I wanted to run a marathon for as long as I can remember. I used to train professionally in kayaking and even though I ran occasionally (mostly in Autumn), I couldn’t allow myself to take on the whole marathon journey. I would have to substitute my time in the boat with running (plus the added fatigue of the new sport) – all of which would decrease my performance. So not then.
But back to now.
I’ve started running more frequently to keep myself fit after I put my kayaking practice on hold and thought the time has finally came to complete the marathon. I’ve applied for the Munich Marathon 2016 race, as I am currently located in Munich and that would be good for logistics.
I’ve already covered my feelings right after completing the marathon in this post and my whole preparation for it in this series of posts. This post covers more practical information for whoever is considering running this race in the future.
The race itself took place on Sunday, October 9. I am still not sure if that’s intentional or not, but the race is basically one week after the end of Oktoberfest – the traditional Bavarian beer festival that lasts 3 weeks. It was quite hard for me to resist the temptation to go partying – instead I had to focus on recovery and taper.
In the morning of the race the weather was rather chilly – just a couple degrees above freezing – yet I saw many people before the start in shorts and light shirts. To be honest, some of them were rubbing a warm-up gel on their thighs, which explains why they were not as cold as I was.
Later in the day it got much warmer – about 8-10 degrees – which is quite comfortable for running. I ran in tights and long sleeve shirt the whole marathon and at some point regretted to have so much clothes on. Word of advice – take a long shirt or a sweater that you don’t need to keep you warm for the first couple of kilometers. You can throw that out – it will be picked up and donated to good causes later.
Some things to note before signing up for the race:
First, as with all marathons there are several prices depending on when you sign up. I signed up in the middle of summer (around 100 days before) and for me the price was around 85 euros without a shirt (that would cost additional 35). If you sign up early (in Spring), you will save additional 15 euros and pay only 70. Overall, it’s not the most expensive of marathons (like NYC with around 300-350 euros), but at the same time not the cheapest.
Another thing to note is that most races in Germany and many in Europe are tracked using Champion Chip technology. It’s a small thing that you tie to your shoe using laces that tracks your time. More advanced marathons switched to using a built-in chip in your starting number, but here you still need to use the in your shoe. It’s possible to buy one and use in multiple races or, as I did, pay 8 euro to rent it for a day (you just throw it in a clearly marked box after you finish).
If you’re running the half marathon, note that the start of half marathon takes place in the midpoint of the marathon which is on the other side of the city (sort of). You can hand over your bags there and they will be transported to the finish at the Olympic stadium. Quite convenient.
If you need to warm up before the race, there is a traditional run that that takes place the day before – around 4 kilometers. I did not take part in that one, but basically, you are encouraged to run in your (or any other) country’s traditional costume – Bavarian dirndl or lederhosen, Scottish kilt, Japanese kimono or whatever you have. The route takes you through the Olympic park and is followed by a traditional Bavarian breakfast – a pair of white sausages salty pretzel and, possibly, beer. Another 9 euros for that – cha ching.
Race number pickup take place during the Expo that runs from Friday to early morning of Sunday. I came at noon on a Saturday and it was quite packed – I queued for around 20 minutes before getting my number and the bag of goodies.
Unfortunately, the bag was more of a disposable bag in bright purple color that colors everything what it touches. For comparison, all who ran Riga Marathon got proper stylish bags to carry your stuff not only to the market to buy some food.
On the other hand, in the bag there was a nice neck beanie (that I use a lot during cold morning runs) some vouchers for nuts, hotels, restaurants, apricots (that I ate the same day), liquid for cleaning gore-tex material and anti-blister gel samples. So all in all – good catch.
Munich Marathon 2016
Now coming to the race itself. The course takes you through the city center and part of Munich’s famous English Garden. The park has the same idea as the Central Park in New York (being the largest park in the world), however the further you go into it, the more it starts to represent a forest.
The course hasn’t changed throughout the last couple of years – same in 2014/2015 and also same announced for 2017. Both 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 and mostly is due to the large hill just before the HM mark. I’ve included the elevation plot from my Garmin below.
First 5-7 kilometers will take you through the streets of Munich and then the park starts that lasts around 10K. It’s quite good that the park is early in the race, as there are less spectators and to me, at least, it was harder to keep pace and was more boring.
Once you’re out of the park – beware, there is long hill (around 1.5-2 kilometers) that has taken quite a lot of effort from me. I kept thinking it would soon end, so neglected to drop the pace and take it easy.
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 be there and the whole atmosphere will be much more exciting.
After the HM mark there is a long way down (also around a kilometer), followed by some lonely turns before you finally get in the center of action. At around 28 kilometer mark you run into the very center of the city and, ultimately, through the city’s central square where the most of the audience is. Once you get to this part of the race the atmosphere is amazing. Everyone is cheering others and you as well. Also, 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, though, are quite lonely. 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. Last kilometer before you get to the Olympic stadium you are on your own, literally. There is nobody, except fellow runners, cheering for you.
The good thing is that thanks to pace-keepers you can always estimate where you are if you don’t have a GPS device on you. Pace-keepers run for times of 3:00, 3:15, 3:30 and so on.
Finally, about the fueling during the race. It was perfect – after first 5 kilometers 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 and after 28, every second station had energy bars and bananas (both split in approx. 1/3 pieces).
Once you did it – crossed the finish line and got your finisher’s medal – you’re in paradise. Or a candy shop. Or both. You’re surrounded by tons of 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, just enough to drink a bit and eat some cakes to get some strength before handing in my chip and go 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 you’re ready to go, there is just one tiny thing remaining. The stadium is located slightly below the entry point, so to get out you will need to walk up the stairs around 70 steps – a nice 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 all of the participants were photographed quite a lot throughout the race and you can get a pack of around 5-10 photos of you and the video of your finish for some 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.