Marathon of Marathons Dilemma - 6 Abbott World Major Marathons to Race in 6 Weeks

Marathon of Marathons Dilemma -  6 Abbott World Major Marathons to Race in 6 Weeks
Gulsum Ozturk Rustemoglu
April 1, 2021

When the marathon community heard about the Abbott World Major Marathons 2021 calendar, many were caught by surprise. Half of them expressed unhappiness about the dates, while others accepted it due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, some didn’t care. At the end of the day, runners are now faced with making their own tough choices, priorities, and plans if they want to run a marathon as a hobby or physically challenge themselves. Combine this with being an international runner, life can get very messy pretty quickly, especially when considering COVID-19 protocols. As if this wasn’t tough enough, we also now have a planned Virtual and Live Boston race as well. But, we all have to play with the cards we’re dealt. It now comes down to picking the one that’s the best logistically doable and most viable. It’s not necessarily about running the race you have always dreamt about. Otherwise, you might end up wasting time, money, and hours of training on a marathon that might not happen.

Let's take a closer look at the first two Abbott World Majors on the calendar. The Berlin and London Marathons occur precisely six months from the date of this blog post. That means many runners should already be starting their training program if they want to finish the race in a decent time. Some of the critical factors to consider before deciding which race to travel to include:

- International travel restrictions. Are you allowed to travel to the UK or Germany, or is your country listed on the "red flag COVID list?” Anything can change in the next six months, so keep in mind that we are not only dealing with the COVID recovery period but also constantly fluctuating unknowns despite the current trends being optimistic.

- Assessing the current vaccination rate and best projections by fall. According to the latest available data shown on our map*, Germany and Tokyo are seen as the countries with the lowest vaccination rate. Would you feel comfortable running a marathon in these locations? You have to decide between competing against potential COVID carriers and your desire to run that specific race. Is it critical enough? We’re not fully in the clear in 2021, and still can’t freely run marathon races. Are you vaccinated before your travel? This assessment is key in making complex travel and marathon training plans.

- The significant financial burden if you need to quarantine for 14 days. That means not only 14 days of extra accommodation that you would have to pay for, but logistics for a good taper period. To perform well in a race, you require a rested and nutritional taper in the weeks leading up to the race. Stressing over a series of complicated logistics will also affect your race day mood and peace of mind.

- The impacts of a 14-day quarantine on your job. Will you be able to perform your job remotely or internationally? In the end, you all have to survive by maintaining your employment or living means. You don't want to be telling your HR manager that you have to spend more time out of the office because you’re running a marathon and need to take an extra 14 days off to quarantine. Even though you might achieve a personal record at the race, you might not have a job to pay the bills afterward. Unless you’re an elite athlete or work in the running industry, nobody earns their livelihood by racing marathons. You’ll need to ask yourself if it’s worth the risk.

- Determining the importance of racing in 2021 or if waiting until next year is a better alternative. One crucial detail to note is that the Abbott Wanda Age Group World Championship race in the London Marathon is not deferable as it was at the onset of COVID. If you are a participant, October 3 is your only chance to run if the race occurs.

Now, let's take a look at the world's very first back-to-back World Major Marathon challenge! The Chicago and Boston Marathons are scheduled to occur on October 10 and 11. Are you planning to run only one of them? Or are you one of the lucky few that have a race entry for both world majors? If so, running the Chicago Marathon and then the Boston Marathon in less than 24 hours is logistically much more complicated than running the two marathons.

The distance from Chicago to Boston is approximately 867 miles, and the direct flight time is about one hour and 48 min. This might sound doable in a regular setting within 24 hours of time. But let us assume for the sake of calculation that a Chicago marathon runner starts running around 9AM and finishes in a modest time of four hours. This will make it 1PM by the time the runner crosses the finish line, exit the race area, and clean themselves up. Then we need to add another two hours to allow the runner to get to the nearest airport. The earliest they’ll reach O'Hare Airport is 3PM. Assuming the runner arranged a 6 PM flight to Boston, the runner will land in the city by 9:30PM, depending upon connecting flights. There is also a one-hour time difference between Chicago and Boston, meaning the runner will get less sleep. If they have traveled from a foreign country or a west coast state, there are additional time zone adjustments that need to be made. Let’s assume the runner gets to their hotel by 10PM. They’re well-nourished and can fall asleep immediately. The runner will only get six hours of sleep before getting ready for the Boston Marathon bus ride, regardless of the race's start time. 

Even reading this schedule is scary, isn't it? Overall, the logistics are complicated:

  • After completing one marathon, you won’t get enough rest as you’re rushing to the airport
  • There’s a financial burden of finding the most suitable direct flight and the nearest hotel at the start or finish line
  • You need to manage the time zone differences
  • You will have to pack two different pairs of race gear
  • There is significant nutritional planning, particularly after the first marathon
  • There’s a risk of a weaker immune system
  • You’ll need to adapt to varying climates in two different states within a 24-hour period
  • There’s mental and emotional stress that increases as you get closer to race day

Tokyo Marathon (October 17)

While the Tokyo Olympics is scheduled to occur in summer, data clearly shows that Japan has the lowest vaccination rate. Observing Tokyo Olympics in summer, will give us better indication about the Tokyo Marathon. In 2020, the Tokyo Marathon was held only for elite marathoners, and currently the plan is to open up the race to maximum 27,000 global runners as opposed to 38,000 runners in the past. However, race details are currently not available.

New York Marathon (November 7)

The New York Marathon, the world's largest marathon used to include over 50,000 marathoners annually. At the time this blog post is written, the New York Marathon has not announced a firm decision about the 2021 race despite a tentative November 7 date being posted on the website. Compared to other events, New York is playing it safe and not creating any hype or excitement among anxious global marathoners. 

There are many individuals that aspire to run at least one marathon in their lifetime. A lot of people believe running a distance of 26.2 miles, and training for it is the hardest part. In 2021, the logistics, predicting the possibility of a race occurring, the Boston Marathon field size, cut-off times, travel complications, charitable efforts, as well as managing work and family commitments are really the hardest components of it all. It seems like running the actual marathon live is a piece of cake in post-Covid era, isn't it!


* If any data inaccuracy exists, please feel free to inform us. We have done our best to capture the latest publicly available data as accurately as possible.  

 * Read our other blog posts here or join our Strava or Facebook group or follow us on our Facebook page to stay connected with endurance oriented athletes globally.


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