The Abbott World Marathon Majors is a series consisting of six of the largest and most renowned marathons in the world: Tokyo Marathon, Boston Marathon, Virgin Money London Marathon, BMW Berlin Marathon, Bank of America Chicago Marathon and TCS New York City Marathon. Runners from all over the world will be traveling to run these races soon. The 2017 Berlin Marathon is just a couple days away! And in a couple weeks the Chicago Marathon will take place on October 8th, followed by the New York City Marathon on November 5th. Will you be one of the lucky runners to run a World Marathon Major? For more tips on what to do or where to eat in Chicago, see my previous post The Best of Chicago.
I have run 5 out of the 6 World Marathon Majors. I have learned some valuable lessons running these races. There are a few things I wish I could have done differently after having made a couple mistakes and a few things that I recommend you do to maximize your experience. Here are my 6 suggestions on how to enjoy your World Marathon Majors event.
Health & Fitness Expos are a runner’s paradise. They have everything you'll need from socks to 26.2 stickers, foam rollers to Fitbits. Plan on spending an hour at the expo at least. Browse by all the vendors and interact with the experts, pick up some free stuff and play games to win prizes. Buy an extra race shirt or other race souvenirs. Only once has the official race shirt ever fit me and usually I don't like the color or style of the shirt. So I usually buy a second shirt or jacket at the expo. When I ran London, they gave out a “one size fits all” cotton t-shirt to finishers. In Berlin, I missed the email on pre-purchasing a race shirt, so I never got one. My tip would be to buy an extra race shirt at the expo, this way you will have a shirt you like and an extra one just in case your official one gets ruined or lost. Explore what unique items are offered at each expo. For example, in Tokyo I got Tokyo Marathon 2016 logo chopsticks. I was super excited about that. Yes, race expos can be crowded, but that’s part of the fun and excitement. If you don’t like crowds, plan on attending when it might not be so crowded or when everyone is at work during the day or when it first opens. I rushed through the NYC Marathon expo and I regretted it. I missed the opportunity to meet celebrity runners (Bart Yasso or Meb Keflezighi have been known to make an appearance) and I missed certain products that were only offered at the expo, like a Tiffany’s NYC Marathon apple charm bracelet (above). The World Marathon Major expos often bring in big names. Most expos will feature guest speakers (like Olympic athletes or professional runners) or hold informative/educational sessions. Look ahead to see who will be the featured guest or keynote speaker and see if it’s someone you’d be interested in hearing. This is a great opportunity to hear from an elite runner or even possibly meet one & get your picture taken with him or her. (Pictures below from the Tokyo & Berlin Marathon expo. Tokyo Marathon had cookies with the course map on them!)
In my personal opinion and experience, it is difficult to attempt a personal best (personal record) in a World Marathon Major such as New York City or Tokyo where the field size is around 40-50,000 runners. I personally find it difficult to run fast when I’m navigating around other runners who aren’t going the same pace as me. I find that I am zig-zagging the whole time, which adds on mileage and time. The crowds can be overwhelming and exhausting. While I love running larger races, I found that I cannot perform my best with a large field. Another reason to run for fun is so you can see all the sights. When I ran the Tokyo Marathon in 2016, it was the first time I visited Japan. Everything was new to me. I wanted to see the sights and enjoy myself. I took a 26.2 mile tour of Tokyo. I didn’t want to miss a thing. I took pictures along the way and interacted with the crowds. I had the best experience. Another one of my friends was trying to set a personal best and she didn’t remember much from the Tokyo Marathon because she was so focused on her time. She later asked me if she could borrow my pictures to show her friends what the course looked like. If you're traveling half way around the world to run, why not enjoy your experience. You might regret not slowing down to enjoy the journey.
While 4 out of the 6 World Marathon Majors courses are perfect for attempting a PR because they are relatively flat, I still wouldn’t attempt it personally. My suggestion: don’t try to PR in a large race like Tokyo or NYC. Run for fun. Remove any pressure you might place on yourself to run a certain time. Just go out and have fun. Interact with the crowds, give high fives, take candy from the adorable children who are excited to see you, dance and take pictures. Enjoy the energy. Sight-see as you run.
Hello, My name is...
When I ran the Berlin Marathon I felt out of place because most runners wore their countries flag somewhere on them or they carried it with them while they ran the race. I didn't have anything. Consider wearing your countries flag on your shirt or carrying a small flag with you to show your pride. Consider wearing your name on your singlet or bib. I’ve ironed my name on my race singlet so crowds could cheer for me by name. When your race gets difficult at mile 21, you will appreciate spectators cheering for you by name. I loved hearing Londoners cheer for me in their charming British accents: “Well done Jill!” (Pics below from the London, Marine Corps and Berlin Marathons)
No Headphones allowed
The World Marathon Majors attract hundreds of thousands of spectators. It is reported the NYC Marathon attracts around 1 million spectators. That means complete strangers are coming out on a Sunday to cheer for YOU! Volunteers are also taking time to help you run your best race. They are all here for you. You don’t even know them! How cool is that? They might sing for you, bring candy or make a poster with a funny picture or joke or inspirational message for you. Take your headphones out and listen to the music the crowds are making. Hear them cheer for you personally. Feed off of their vibrant energy! No music is required at these races, there is enough entertainment for 26.2 miles.
Capturing your journey from start to finish with pictures is a great way to remember your event for years to come. Take pictures of your city tours (before or after the race) or at the expo. Take pictures along the course if you can. Take your finishers medal with you to major sights or city landmarks. I took my London Marathon finishers medal to Big Ben and Buckingham Palace and took pictures in front of them with my medal on. This is a great way to remember your experience and make the most of it. Plus it will force you to slow down and really enjoy everything. You are running one of the 6 World Marathon Majors! This is a big day. Show your friends and family your accomplishments with your pictures from your race weekend. (Pictures below from the London, Tokyo & Chicago Marathons after and on the course)
Experience the city and culture
As the saying goes: “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”. And I agree. Eat ramen or sushi in Japan, eat deep dish pizza in Chicago or fish 'n chips in London or drink beer and eat bratwurst in Berlin. Go on an architectural boat tour of Chicago or go to a Red Sox game at Fenway. Embrace the city and do all the cheesy tourist stuff that everyone recommends you do. If you’ve traveled far for this race, make sure to make the most of your time before and after your marathon. You might never get this opportunity to run this race again or to travel to that city, make the most of it. If you need tips on where to eat or what to do in Berlin, Chicago & NYC while visiting for the marathon, read my post Highlights of the Berlin, Chicago & NYC Marathons or Highlights of the Tokyo, Boston & London Marathons.
Another extra special way to remember your marathon experience is to purchase the professional marathon photos from the course. It might be a little pricey. Some races allow you to purchase a package ahead of time which might save you some money. The World Marathon Majors are a big deal! Remember your race for years to come with on course pictures.
I hope you have a great time running your World Marathon Majors event. If you're interested in hearing what the best features are of each of the World Marathon Majors, read my post: Runner's Choice Awards: The Best of the World Marathon Majors where I surveyed over 100 World Marathon Major 6 Star Finishers and asked their opinions. Browse through my previous blog posts for more tips on how to make the most of your World Marathon Major or race reports.
Please let me know how your race goes. Feel free to comment below. Follow me on social media as I train and travel the world!