Destination marathons are an excellent way to set a goal, and at the same time, reward yourself with a weekend or extended getaway. There are those of you who can travel with ease and don’t get stressed out, and then there are people like me who don’t travel very well.
At Racertrips, we know how important it is to find the right hotel, guest suite, or rental condo. That’s why each of our marathon travel guides feature hotels and accommodations that have been vetted by Racertrips Ambassadors. After all, who knows better than fellow marathoners and half marathoners what’s important during race weekend?
If you’re planning a destination race, here are our seven tips for narrowing down the list of hotels recommended by Racertrips’ Ambassadors or for choosing the best place to stay in a city where we don’t yet have a travel guide.
Tip #1: Close to the Race or a Little Removed?
Finding a hotel next to the starting or finishing line might be at the top of your priority list. After all, it makes it really convenient come race morning or once you’ve crossed the finish line. But if you’re attending a major race like the Chicago Marathon or the Boston Marathon, it will also cost more to stay where all the action is. And depending on your personality, all the hustle and bustle of race morning might make staying close by more stressful than staying a little farther away. In big cities, finding a cab, Lyft or Uber or taking mass transit to the venue is often easy and can give you some freedom to stay in an interesting, quieter and less expensive part of town.
(Note: We highly recommend researching your race day transportation options before you book your hotel. In some cities, the trains don’t operate early enough to get you to the starting line. This is the kind of information you can find in our Racertrips marathon travel guides!)
Tip #2: Location, Location, Location
Not only do you want to choose a hotel that is the right distance from the race for your tastes, you also want to consider the safety of the location. Don’t assume that if you get a hotel downtown that it’s going to be in a safe area. In many big cities, neighborhoods can get pretty sketchy very quickly, and that can be dangerous. Even if the pictures of the hotel online look fabulous and new, make sure to investigate the area. Safety first when you are a traveler to a new city!
Tip #3: Loud Street or Quaint and Quiet?
What type of feel do you want both pre- and post- race day? If you are someone who gains energy from the atmosphere around you, then a loud street it is. But if you find noise and crowds draining, then quaint and quiet might be more your speed. Before you choose your hotel, know what type of environment the location has. Busy bar districts are obviously going to be much different from a little tucked away boutique hotel that has a spa.
You also want to consider the type of building you want to stay in. If you are sensitive to noise, you may want to steer clear of the B&B in an historical mansion or the new boutique hotel with all hardwood flooring. Think about the noise from guests in the room above yours or those who aren’t running and come clomping home from the bars at 2 am.
Tip #4: Find a Hotel Big Enough for the Group
One of the biggest things that will help you on race day is getting enough sleep so that you aren’t dragging your feet. If you are like me and have a hard time sleeping outside the comfort of your own bed, then finding the right hotel is going to be key! Even if you’re traveling with just one more person, make sure the room is big enough. “Double occupancy” in some city hotels means only a queen or king bed, not necessarily two beds. For families or groups of more than two, choose a hotel that has suites or adjoining rooms, or consider apartment and condo rentals through companies like Airbnb, VRBO or HomeAway. Sure, it might just be two nights, but they are going to be long nights if you’re too close for comfort. You don’t want to show up at the starting line feeling as if you’ve already run a marathon!
Tip #5: Stiffness Won’t Work
“What’s the big deal? It’s just a mattress!” Have you ever tried to run a mile with a “crick in your neck,” let alone an entire 26.2-miles? It’s okay to be picky when you’re deciding where to stay the night before your big race. It might seem like overkill, but once you narrow your options down to a handful of choices, it is worth calling and asking about their beds. Many higher-end hotels will have mattress upgrades that make it less likely that you’ll wake up with a stiff neck because of an uncomfortable mattress. So yes, the mattress really does matter!
Tip #6: Pre- and Post-Race Amenities
Do you have an entire pre-race routine that you need to adhere to, such as fueling yourself with hot oatmeal and a banana? Or maybe you need a strong cup of coffee to get going marathon morning? If so, consider what amenities you need in your room to make that happen, such as a coffee maker and microwave. Maybe you have a late flight the day after the marathon and want a late checkout. Will the hotel accommodate you?
And then there’s the post-race plan to consider. Are you traveling just for the race, or are you looking for more of a “getaway” weekend? Nothing would be better for unwinding after a marathon than a hot tub or massage! High-end hotels might cost a bit more, but many also offer upgrades like spa services and massages. Even room service might seem like a luxurious indulgence after 26.2 miles!
Consider the amenities you’d like pre- and post-race and see which lodging and accommodations make the cut for your budget.
Tip #7: Photographers Get Paid to Make Things Look Nice!
When researching your race weekend hotel online, keep one thing in mind: Photographers get paid to make things look spectacular. No hotel is going to show you their worst room! Before choosing by photos alone, read reviews and try to prevent any unpleasant surprises. (And check out the hotel recommendations from Racertrips’ Ambassadors!) There is nothing worse than assuming you’re booking a five-star hotel and you show up to find it barely qualifies for two stars. If the race has maximum participation and you book a room that is disgusting, you will probably be stuck. Chances are good that the other reputable hotels in the city will be sold out. That can put a real damper on your race before you even get started!
Before you indiscriminately start choosing a hotel for race day, take all things into consideration. Where you stay might seem inconsequential, but if you want all of your hard work to pay off and beat your best time, a good night’s rest, less stress, and less crowding are essential.
Julie is a lifelong runner, as well as a writer, a wife and the mother of six. Throughout the many challenges she has faced, the one thing she could always turn to was running, which is where she finds solace and healing. Ironically, it is when she runs until she can’t run anymore and feels empty, that she finds peace. Julie became a writer more than a decade ago when she wrote an ongoing blog for her first husband, who was dying of pancreatic cancer. She realized that she loved writing as much as she does running, and it became her life.