Paris Marathon, my first marathon of the year, is only a few weeks away now so my mind is turning to the race and the rest of my time in the City of Lights. Running marathons abroad is incredible, you get to see a city in such a unique and positive way, but it can throw up some problems. In the past two years I’ve run 11 marathons and every single one of them has involved a night or two away from home and 7 of them were overseas. Below are a few things I’ve learned, sometimes the hard way.
Ask someone with experience of the race if they have any tips on where to stay, what the pre-race build up is like, how hard it is to get to the start, etc. Whether they be a friend or someone on social media having the inside knowledge will really help.
Breakfast in Bed.
Everyone has routines before a race and some of them will revolve around food, hell, most of my days revolve around food. Unless you are staying in an Airbnb your ability to make your own breakfast is pretty limited. You can eat what the hotel provides but if you’d rather have something you know your body isn’t going to reject at mile 16 and will sustain you through the race it pays to prepare. I use porridge pots as you can make them by just adding boiling water but hot water works fine too. I found that out when I got to my hotel in Berlin before the marathon and found they didn’t have any kettles in the room so I ran the hot tap for a while and just used that!
Don’t plan every hour down to the time you are suppose to be in bed, it just leads to anxiety and/or missed opportunities. You are there to enjoy the place you are visiting as well as run in it. When I did the Athens Marathon I was really limited time-wise so I took some time the day before the race to explore the incredible city, sure my race may have been affected but I’d much rather have had those experience then have shaved a few minutes off my finish time.
We all have tried and tested kit that we use and the last thing you want to be doing the day before a race is desperately hunting through a new city for a fitting replacement should your bags go missing mid-flight. Avoid it by packing everything you’re going to need on race day in your hand luggage. You can buy a new jumper but your lucky lycra is priceless.
Be a VIP.
If you are travelling solo I would recommend researching to see if your race offers hospitality options. I’ve used them a couple of times as you can get to the race earlier (I always seem to mess up public transport on race day so have to factor that in) and have somewhere warm and relaxing to prepare rather than just getting cold standing round. Some offer showers, massages and changing facilities so after the race you can return to some normality and don’t have to worry too much about stinking out every place you go in to caked in a crusty layer of sweat. Straight after the Queenstown Marathon I went to grab a massive burger at this iconic spot (Fergburger, I miss you) but sat next to clean, sensibly dressed people made me feel very self conscious about how I must have smelt! Most importantly VIP sections have loads of extra loos which is always handy when the pre-run nerves kick in…
A lot of races offer 5Ks the day before as a shake out run, they are great fun but if you normally don’t run the day before a race don’t be lured in by the chance to get another bit of race bling. I’ve done it at San Francisco and Chicago Marathons and regretted it come raceday.
The Day After.
My top tip for the day after is to try and find a hop-on, hop-off bus tour. I’ve done them in Berlin and Chicago and they are perfect as you can still see the city you’ve come to run in whilst resting your wearing legs.
If you are flying home soon after your race try and get yourself an aisle seat so you can keep moving around. On the flight back from the San Francisco Marathon I had to get up every 20 minutes or so to stretch out as my legs muscles kept ceasing up, the person between me and aisle was not at all pleased!
Next Race: Paris Marathon!!