Monday, October 22, 2012

Traveling To A Marathon

With the Detroit Free Press Marathon taking place this weekend in my backyard, it reminded me of how convenient it is to have the start line be twenty minutes from your door.  I could feel the pre-race excitement and anxiety in the air on Saturday night, and the fact that the marathon was taking place nearby never escaped my conscious all Sunday morning.

There's something comforting about sleeping in your own bed the night before a marathon, pooping in your own pot, and having your own kitchen to make the prerace fuel.

But traveling to a marathon probably gives the experience the respect it deserves.  A marathon takes you to some strange mental, spiritual, physical, and emotional places after all, you may as well be  experiencing it somewhere foreign.

This raises forth all sorts of marathon travel questions.

My experience traveling to events isn't huge like some others. I have done Chicago three times, Boston once, and Grand rapids once, all of them being wrapped around a weekend where I either drove for hours and stayed in a hotel or had to fly.  And New York is another marathon destination and just 13 days aways.

Here's my two cents about traveling to a marathon.

Limit your walking
*Try to be careful not to spend to much time on your feet. Heck, just getting to the expo can take some major effort. And if you're in a big city with the whole world at your feet, it's hard not to use them (your feet, that is) and go to all the neat places

Remember, you'll be seeing much of the city during your run, and through the unique eyes of one in the middle of an ecstatic marathon run.

Not going full tilt tourist means some negotiating with support crew who are traveling with you, and setting an itinerary which doesn't include miles of walking.  Yes, you'll need a supportive spouse who understands you may want to sit on your arse instead of walking too much.  My wife has gone to Boston, Chicago three times, and Grand Rapids, but this year we are bringing our 8 year old to New York, so I'm somewhere in between wanted to soak in the city but limit the walking so that I'm fully ready to rock marathon morning.

Of course, if time isn't a factor at all, ignore the above, but it is still plenty easy to make your run less rewarding by using your legs too much the days before.

* Finding a place to stay~
Unlike some other folks,  I like to avoid runners. Something about seeing them all over the place just makes me think too much about the race on the next day rather than be in the moment, so I don't feel the need to stay real close to the action.  And when prices are way too high, I recommend a sight called  I have used the site more than once to either rent rooms, condos, or to just do a bed and breakfast deal.  In Boston, I saved 400 dollars easy and got a more authentic experience by staying in a cool neighborhood.

For New York, I'm staying in this cool George Jetson looking room.
My hotel room in mid-town Manhatten. Yep, that's a bunk bed uptop.

Tourist trap
As for the expo, I like to get in and out, with minimal nonsense.

My first huge expo was a sight to behold, but now they make me claustrophobic. I feel trapped, the noise aggravates my brain and I can't take it.  Funny, I am much more comfortable with these same people packed together in the starting chute where we were meant to be, instead of bumbling consumers running this way and that, smashing into each other with bags of swag. Makes more sense for us to be in our natural running state, all running in the same direction, working in a single sweet line of flow instead of like a bunch of ants on a smashed ant hill.

Bring your stash
I'm for bringing all the needed gu, body glide, s-caps, and any other elixirs or potions you use for the race, rather than expect to find it at the expo.  My last marathon in Ann Arbor actually had 'no body glide' at the expo. Argghhh! What's up with that? Of course, a large expo would have this, but 'one less thing you have to remember. 

What to wear?
As for race day gear, I Bring lots of running clothes, more than just one set.

If you're the neurotic runner like I am, you start checking the 10 day forecast on the weather channel 12 days ahead of time, and continue to check it every five minutes, looking at temp, wind, humidity, rain percentage, and the all important map in motion, so you should have a good idea  what the weather will be like.

But the forecast can change in a flash. Therefore, I bring 3 sets of running gear; one for a bit colder than expected, one for a bit warmer than expected, and of course what to wear if the weatherman is actually correct. That way there's about a 40 degree temp range covered.

Drive the course?
I know some runners who like to drive the course before running it, but that's not me.  It  feels intimidating to take an hour drive just to navigate the course that I am then supposed to run.  It eliminates the ability to lie to myself, and I don't want to lose my illusions that 26.2 isn't that far.  I do like to know landmarks to look for, especially famous ones like the Citgo sign in Boston, and I also try to memorize exactly where any big hills begin and end. 

Packing food
I  plan on there being no food in the city for the morning of the marathon, and I have my marathon morning breakfast packed. Of course, there usually is something there, but I pack exactly what I want  just in case.  You don't want to grab a frozen snickers bar and a miller lite from the mini-bar. (cause, you know, that would cost $85.99 or something)

Planning prerace meals.
Scope  something out for the pre-race carb-loading meal the night before and make reservations in advance.  My first time doing Chicago, my wife and I walked the streets looking for a restaurant to take us.  There was none to be found, so we wondered back to the hotel and ate cardboard pizza.  This time I am a bit smarter, and we have reservations at a place in Little Italy the night before at Sal's Pizza.

The Sals in Little Italy. Reservations for 3.
Just Do The Right Thing
I'm dying to walk into Sals Restaurant, look at the photos on the wall, and scream "Hey Sal, why don't' you have any pictures of brothers on the wall?"  It is sure to start a race riot.
(A Spike Lee "Do The Right Thing" reference)

The Sals from 'Do The Right Thing'

"Hey Sal, How Come There Are No Brothers On The Wall?"
Radio Raheem understands the perpetual battle between Love And Hate.

Happy trails.


SupermomE13 said...

the NYC expo is pretty awesome. :) Actually the whole weekend experience is. I hope you have a great time in my city and I look forward to seeing you!

Vaudiophile said...

No body glide in Ann Arbor? What about Run Guard? They make that stuff there, you'd think they'd at least have that. There was a $15 tour of the marathon path at Detroit available, but I had no desire to see it beforehand. DxA2 (at the time, only my 2nd halfer) intimidated me a lot when they bus you out to the start. Driving the Detroit course would have been way too intimidating.

Mark Matthews said...

Thanks Erin. Hope to see you in the Orange Corral, or if you run slow enough, the finishers area.

Mark Matthews said...

Vaseline. A little dab will do.

Anonymous said...

Where is the story of you? Finding your way out, etc... Am I missing it??

Cait the Arty Runnerchick said...

these are GREAT tips and i can only imagine how much more stressful travel is when u've got a full marathon to race. i don't like travel before even a puny 5k or 10k. at least for those u can walk the course the day before, i guess for a marathon i'd be the dork to drive it. :P and learning the hard way about pre-race eats stinks...but now u've got the Sal's hook-up!

Stokercon 2024 in San Diego

 Spent last weekend in San Diego at Stokercon. What a fantastic time. Multiple panels, many conversations. Laughs, tears, books, conversatio...