Holidays are usually for loosening the reins on your training regime, but a destination marathon is a great way to tick off a running achievement alongside seeing a new city.
From the kit to pack to the sights to see post-race, there are a few things to consider when booking your place abroad. We spoke to the experts for their top tips to make the most of your destination marathon, including why the Al Mouj Muscat Marathon should be at the top of your list.
1. Consider when you’ll be training
When choosing your marathon, bear in mind when you’ll be training. "I’m running an international marathon in September, so most of my training will be done in summer," explains health and fitness blogger Adrienne LDN. "This suits me as I love running in the heat, but if you’re signing up to a spring marathon, remember that you’ll be training in winter."
If you like to run through cooler months, book Oman’s Al Mouj Muscat Marathon. With the race taking place on January 18th and 19th, you’ll be training through colder weather and crossing the finish line in sunshine thanks to Muscat’s warm winter weather, with an average daytime temperature of 23 degrees celsius.
2. Know your budget
"Know how much you’re prepared to spend and stick to it," Adidas run captain Noel Carrol advises. "If you can, travel out of school holidays and consider a stopover flight. This can also act as a way to have graded acclimatisation to your destination."
3. Stay close to the finish line
Running a marathon is no mean feat. "There is nothing worse than having to navigate a city after a marathon," Charlie Watson (aka @therunnerbeans) notes. "I try to book a hotel within walking distance of the finish line so that I don’t have to battle the crowds on public transport."
Handily there are several plush hotels within metres of the Al Mouj Muscat Marathon's start and finish lines, with something to suit every budget.
4. Be prepared
When it comes to international marathons, it pays to be prepared. "Check whether your race requires a medical certificate," advises marathon runner Matthew Bodkin. "Not many require it but some overseas races ask for it when you pick up you number." It’s also a good idea to check if you’ll need vaccinations or extra medication at your destination.
5. Reduce your jet lag
When you need to be alert, jet lag is an unwelcome adversity. "Travelling westwards is easier to adapt to as you’re going to sleep later than normal," notes Marcus (better known as @themarathonmarcus.) "When travelling east, go to bed and get up gradually earlier several days before you travel to reduce fatigue."
If you're heading to the Al Mouj Muscat Marathon, remember that Oman is an easy six hour flight from London, with regular direct flights and a three-hour time difference, meaning no serious jet lag. Travel in the morning or early afternoon to arrive ready to rest up before your race.
6. Find the start line
The morning of a marathon should be as stress-free as possible, so make finding the start line your priority, keeping road closures and public transport diversions in mind. "There’s nothing worse than traveling all that way and then having a stressful journey to the start line," advises Run Dem Crew founder Charlie Dark.
7. Manage your meals
It’s tempting to succumb to the local cuisine, but leave the culinary exploration until after race day. "Book a few days post-race to sip and eat your way through the region with no worries about your nutrition plan," suggests Matt Dockstader, founder and race director at Destination Races. Oman is well known for its unrivalled hospitality and diverse cuisine, featuring traditional and modern fare from street stalls, cafes and restaurants. It’s a wise idea to check out traditional dishes ahead of time to know what will fit in with your meal plan, but don't miss out tasting halwa (a dessert) with a cup of traditional coffee.
8. Know your course
Search out details about the course you'll be running before booking a destination marathon and ascertain whether the climate and terrain will push you towards a personal best. The Al Mouj Muscat Marathon course is flat with no wind, with beautiful views throughout the marathon and huge support from along the route.
"The marathon itself was great," notes marathon runner Melanie Wilkinson, "the route was really pretty through the golf course and along the sea front. There was a traditional band en route as well as the supporters, and the course was pretty flat so it was good for trying to get a good time in. I managed to get a PB by 18 minutes."
9. Leave the sightseeing until later
Race first, sights later – just ask Jordan Foster, better known as @projectmarathongirl. "The 2017 Paris Marathon was my first abroad and I was excited to run through such a beautiful city. I’d never been to Paris before and wanted to do some sightseeing the day before the race, but I ended up walking for over 10 miles in 20 degree heat. I’m heading to Berlin this September and won’t be making the same mistake again."
If you're looking for a destination marathon with enough sights to make you want to walk off the race, Muscat is a hidden gem in the Middle East. There's scenery for every holidaymaker in the capital, from blue seas to dust-red mountains and sand dunes, flanked by greenery. If you're feeling active, Muscat offers horse riding, watersports, snorkelling, mountain biking and dune bashing.
With both old-world authenticity and modern sights, Muscat also boasts stunning mosques, the oldest souq market in Oman and beautiful camel rides into the desert where you can camp out under the stars.
10. Don’t stay still
"A great way to recover from a race is – ironically – to keep moving," says Becs Gentry. "Walking around a city may feel like the last thing you want to be doing, but sightseeing is a fantastic way to help your body get rid of lactic acid and muscular pain after exerting yourself. If you absolutely have to fly home the same day, set an alarm at least every hour to stand up (the Apple Watch is good for this) and wear compression socks – Nike do a great pair!"
If you're looking to book a destination marathon, there's only one city to consider. Book your race place at the Al Mouj Muscat Marathon here