Proximity to a race's starting line can be a big draw; hotels without that advantage usually offer a shuttle. For example, Walt Disney's runDisney registration includes transportation from host resorts for its races, which include the Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend and the Expedition Everest Challenge.
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Food is another common extra, with hotels fueling runners with pasta specials the night before a race and providing a steady supply of free granola bars and bananas to take as desired. Four Seasons Boston stocks Boston Marathon runners' rooms with complimentary amenities such as coconut water and Gatorade; there's also a special room service menu offered the night before.
Mark Devereux, manager of hotel relations for CGI, said the company also encourages partner hotels to open their coffee shops and breakfast stations early, to accommodate runners looking to eat an hour or two before a race.
That's a huge perk, considering many races start early, said Meridith Daniel, a half-marathoner and co-founder of runners' blog ScootaDoot.com.
Last year, the New Jersey native traveled with friends to Anaheim, Calif., for runDisney's Tinker Bell Half—a race that starts at 5 a.m. They chose to stay at a Best Western near the starting line, which turned out to be a smart pick. "The hotel had bagels beforehand, and extended the usual breakfast so people who were finishing up running could come back and eat," Daniel said.
Westin goes a step further in preparing runners. Heuisler, who has run 26 marathons in 20 states, starts talking to runners within days of them booking a marathon package, offering training tips and answering questions. He arrives a few days early to run part of the course with local runners.
"It lets me give out better advice, very specific advice," he said. "Like a deceptive grade you can't see, but you'll feel. You can't get that by looking at the map."