue streams. Be aware of this and do not fall into the trap of buying new gear for race day or get some elaborate taping done which you never had before. While all of this is well meant it is changing up your routine for race day. If you already wanted to get a new pair of runners, socks or any other type of equipment for after the race or second half of season than you are in a good place. Most of this equipment is usually not available in your local stores and you can shop around to bring something home, but not to use for race day (believe me the temptation will be there and yes I am a culprit).

Check out the area around the hotel

When you come back to the hotel after you collected your number, check out the area for your 20 minute run the next day. Usually you will find a little nice park nearby to do it, but check it out the day before rather than when you get up the next morning.

Be prepared that you might not run a PR

Both times I went abroad to run a marathon I failed miserably to improve my PR. My first marathon is still my fastest with 3:56 in Dublin, which surprisingly is deemed to be a harder course than Frankfurt and Vienna.

Be aware that you will travel to a different time zone, but yourself under the stress of a flight, doing some sightseeing, standing around in queues, have not your normal breakfast routine and not run your normal grounds in preparation for the race. These are not ideal conditions for a PR, especially when you do not run with others who are faster than you in a team.

Do not fly home on the same day as the marathon

The experience was horrible for me. I completely over paced at Frankfurt and had to travel home the same day. Being at the airport and under pressure to get there in time while still recovering from the race was not enjoyable and I would not wish that on my worst enemy. Self-inflicted stupidity is the worst kind of torture.

Book a flight the day after. This will give you a good night’s sleep, the opportunity to have a proper bath and stretch, maybe even a little spa treatment to than move back home well rested, keeping cool at the airport and not feeling completely overwhelmed.


I thoroughly enjoyed both of my trips to do a marathon abroad but was not prepared enough in both cases. Don’t rush it, a marathon is a big thing and should be enjoyed in full. The entire weekend should be special and if you want to run your first or hit the ultimate PR stay as close to home as possible.