For anyone who has ever dreamed of getting that coveted six-star marathon majors medal, this is the product review for you.
Not many of the runners I have spoken to knew that apart from qualifying, ballot or charity places there is another way of securing one of those elusive spots in marathons such as New York and Boston. This seemingly secretive way is through a running tour organisation. They sell packages that include entrance to the race, no ifs or buts, just a simple entry regardless of person or pace. These packages can be; flight and entry, hotel and entry or the full shabang.
I teamed up with 2:09 Events for the New York City Marathon to show you how it works and why you should be considering this side door into the six-star club. To read more about why I decided to team up with them read my earlier blog here.
This is a completely unbiased review, while 2:09 offered me a discounted rate we agreed that I would still keep my thoughts on the experience honest and transparent. Your best interests, as a reader, will always come first on my blog.
2:09 has been an international travel partner for the New York City Marathon for over 25 years and generally takes between 300-400 to the marathon each year. It is an partner for all the other non-UK Marathon Majors too. They also do a lot of other insanely spectacular marathons around the world, including races like Bhutan’s Thunder Dragon Marathon and Burma’s Temple Run. They also put on about 10 races per year in the UK, so to put it lightly they have experience in this industry!
My key takeaway from the whole experience with 2:09 is that it made one of the famously logistically complicated marathons in the world, an absolute breeze from start to finish.
In the lead up to leaving the UK, they sent through itineraries so that I could plan my time in New York efficiently and help filling in the marathon entry forms.
I arrived on the late Friday so sadly missed out on the two morning runs on Thursday and Friday led by company director Mike Gratton, who won the London Marathon in 1983 with a finishing time of 2:09. The runs are 5km recce runs aimed at helping you best prepare for the mountain of miles ahead. Because of work commitments I also wasn’t able to go on one of the flights 2:09 uses for its flight package so missed out on the transfer to the hotel which, after paying $80 on an Uber, was a very sad thing to miss out on!
The hotel they use is the Warwick, a really beautiful hotel only 1/4 mile away from Central Park. The only real issue I had with the hotel was due to the fact that the hotel is so close to Central Park and amongst the hubbub of the city that never sleeps it isn’t the quietest place but that is coming from someone who is usually surrounded by silent fields. But because of my country life the fact that my room was on the 20th floor was amazing and I must admit I spent a lot of my time staring out at the buzzing city below. With the breakfast not being included in the hotel package and being £25 extra a day, I chose to forage outside of the hotel and it would be something I’d recommend for anyone else booking a package.
In my opinion the best part of using 2:09, especially for the New York City Marathon comes on raceday. Usually to get to the start you have to; get on the subway or bus to Whitehall Terminal, get on the Staten Island Ferry then finally get on another bus to the start area. All of these usually involve long queues and cramped conditions, hardly great marathon preparations. With 2:09, we had a bus that picked us up from outside the hotel and dropped us off at the start area. This simple and relaxed trip honestly played a big part in my marathon going so well.
The sticking point for most of you will be the cost and with 3 nights in the Warwick Hotel costing £829 per person based on two people sharing with £420 for the marathon entry it can sound pretty steep. But let me break it down: The entry is charged at cost, showing that New York is by far the most expensive marathon to run. The hotel costing is also not that extortionate when you add in the airport transfers and raceday transport. Before I agreed to our link up I looked at costs for hotels within equal walking distance of the finish line and really struggled to find anything cheaper with a similar level of luxury. Paying in two instalments, while still being big hits to your bank account, does make it easier to budget and they are incredibly helpful on that front too.
My simple conclusion is that if you can afford it, do it. It is by far the easiest and most straight forward way to run the world’s largest and most iconic marathon. I think the best way I can show how impressed I was with their service is that I will be using them in the future, hopefully Tokyo in 2020, without any of the benefits from our link up.
SCORE OUT OF FIVE CUPS: FIVE