Destinations Marathons

6 Things I Look For In A Marathon Hotel

I have been getting some questions lately about what I look for in a race hotel, so I dug this one up from August (before I was on BoardingArea) to give the answers to everyone!

I am not a picky person. I really am not that hard to please when it comes to a hotel stay. My two biggest wants are a bed and a secure lock for the door. 🙂 However, there are a few things that I look for in a marathon hotel. To be clear, I am not talking about a race-sanctioned marathon hotel but a hotel that I use for a marathon.

6 Things I Look for in a Marathon Hotel

I am staying at the Park Inn Island hotel in Reykjavik right now in preparation for the Reykjavik Marathon. Some things happened during my stay here that made me list the top 6 things I look for in a marathon hotel. Realistically, some of these are things that I look for in any hotel stay, but overall these are for marathon hotel stays.

1) A Good Value

Most of my hotel stays are on points but, when I am traveling alone and I can find a cheap hotel, I do pay some with cash. This point applies to either option. When I stay in a hotel, I want to know that I am receiving a good value. This can mean that I am getting a good value on the price to point ratio (such as something like 3 cents per point) but can also mean a good price value. Normally, when I stay at hotels by myself and I pay, I am normally getting those rooms for less than $40 a night. I realize that I am not getting a boutique hotel at that price, but I just want to know that I have received a good value. When it comes to this point, I did well at the Park Inn Island hotel. It was costing $250 a night and I was able to get two nights here for just 13,500 Club Carlson points total. This ended up with me receiving a 3.7 cents per point valuation and something I was happy with.

2) Close Proximity to Activities

Sometimes, race expos are not held in the same area where the starting/finish lines are located. This may not seem to be a big deal but it can be inconvenient when the runner may have taken public transportation to the hotel and chose the hotel based on proximity to the starting line. The number one reason I like to have both close together is that I can get a dry run of the route to the starting line the day before without having to make a special trip. Since many marathon staging times take place in the dark and with heavy traffic, it can be very helpful to know the area in daylight. So, the ideal marathon hotel will be chosen with both expo location and start/finish lines taken into account. My stay at the Park Inn fit this point as well. I am a mere .5 mile away from the expo/dinner and 2.5 miles from the start.

3) A Bathtub

Yes, I really do want something like this! I really like to soak in a nice tub. It helps me relax and hydrate my body in the days leading up to the race. Plus, it is just something that I happen to like. I know, this is a personal preference but it is a preference that I have found many travelers share with me. When you are staying in a large city, it can be difficult to find a room with a tub. New York City has small enough hotel rooms that most of the bathrooms only have showers. In addition, at other hotels, you may ask for a room with a tub but know that you may be giving up a larger room in the process (international hotels are like this). The Park Inn again came through – this was a very nice tub and one which I really enjoyed!

4) Dependable Internet

Because I have to do a lot of work on my computer and much of it requires me to be connected (as well as researching and writing for the blog), I really appreciate having internet at hotels. Many mid-tier to upper-tier hotels charge for that internet access in the rooms, but if you have mid-tier status, that fee can be waived (one of the benefits of holding Hilton Gold, Hyatt Platinum, and SPG Gold). Something I really do not appreciate is a very slow internet connection. It can make work that should only take 1 hour take well over 2 hours depending on the speed. Another dislike is internet that cuts out in various parts of the room. When a hotel charges for it, that is not acceptable at all. And my biggest dislike is when the internet does not work at all. This is where the Park Inn fell down. After I checked in last night, the internet has been down since then. In order to get logged on, everyone in the hotel has had to go down to the front desk and have the agents call the internet company to manually add each device. What in the world! Get a different internet provider or something. Seriously? Been like this for 16 hours and counting now.

5) An Early Breakfast

Many hotels offer breakfast – complimentary or otherwise. When it is a free continental breakfast (and I mean more than a wrapped danish), that is great! What is not great is a hotel that offers that breakfast starting around 8 or later in the morning. I find that some hotels even offer it later on Saturday than they do during the weekdays. I have even seen some “official” marathon hotels that offer breakfast on race morning but they do not put it out until 30 minutes before the start of the race?! This is obviously not a need as I can just as easily grab a bagel the night before, but it is very nice to have an early hotel breakfast on race morning. Again, the Park Inn has done well – everyone morning, breakfast is served starting at 4:30. And it is really good food!

6) Clean Rooms

Really, this should just be a given, right? I mean, it is a public health issue to clean up after guests before other guests occupy a room. Plus, if I walk into a room and notice some obvious cleaning flaw, I am left to wonder what else has not been done. For instance, I was at a hotel in Huntsville for the Rocket City Marathon a couple of years ago. When I entered the room, I smelled smoke in a non-smoking room. When I went into the bathroom, I saw cigarette butts in the toilet. Ooookkkay. Another time, (actually near that same area) my wife and I checked into a hotel. It was a nice large room but when I pulled down the sheets (little tip: that is the first thing I do when entering a room. Surveys have shown that the comforter is one of the most unclean items in a room) and saw a huge pool of dried blood on the sheets. WHAT??!!! Can I just get a clean room, please? Not to much to ask, right? The Park Inn let me down on this one. While the room was mostly clean, there was a wrapped portion of food in the refrigerator. I did not open it! It does make one wonder what it was and how long it sat – did mold grow in the refrigerator where I am going to put my food and drinks? More than likely not, but still makes for some curiosity. 


So, what do you look for in a hotel – for a marathon or otherwise? Any of these resonate with your selection choices?

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About the author


Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.


  • Late check out! Invaluable for that post-race clean-up and change of clothes before dashing to the airport or train station. It’s easy to get if you have status or are staying at a hotel affiliated with the race. If not, just ask at check-in, letting the hotel know why you need it. It’s rare for a hotel to say no, in my experience.

    • Excellent point! I can’t believe I forgot that one! In my experience, the earlier you ask for it the better (depending on how many runners are staying there).

  • I agree with late checkout. I also like room service if I’m staying over the next night (although beer and pizza are my usual after marathon meal 🙂
    I usually pack some instant oatmeal packets just in case I can’t get breakfast. These are easy to fix with warm water and a cup.
    A hotel that is quiet is important to me so I can get at least some sleep the night before.
    Least needed feature….a fitness center or gym 🙂

  • I have been traveling a lot these last few years for marathons, halves and ultras, and my top criteria track closely with yours: walking proximity to both start and finish. If I can only have one, I would rather walk from the finish. Next comes fridge and microwave for my drinks and race day breakfast. Late check out and good food near by round out my top list. The other things, cleanliness, Internet, etc. are minimum standards anytime! I travel a lot for work and can be a bit of a princess about hotel rooms!