Marathons The Basics

Transiting to a Race

Yesterday I left for St. George. Due to prices, I had to leave on Thursday instead of Friday (I normally do try to leave the day before a race, which would have been Friday). I arrived at the airport 70 minutes before the flight’s departure. At Rochester, especially on a Thursday, is plenty of time for an early morning flight. Not yesterday! The security line was longer than I have ever seen it. I never travel with checked luggage when I travel by myself so I just jumped in line. Good thing as the Delta counter for checking luggage was also huge.

It took 40 minutes to reach the security checkpoint and people around me were really frustrated as they heard the their flights’ final calls for boarding and realized they were going to miss them. I was fortunate enough that I made it through with a few minutes to spare. They were loading the last of the people for the flight so I made it!

The security waiting line at Rochester Airport at 5AM!

I flew to Atlanta and had a flight from there to Los Angeles. Due to my Platinum status with Delta, I had received an upgrade on my Rochester to Atlanta flight at the upgrade window (5+ days before departure). Not so fortunate with the Los Angeles flight! There were 4 open seats in first class and I was number 10. I did have an Economy Comfort seat in the first row behind first class (more legroom, more recline and has a price range depending on the length of the flight – it is free to Platinum and Diamond members).

The flight was uneventful and I arrived in Los Angeles facing an eight hour layover before my flight to Las Vegas! I had booked that one when I did my multi-city booking to take advantage of the cheaper flight. When I was in Atlanta, I checked and there were still 12 open seats on my preferred flight which left a couple of hours after my arrival. When I got off the plane in Los Angeles, I went to the Delta lounge and spoke with an agent about getting on the earlier flight. While I was in the air, the flight went from open seats to overbooked by 22 people! I was put on the standby list and went down hoping to catch a spot. No such success. This was the first time I was on the other side as I heard them offering vouchers for voluntarily going on a later flight. I just kept wishing I was on that flight so I could volunteer :). Not enough people took them on the offer so I stood and watched the flight take off without me on it.

After a little bit, I went back up to check on a later flight. I knew the next one was even more full so I tried for a 5pm flight. The lounge agent said to go back down and check for the 3pm flight instead. I went down as everyone had boarded and some people were still on standby. When I asked about it, they went ahead and cleared me because of my status and I got on the plane! All was well!

Now, here are a few tips that could help you with your flight that you take to your next race:

  • Get to the airport early – in my case I thought I was early enough but it turned out I wasn’t. Had I left the day before the race like I normally do, I could have missed the flight entirely and made for a very stressful day trying to get to the event.
  • Do not check bags – you do not want to check your racing wardrobe and be left with your luggage not making it. Also, that saves you time dropping off your bags and saves time waiting for the bags to arrive. It seems that my luggage never comes off until last, even with priority tags :).
  • Leave a day earlier depending on distance and connections – If you have more than 1 connection or are taking a flight cross-country it would be smart to have a day between your race and arrival to ensure relaxation and allow for mistakes. If yesterday had happened the day before the race, I would have been stressed and possibly not able to make the race entirely depending on the outcome. It turned out that the reason all of the Las Vegas flights were so full all of a sudden was due to a large jet flying from Los Angeles to Salt Lake City being cancelled earlier in the day. That left a couple of hundred people needing to be shuttled to Las Vegas and Oakland for flights to Salt Lake City instead. You can never know when something like that might happen!
  • Good seat selection – most airlines do not allow you to select preferred seats anymore unless you have elite status or are willing to purchase better seats. That eliminates the roomier rows for free seat selection but you can still select seats closer to the front. I like the front as it lets me get off earlier in the case of close connections. If it is a long enough flight (or international), it may be worth it to pay for the preferred seating, especially since it gives you priority in boarding.
  • Get the credit card for the airline – every airline credit card offers the holder better zones for seating. The best thing this allows for is to let you get on the plane to store your bags easier. Remember about not checking bags? That means your bag is probably a little bigger than a briefcase and you will need overhead space to check it into. This is very helpful as some airlines/airports will take bags that don’t fit and check them under the plane. Remember the reasons for not wanting to do that?
  • If you have the miles/points for it, get first/business class on the departing segment. This is very important for trips that are over 4 hours as it lets you get more legroom (which is quite helpful before a race) and gives you more preferred treatment in the case of delays or problems. In addition, it gives you more overhead space, earlier boarding, and can give lounge access for certain flights. Finally, it is easier to get more fluids and better food. 🙂

You may have some other things that may help with ease of travel in transiting to a race. Let me know and I can include some more!

If you want to make a start at being prepared, use the link below to sign up for the Delta Airlines card – 30,000 miles, 1 free bag, and priority boarding (I do receive a commission if you apply and are approved)!


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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.

1 Comment

  • I think you did a great job with the lighting… and your first time out! Good for you. Please coctant me, and maybe we can work out a deal for me to get a copy of these shots? Something to inspire me for next season?Thanks,Frank