Learn the city history before your departure
Do some research before you leave when you're traveling to an unfamiliar city. Look up famous sights that you might want to visit, and research the major landmarks you will run past on the course. Don’t have time before you leave? Do some research on the flight over. Download an app that doesn’t require the internet like Triposo which will give you some background information on the city you’re visiting, plus help with hotel and restaurant bookings. Or pick up a book like DK Eyewitness Travel guides which will provide travel tips plus some history. The worst thing you could do is arrive to your destination city and not know what you want to see or what historical significance the race course has. Don't leave with any regret of not getting to see major landmarks.
Know the course landmarks and neighborhoods
The Abbott World Marathon Majors travel through unique neighborhoods and past major city landmarks. Each neighborhood will have its own charm. Do a little research beforehand to make the most of your experience running through each neighborhood or borough. The Chicago Marathon for example is one that highlights each neighborhood. In the past, participants would vote on which neighborhood they liked best. In NYC you will run through all the 5 boroughs of New York. It's a great way to see the entire city!
Click on each World Marathon Major event website below for more information on the course neighborhoods and boroughs.
One exciting feature of a World Marathon Major event is the Expo! If you’re an experienced marathoner chances are you’ve been to an expo or two. If you’ve never run a World Marathon Major before, or attended one of their Expos, you’re in for a real treat. They have everything you can imagine when it comes to running (gear, fuel, clothing). So if you’re a running gear nerd like me, this will be your heaven. So give yourself plenty of time to shop around, interact with the vendors and get excited for your race. Your race packet will also have a bunch of fun free stuff! For instance, I got a bag of rice, a razor and a can of beer from the Virgin Money London Marathon. It’s always fun to see what things you’ll get!
Buy an item with the marathon logo on it. For example, when I went to Japan for the Tokyo Marathon I knew I wanted a pair of chopsticks. At the expo they sold Tokyo Marathon logo chopsticks (see items below)!
Buy a second race shirt! There is a good chance you will not like the “free” shirt that comes with entering the race and it might not fit. Or you will wear it a million times and it will get stained or worn out. My suggestion is to buy another shirt at the expo that suits your style and actually fits! I am really small and no race shirts ever fit me. So I always make it a point to buy a shirt that fits! Plus in Berlin, I missed the email that said you had to purchase the official race shirt ahead of time because there isn’t a free one offered in your packet. So when I crossed the finish line, I was shocked to learn that I wasn’t going to get a shirt. I am glad I bought one at the expo. Also the London Marathon gave out one-size-fits-all t-shirts when I ran it in 2012. I got the shirt after I finished. It wasn’t my favorite, so I am glad I bought one at the expo.
Take pictures of your trip and along the course. This is a World Marathon Major event! How many times will you have the opportunity to run that race? So take pictures of the expo, along the course and at the finish. Most spectators won’t mind taking your picture along the course. I make it a point never to “race” a World Marathon Major event. I want to soak in the experience and enjoy every moment of it. I traveled far to get there, so I want to remember every mile. My advice is to relax, take pictures and enjoy the journey! And make friends along the way!
Write your name on your race shirt or carry a flag
Show some pride for your country. When I ran the Berlin Marathon I was shocked at how many people ran with their countries flag on their shirt or they carried it. The crowds interacted more with those carrying a flag. They cheered on the country by name.
Also it’s motivating when people can cheer for you by name. When the race gets difficult, at around mile 23-26 it’s always encouraging to hear someone cheer for me personally. I usually buy iron-on letters and iron them on my race singlet.
Interact with the crowd
Perfect strangers took time out of their day to watch you run and cheer for you. Consider hi-fiving spectators or enjoy the treats they brought for you. The crowds will love nothing more than to have you run over to them and give them a hi-five or even take pictures with them. And please, don't listen to music :) Listen to the crowds.
Embrace the Unique features of the race
When I ran the Tokyo Marathon, I heard about the famous tomatoes along the course that were offered at an aid station. I have never eaten tomatoes in a race before, but it’s clearly the thing to do in Tokyo! So my friend Brian and I decided if we were feeling fine when they offered the tomatoes, we would eat them and sure enough they tasted great and gave us a boost of energy. So if the race you’re running offers something unique, why not try it if you’re feeling okay. Don’t do something early in the race that could sabotage everything. Berlin offered tea at the aid stations. Why not try it?!
Eat the local food – after the race
If you’re in Tokyo and want to try sushi, don’t eat it before the race cause you don’t know how you will respond. Instead, embrace the local cuisine after the race as a treat! I can’t eat deep dish Chicago pizza before a race, but I’ll have it as post-race reward.
Buy A City Keepsake
I’m a big Starbucks coffee drinker. I also LOVE traveling. One of my favorite things is to visit Starbucks in other countries. I love Starbucks travel mugs. I always make sure to leave extra room in my suitcase for one. Every time I sip coffee from my city mug, it makes me smile. I reminisce on my experience running that race.
Purchase a finisher’s picture, certificate or Keepsake
I rarely purchase race photos, but if you run a World Marathon Major you should consider buying one to remember your experience. I also love this product by Sportymaps. It’s a "minimalist running course print". Your finish time can be printed on the bottom. Check it out below. I also like this product by Thought Blossom. It can be found on Etsy. It’s a personalized key chain. My friend had it personalized with all the cities I've run marathons in (see below).
Buy the local newspaper
Buy the local newspaper the day after the marathon. Most cities will have an article featuring the marathon and will print a list of the finishers. I know for sure Chicago, New York and Berlin do this. Chicago I believe even gives you an option to buy the newspaper ahead of time. Check the race website to see if they offer this feature.
Enjoy your Abbott World Marathon Major experience! If you have any more suggestions, please feel free to leave a comment! Or tell me what you loved most about your World Marathon Major race. Follow me on my journey to run around the world. Check me out on: Instagram, Facebook, Pintrest or Twitter.
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***Disclaimer: I am an Ambassador for the Abbott World Marathon Majors. My opinions expressed here are my own.