I am somewhat new to long-distance running. Having professional kayaking as a background I used to have zero time for anything else, really. However, finishing a marathon has long been on my bucket list and, finally, Munich Marathon was my first 42.195km race.
I may be slightly biased in my review, but from experience I truly believe the race was organized very well.
In fact, there are so many emotions and information I’d like to share that I made a bunch of posts. I’ve covered my training program and dramatic account of the race on this blog already. Here I put more practical information for whoever is considering running this race in the future.
Munich marathon takes place on the second Sunday of October. That’s usually a week after Oktoberfest – the traditional Bavarian beer festival lasting 3 weeks.
Not sure if it’s done on purpose or not, but I can imagine it can be hard to resist a beer or two for someone who comes a week early.
October is usually warm in South Germany, but this time the weather on the race morning was rather chilly – just a couple degrees above freezing. However, most of the runners in front were in shorts and light shirts. To be honest, many of them were shivering and some were rubbing a warm-up gel on their thighs.
Later in the day it got much warmer – to around 10 degrees – which is more comfortable for running. I ran the whole marathon in tights and long sleeve shirt and at some point regretted having so much clothes on.
Next time I would wear a shirt or a sweater for the first part of the race and throw away once warm.
Volunteers will pick those up and donate to good causes later.
As with many marathons, there are several prices depending on when one signs up. The closer to the race – the more expensive. I signed up in the middle of summer (around 100 days before) and at that time the price was 85 euros without a shirt (that was additional 35). Signing up in spring would save me 15 euros.
Overall, it’s not the most expensive of marathons (like the New York City marathon), but still quite pricey.
Most races in Germany and many in Europe are tracked using Champion Chip technology and Munich Marathon is no exception. The chip is a small yellow thing that tracks your time which you tie to your shoe with laces.
You can buy it and use in multiple races or, as I did, pay 8 euro to rent for a day. They give the chip at the time of number pick up and you need to remember to tie it up to your shoes before the race yourself. Upon finishing just throw it in a special box and you’re done.
More advanced marathons switched to using a built-in chip in your starting number, but here you still need to use the one in your shoe.
Race number pickup is at the Expo that runs from Friday to early morning of Sunday. At Saturday noon when I came it was quite packed. It took me 20 minutes of waiting just to get my number and the bag of goodies.
The bag was not a keeper, though – it was in light purple color. It also left marks on everything it touched.
Goodies were good, though. A nice neck warmer (that I still use a lot during cold morning runs), some vouchers for nuts, hotels and restaurants, apricots (that I ate right away), liquid for cleaning gore-tex material and anti-blister gel samples. Good catch.
Munich Marathon 2016 race
Now coming to the race itself.
The Munich Marathon course will take you through the city center and the famous park – the English Garden. The park has the same idea as the Central Park in New York. It’s, in fact, considered the biggest urban park in the world.
The further you go into it, the more it starts to represent a forest, though.
The course hasn’t changed throughout the last couple of years. It was the same in 2014/2015 and same announced for 2017. Start and finish of the race are in the Olympic park, but the finish, actually, takes place in the Olympic stadium. So once you’re on the stadium, you still need to do one lap before you finish.
The total change in the altitude is only around 35 meters. It’s mostly due to the large hill just before the HM mark, seen on the elevation plot below.
First 5-7K will take you through the streets of Munich and get you in the English Garden.
It’s good that the park is early in the race. It’s long (~10K) and there are less cheering there.
Once you’re out of the park – beware, there is long hill (around 1.5-2 kilometers) that has taken quite a lot of energy from me. I kept thinking it would soon end, so didn’t drop the pace that much. Don’t do that.
After the hill the fun part starts. At the top there was a band playing and people dancing and as you’ll be approaching HM mark, more and more people will cheer for you. The whole atmosphere was much more exciting than in the park.
After the HM mark the path goes down (also around a kilometer) and has a few lonely turns before you meet spectators again.
At around 28 kilometer mark you run into the very center of the city. It takes you through the central square (Marienplatz) where most of the audience is. At this part of the race the atmosphere is amazing. Everyone is cheering others and you as well.
On your number you have your first name printed and many people cheer for you and call your name – encourage you to keep going.
Last 4-5 kilometers, are quite lonely, unfortunately. You run the same path back to the Olympic park and, as most of the spectators are in the city center, only locals who went for a walk cheer for you. Final kilometers before you get to the Olympic stadium you are on your own, literally. There is nobody, except fellow runners, cheering for you.
Fueling and pacers
As in most marathons pacers are there for finish times of 3:00, 3:15, 3:30 and so on. You can always estimate where you are even without a GPS device on you.
The fueling during the race was great. After the first 5K there were water stations and iso drink stations every 2.5 – 3 kilometers (first station with water, next one with iso drink). Additionally, there were gels given at 14 and 28 kilometers. After 28K mark, every second station had energy bars and bananas (both split in approx. 1/3 pieces).
Once you crossed the finish line and got your finisher’s medal – you’re in paradise. Or a candy shop. Or both. There are by tons of all-you-can-drink fluids (water, juice, protein milk, alcohol-free beer) and lots of food and snacks (cakes, protein and fitness bars, bread). I didn’t stay there for as long as I would want to, however. Just enough to drink a bit and eat some cakes to get some strength before handing in my chip and getting out.
If you want to stay longer, though – you can get some blankets to cover yourself from the wind and have a nice party there.
Once ready to go, there is just one tiny thing remaining. The finish is below the stadium entry point, so to get out you will need to walk up the stairs. It’s like a cherry on top from organizers.
One last thing. Approximately 1 week after your race you’ll get an email with a link to your photos. Turned out they took pictures of all runners throughout the race. With a software they tagged each picture to runners’ numbers and sell packs of photos and finish video for 10 – 15 euros.
Overall, the organization was perfect – I enjoyed it to the fullest. I would totally do it one more time, but at least for next year I will still look for some other place to go.