For runners, international marathons are the jewel in the crown of racing. Running the closed roads of an iconic city is a feeling like no other and can be hugely emotional for some. Read on to find out everything you need to know if you’re planning to run a destination marathon like New York, Boston, Paris, or Berlin. With expert insight from Sarah Boyd, Product Manager at Destination Sport Experiences, who has worked in adventure travel for several years and knows all the insider info when it comes to bucket list races.
How to choose a destination race
You may already have one or two races in mind that are top of your list, but choosing a destination race has a lot of considerations. Sarah advises, “When considering an international event, it's important to firstly determine what you wish to get out of it. What are your individual goals? From there you can determine what, if any, limitations there might be to register - either at the destination or when first registering for the event.”
Some European races, such as the Paris Marathon, require a signed medical certificate for all participants. This is something to be aware of during your planning phase - some doctors charge for it while some will sign it for free. Some international marathons, like London or New York, work on a ballot system for entry. But we’ll get onto that later.
What to pack for an international marathon
Sarah advises, “It’s important to follow the same protocols you would for any trip abroad, such as checking you have the correct travel documents and insurance, which follow the entry requirements for the country you are visiting.”
Packing can be an art form when incorporating physical activity. You’ll need to think about everything you need for your race such as running clothes, shoes, hydration, and nutrition. Most foreign countries won’t have the same food and drink as you’re used to using in training, so a useful tip is to take everything with you so there are no surprises. If you are planning to use whatever is available at the aid stations, you can usually research in advance what will be available on the event website.
International Marathon Packing List
- Running top
- Running shorts or running leggings
- Running shoes
- Running socks
- Energy gels - the same brand you use for all your training runs
- Headphones - if allowed at your race
- Insurance documents
- Medical certificate (if needed)
Entry requirements for world marathons
Different international marathons have different entry requirements, and the World Marathon Majors are some of the most difficult to get into. The varying levels of difficulty may influence your decision on which international marathons you wish to run.
Boston Marathon Entry Requirements
The Boston Marathon is one of the most unique in the world as it requires a Qualifying Time (known as a BQ) in order to gain entry. This time is ‘Good For Age’ and is very challenging and competitive, so you’ll need to be a competent runner in order to get in. For example, a man between the ages of 18-34 will need to be able to run a 3-hour marathon in order to qualify. With that said, the good news is that if you are a slower runner and you are not American, you can gain entry through a tour company by booking your race entry with a hotel stay.
New York Marathon Entry Requirements
The New York Marathon has various entry methods, including a ballot and qualifying times. A new process for 2022 has been introduced called the 9+1 method. You can guarantee entry if you run 9 pre-specified qualifying races and volunteer at a qualifying opportunity. The New York marathon is also one of the most expensive in the world, with New York residents paying around $200 for entry and international runners looking to pay over $350 for entry.
Berlin Marathon Entry Requirements
European marathons are generally easier to enter than ones in the USA, and Berlin is no exception. The Berlin Marathon operates a lottery system or you can run for charity, much like London. Berlin is one of the World Marathon Majors and as such is a very desirable race for many runners. If you’d like to guarantee your entry and not have to worry about gaining entry through the ballot or raising money for charity, you can guarantee entry by booking through a tour operator with a hotel stay.
Paris Marathon Entry Requirements
Paris is currently one of the easiest international marathons to enter as you can simply pay your fee and you’re in. So long as you get in early enough, there is no ballot and you don’t have to raise money for a charity. The Paris Marathon also has one of the fairest entry prices, at under €100.
Marathon travel tips
Scenic marathons may be breathtaking and life-changing, but there is a lot to think about when running abroad. Sarah says, “Elevation and altitude can affect performance. If you are travelling long-haul, it’s advisable to arrive a few days before race day so that you can acclimatise to any changes that may affect your body such as altitude, humidity or jet lag.”
Running a marathon abroad can be one of the best ways to see a new city. Sarah says, “Destination marathons can be a great way to explore a new country and see some fascinating sights and areas of natural beauty. It can also be an interesting way to engage with local communities and other like-minded individuals. This can be especially beneficial for solo travellers looking to enjoy the experience with others.”
Marathons have the unique ability to generate a hugely vibrant atmosphere. If you mix that with the adrenaline from the race and the excitement of being somewhere new and exciting, it can be a truly unforgettable experience.
About the author: Alex Parren is a Freelance Health & Fitness writer as well as a qualified Personal Trainer and Nutritionist.