How to plan for a destination marathon

lisbon marathon

I’m so excited to finally be signed up to run the Edinburgh marathon next year. Not only because I love running marathons, and the opportunity of maybe getting a new PB, but also because I’ve never been to Edinburgh before. When deciding on which marathon to run I often try and choose races in countries or cities that I’ve never visited, as it gives me the perfect opportunity to travel and explore somewhere completely new, as well as getting a finishers medal as a truly unique and special souvenir from my trip. 

I could write a whole post about how amazing destination marathons are (a future post maybe!), but in this post I’ve decided to share my tips on how to plan for a destination marathon. 

Choosing the destination 


The first, and probably most important, part of planning a destination marathon is choosing which one you want to do. There are now so many half and full marathons taking place in cities across the world it can be difficult to actually pick just one to go to. 

If this is your first destination marathon and you’ve not got a lot of running experience, my advice would be to choose one closer to home – this doesn’t have to be the same country, just somewhere that doesn’t involve a long haul flight. Whatever running experience you have, if you’re a confident traveller, going to a country you’ve never been to before to run a race can be a fun way to discover the culture and people. Also, if you are thinking about a race abroad, the bigger races in touristy cities tend to be very well organised and equipped to deal with overseas runners who may not speak the local language. 

Booking your race hotel


Once you’ve decided on the destination, next you need to book your hotel. Booking a hotel as early as possible is really important, especially for large marathons taking place in popular tourist cities, as accommodation can quickly get booked up. In fact, I booked my accommodation for Edinburgh months before I actually signed up for the race, just to make sure I got the hotel I wanted. Before booking the hotel I will usually research where the start is and make sure I book somewhere that is within easy travelling distance. For races in Britain I often travel alone and usually try and choose a Premier Inn, mainly because I know they are safe, clean, and quiet – everything I need for a race hotel. If travelling abroad, I will try and choose one that also meets these requirements, but I usually have to do more research to find the right one. 

Packing for a destination marathon 

lisbon marathon finish

Deciding what to pack can be a nightmare for any type of travelling, but when travelling to run a marathon it can be even worse. Learning from experience, I always take a lot of running clothes with me when I’m packing as the weather can change at any moment. I found this out when the day before the Yorkshire Marathon the weather forecast changed from cold but sunny to cold and heavy rain, which I hadn’t packed for and made the marathon even more challenging than simply running 26.2 miles. Another packing tip I’ve learnt from experience is – if you’re travelling abroad and taking energy gels in your hand luggage remember that they count as liquid so you will be restricted with the amount you can take onto the plane.  

Race day 

barcelona marathon start

Race day mornings are always a nervous time, so ensure that you have everything you need prepared and set out the night before so you’re not having to rush around trying to find energy gels and running socks hours before the race. It is also a good idea to have your race day breakfast plans prepared – if it’s a late race eating in the hotel is probably the best option, but for early races having something that can be made in the room before leaving usually works for me (I tend to always pack porridge pots that can be made with boiling water just in case). If you are using public transport make sure you leave enough time for unexpected events like delays or overcrowding. Once you are at the race start, finding the toilets, baggage drop and start line are normally my priorities. As well as this, if you are travelling with friends or family have a meet up point already arranged before the race as getting mobile signals at the finish line can often be difficult. 

Destination marathons are a great opportunity to run a marathon and explore somewhere new in a completely unique way and, as long as you get the planning right, they can be a fun and unforgettable experience. 


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