Sunday, May 23, 2010

10 Tips for Planning a Marathon Trip

Preparing for a marathon trip can almost be as exhausting as the actual race training. Over the years, I've realized there are a few things I like to check-out or do well before race day (especially if I'm traveling some distance to the race) to ensure a great trip.

1. Discuss the trip ahead of time with your family. The support of family and friends can be great, but they can add a lot of stress too. Unless you're a long-time marathoner and you have your process down pat, I'd avoid mixing a marathon trip and a vacation trip together. The main focus of a marathon trip should be the marathon. To make sure everyone is on the same page, hold a family meeting to discuss the purpose of the trip and how much you're going to need everyone's support.
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2. Scope out the typical race-day weather (precip and temp). The race's website usually provides this information, but you can also find it on weather sites like weather.com. This is very important if you'll be racing in a city that has a different climate. It's also important to keep checking the long-range weather forecast as race day approaches. I ran Chicago in 2007 and was prepared for a windy chilly run. Instead I got the heatwave of the century!

3. Scope out the best lodging for your pocketbook. Sometimes the cheapest hotels are in nearby towns or "the burbs." But if you have to rent a car or pay expensive cab fare it may be better to pay for a more expensive hotel that's in walking distance to the start or near public transportation or that may provide shuttles on marathon day. Speaking of cab fare, [click here] to estimate cab fare for your marathon city.

4. Don't limit yourself to the hotels listed on the marathon site. These hotels will give discounts and are usually in close proximity to the start/finish, but they may not always be the best deal. If you're really on a budget and traveling solo, check out hostels or nearby YMCA's that my provide lodging. One year I found a great hostel in the upper west side of Manhattan for the NYC Marathon. It was a great location for the race and in a great neighborhood. I paid only $65 a night! That was a few years ago, but even then, other traditional hotel rooms were going for over $250. It did have it's drawback such as only two common bathrooms shared by the floor, but I did have my own room, it was clean, and I did have a sink and a TV!

5. Pay close attention to hotel/air travel package deals. There are many sites such as Travelocity and Priceline.com that provide great deals, but read the fine print carefully. What is their refund policy if you have to cancel? Do you pay upfront or is it just a reservation? Also, read carefully various amenities provided by the hotel in package. Just recently while looking for a hotel for my upcoming Marine Corps Marathon, I wanted one close to the start finish that was also close to Metro access. As I was hunting, I decided to check out the price of a package that also included airfare. The drive to DC from my home is 5hrs. If I could find a hotel/flight deal that was reasonable, it might be worth not having the hassle of driving 5 hours, plus it would give me more time to get acclimated to my new surroundings. I thought I'd found the perfect deal—$350 for three nights in a 3-star hotel and airfare! The hotel was near Reagan National Airport which is near the race start/finish. Perfect! I almost purchased the package when I realized that the flight was not to National (a few blocks from the hotel), but instead it flew into Dulles—about 40minutes away! Last time I took a cab from Dulles into the city it cost about $50! That was about 10 years ago! Crazy! Needless to say, I'm driving to DC. So, read carefully before you buy.

6. Pay for the hotel in advance. One sure way to stick to a marathon commitment is to prepay for the hotel. Another upside to doing this is that often there's a discount for paying in advance. For the upcoming Marine Corps Marathon, I actually found a cheaper rate through the hotel's site by paying several months in advance. What I paid was quite a bit cheaper than what I could find using sites like Travelocity and DiscountHotels.com

7. Arrive at least two days prior to race day. Arriving at least two days before race day will give you time to acclimate to the new location. The first day can be spent at the expo picking up your race packet, finding the local grocery store (if needed), scoping out places to eat, as well as transportation options. You may even have some time to do a little light sightseeing. Day two can be spent relaxing and mentally preparing for the race. I never sleep well the first night in a new bed. Having two nights before the race helps ensure a better night's sleep prior to race day.

8. Plan your meals. This may sound odd, but the last thing you want to do is change your regular eating habits at race time. For example, you can't just assume your hotel will have a restaurant. Many hotels today only provide a free continental breakfast, which is awesome, but if they don't provide full restaurant services, what are you going to do? Are there restaurants nearby? Or are you packing your own food? If you're driving, that's probably fine, but what if you're flying? Are there grocery stores nearby? A call directly to the hotel or checking the amenities section of the hotel website can usually provide this information. Just like sports drink and sports gel, race time is no time to be changing your normal eating routine.

9. Don't forget your pre-race warm-up garb. Some races have runners at the start several hours before start time. NYC is a perfect example. You're bused to Staten Island a couple of hours before race time. It's the wee hours of the morning and it's the beginning of November. It can be quite chilly. If all you have is your race shorts and a singlet, you may get a chill. Not good before a race. I usually visit the local Good Will store and pick up an old pair of warm-up pants and a sweatshirt. These keep me warm prior to the start and I don't care about tossing them. Most races pickup discarded clothes after the race and distribute them to local homeless shelters.

10. Keep your race day items with you while traveling. The last thing you need is to have your luggage lost on a marathon trip. You can't prevent this from happening, but you can prevent your race clothing and essentials (I.D., registration info, etc.) from being in that lost luggage by packing them in your carry-on bags.

16 comments:

John Blewis said...

Great advise Dude! I especially like the "focus on the race concept. I have a bunch of friends that want to see me when I am in Buffalo but really just want to relax like you said.

Johann said...

Thanks for sharing this, great tips.

Coachhrd said...

This is great information. I will probably share with my readers. Having made the trek to a variety of events over the years, this is very helpful.

RunnerDude said...

Hey John! Yep, seeing friends is great, but catch up with them after the race! LOL! Best of luck man. You're goin to do awesome!

RunnerDude said...

Thanks Johann and Coachhrd!! I'd be honored Coach, if you share the post. Thanks!

Julie said...

great tips. Part of race excitement is making a trip out of it for me. Love running destination races.

wendy_kresha@charter.net said...

Excellent info!

Molly said...

I decided to stay overnight for my marathon in September...it's about an hour and fifteen minutes away, but I'm doing it for the peace of mind. The last thing I would need is a flat tire on the way to the race!

btw, so happy you like the pot pie recipe! I'm working on my own energy bars now, and hope to post that one soon.

RunnerDude said...

Thanks Wendy!

RunnerDude said...

Hi Molly! I'd love to feature your energy bar recipe on the blog when you have it, if you'd like!!!

Lauren said...

wow this post is so perfect for me! I'm going to keep this bookmarked and use it for Chicago in October :D

Joe said...

Those are great tips. My first one was in Chicago, I live in TX. It made it interesting. Good stuff.

RunnerDude said...

Hey Lauren! Awesome! You're gonna love running Chicago!

RunnerDude said...

Hi Joe! Thanks man! My first was in NYC and I'm in NC. Culture shock, but a blast!

Molly said...

Sounds good to me!

Sally said...

I ran MCM last year as a 'destination marathon' - with a group of my running buddies. We found a place with http://www.vrbo.com/ (or there are other for rent by owner condo sites) That was cheaper for a group, plus we had our own kitchens/fridges for post and pre race staples.