It’s marathon season, which means time for runners to book hotels. Actually, it’s late September, which means marathon accommodations will be hard to find in many cities. If you’re running and haven’t booked your stay yet, get on that.
Over the years I’ve noticed varying levels of preparedness among hotel staff on marathon weekends. Some hotels cater to a marathoner’s every need, while others seem surprised to learn there is a marathon in town–especially surprising when 2/3 of the guests are probably there to run.
In the interest of improving accommodations for marathoners everywhere, and to help you hoteliers satisfy your customers and make more money, I’ve put together a quick list of ways you can better serve your marathon guests, in order of descending importance.
- Rule 1: Offer an extended check-out. Marathons generally start around 7 or 8 AM and take 3-6 hours, depending on a runner’s ability level. With wave starts, slower runners start later than faster runners–sometimes, as at the New York City Marathon, hours later. Bad weather can occasionally delay a start, and blisters and minor injuries can slow a runner’s time. Factor in time to travel from the finish back to your hotel and grab a quick shower before leaving, and your 11 AM checkout isn’t going to cut it. I’ve seen hotels offer extended checkout as late as 3 PM, but even just extending until 1:00 will accommodate most runners. On the other hand I’ve encountered hotel managers who refuse to extend checkout, which is a quick way to piss off marathoners and ensure they’ll never come back.
- Rule 2: Open your cafe early. It takes time to be ready for a marathon: Time to get dressed, time to get to the start area, and time to complete morning rituals, including the “biologically necessary.” If a race begins at 7 AM, you’re going to see runners looking for their morning coffee and a light breakfast starting around 5 AM. If you want to be of service–and make a lot of money–make sure your cafe is open early and stocks plenty of coffee and fresh fruit.
- Rule 3: Know where the start line is, and be prepared to give directions. Road closures for big races mean it’s often impossible, or at least very difficult, to drive or get a taxi to the start line. This means you’ll have a lot of guests stopping by the day before the marathon (or sometimes the morning of) to ask the fastest route to the race. Make sure your staff know the way. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to pre-prepare maps with the route marked, or even to offer a shuttle to the start if circumstances permit.
- Rule 4: Know thy pasta restaurants. The night before a marathon, your city will be invaded by tens of thousands of people all seeking the same thing: An early pasta dinner. Italian restaurants will book out weeks in advance, pizza joints will be backlogged, and your guests will want to know where they can go without a reservation. If you have a restaurant in your hotel, you should be serving pasta that night–nothing fancy, just regular white spaghetti with red sauce will do. If you can offer pasta via room service, even better. At the very least, have a list of 5 or so pasta restaurants within walking distance.
- Rule 5: Stock some provisions. Here’s a quick list of things your concierge desk or convenience stand should have on-hand and in significant quantities: Small safety pins, sewing kits, athletic shoelaces, small tubs of vaseline, sunblock, aspirin and ibuprofen, Immodium, and band-aids. If you want to carry more running-specific needs, like Body Glide, it’s probably not a bad idea. Make sure your guests know you have these things on-hand so they don’t go elsewhere for their needs–and it might not hurt to couple pairs of sunglasses or sets of headphones on hand for sale.
- Rule 6: Free WiFi. This is not really a running-specific rule, although marathoners are likely to be online planning their route, studying the course, and checking results the day of the race. Really though, this is just a general rule. If you’re still charging your guests for WiFi it’s time to rethink your policies, Stalin.
Read and obey these rules, and I promise you’ll have a hotel full of happy marathoners who will not only turn into repeat customers, they’ll recommend your hotel to other runners too.
Readers, if you’re a marathoner and you have suggestions you think I forgot, feel free to add them in the comments.