October Marathon Review

15 April 2019

A brief review / comparison of the 3 marathons I was lucky to participate in the October of 2018.

In a former post I reviewed the 1st Katowice Half Marathon race. Last October, I was lucky to participate in two trail races and three marathons. All of the latter ones were in different countries and had very different style, athmosphere. In this post I intend to provide an interesting side-by-side review and comparison of them in a similar fashion.

The 3 marathons I participated were:

2018-10-07 33. SPAR Budapest Marathon
2018-10-14 25. Kleine Zeitung Graz Marathon
2018-10-28 35. Podgorica Marathon

Note before the comparison

Please note, that these races are completely different. Different countries and sizes. Budapest marathon is the largest marathon race in Hungary, with 30+ years of history. The Marathon in Graz is a considerably large race, but much smaller compared to the one in Budapest. Podgorica marathon is a much smaller and simpler marathon.

These differences will have their ups and downs, so the purpose if this post is not bragging about how much cheaper one of them is compared to the other two, as the service is also completely different. This post is more about showing how in 4 weeks you can have 3 very different marathon experience within a close proximity, while visiting 3 wonderful countries.

Before the race

Registration process

Understandably, I have registered to this event in Hungarian. So, to make the "comparison" fair, I have just tried to register for the 34th SPAR Budapest Marathon in English. There is a fancy site for advertisement, and then it redirects to an older looking site for registration. (This is actually the same as the Hungarian one, only translated.) The site may does not provide the best user experience in 2019 regarding style, and interactiveness, but it is self evident, everything available in English, and everything finished with a simple credit-card payment. Plenty of info material arrives before the race in e-mails, timelapse video is available about the route, the refreshment stations, etc.
Registering for the Graz Marathon was a bit more difficult for me. The website was ok, but I had to rely on my rusty German knowledge. Luckily I have that, otherwise I would have needed Google Translate. Payment was simple, and there were some e-mails sent to me about the race (in German). It was a bit long ago now, but I remember, that some crucial parts of the website were "not yet available" up until a few days before the marathon.
This is a bit of a funny story. When I have found the old looking site of the marathon, there was no option to register there. However, I've also found it on worldmarathons.com, and registered there quickly, easily in a few minutes. To make sure, I've sent an e-mail to the address of the official site, if that is valid. I got no response for that, not for a second one either. A few days before the race, when I did not see my name in the list of participants page on the official site, I started calling the phone numbers listed there. After many tries, I ended up speaking with somebody, who could speak English. They were really helpful, and assured me, that everything is ok, and my name appeared shortly after that. No e-mail about the event before the race as far as I can remember, however, Worldmarathons had a different idea about the date/time zone of the race, so, just before I went to bed before race day, I got an e-mail from them, that they congratulate me for finishing the Marathon 😃.

Registration fee

The fee starts around 60 EUR and goes up to 100 EUR, but there is a nice option for cancellation until Wednesday on race week. If something happens to you, you can always cancel, and use the money for another race at the same company for 1 year.
I've registered way ahead, and thus, this marathon was also 60 EUR. I couldn't find the price for registration now in 3 minutes on the website, so I'll just leave that. 😒 Also, no option for cancellation, and unlike in Budapest, this fee did not include the T-shirt.
Now, you wont believe this, but the registration for this race was 10 EUR. No, I am not joking. I'm not sure about cancellation, but honestly, I wouldn't care.

Getting the race package / race center

You can have your race package the preceding days or on race day as well. All information, maps, etc, are sent in e-mails, race center has plenty of signs in English, plenty of people to deal with any problem.
Same goes for Graz, though the e-mails came in German. However, the race center was easy to find, and getting the race bag was an easy procedure.
Since there were no e-mails, we found the place for the race package collection on the website. It was easy to find, a school, where a few people could easily manage everything. Perks of a "familiy size" event. Oh, and the race package already contained the certificate/diploma for finishing the race 😃.

Race day

Before the start

This is a huge race, keep that in mind. The whole festival has 2 days with more than 33 thousand runners. Consequently, the race center is huge as well, and sometimes it takes time to get from point A to B, especially, if You are going through bottleneck areas (start line, toilets). So be sure to arrive on time. Otherwise, everything is well indicated, plenty of information ahead, the race started in the middle of the city, that was easy to reach by public transportation and a little walking. Warm-up, festival feeling, plenty of exhibitions, etc.
The race center in Graz was understandably smaller, a few thousand on all of the distances together. To be sure, I arrived an hour before flag-off, which was way too early, so I ended up feeling bored after going up and down twice through the whole race center. On the positive note: there wasn't really many people staying in queue in front of the toilets.
Since there was only 150 or so participants, we (I was there with 3 friends) arrived only shortly before the race. It was easy to find, small, took a selfie with the Hungarian flag, waited a few minutes to flag-off, and that's it.

The start

The huge number of participants means plenty of start zones. If I recall correctly, I started off 7 minutes after the first ones. Atmosphere is great, music, everything.
There was a separate zone for professionals, and then I think everybody started, I'm not sure about that, but the whole thing went down smoothly with a good atmosphere.
Well, what you can expect from a small race. The whole thing lasted a minute or so.

The race itself

The route

The whole route is next to the Danube river, it crosses several bridges, you can see plenty of really nice buildings, and the runners both on your side of the river and across as well. Several river crossings, offering a great view, and Margaret Island. There were a few kilometers of "yet another city street" parts, and some minimal elevation too. In 2018 there was a shorter loop, and then a longer one, with overlaps between the two. Personally, I preferred the route of 2017, but some construction works in the city made the change mandatory.
Standard "2 loop" marathon. The old town was very beautiful, I really enjoyed those parts, however, that was only a small portion of the race. There were other nice parts, but plenty kilometers of "yet another city street". Also, there are a lot of turns, and some elevation, so don't plan to run your PB here.
You would think, that this is a small budget marathon so maybe it has 4 loops. Hell no, the whole route was one big loop, that went out of the city, crossed several villages, and then came back. And yes, cars were not allowed on any part of that race. I was really surprised. There wasn't many historical buildings to see, as we mostly crossed smaller villages, but there was a nice church still in Podgorica, and then we could enjoy the view of the mountains.


Refreshment stations every 4 km or so. Water, Isotonic drink, banana, glucose. The race started early, so that was more than enough.
As far as I can remember, the same quality of refreshments as in Budapest, although the flag off was pretty late, and we had a very hot day, and I remember I was thirsty many times in the second loop. A minor note: the refreshment stations were less organized than in Budapest. Often the isotonic drink/coke was after the water, and the farthest trash bin was really close to the station. These are small things, that are easy to correct, and make a huge impact.
Every 2.5 km there was a refreshment point with water and sugar cubes. I got a bit hungry around 34k, but a gel solved that problem. For 10 EUR, I'm not complaining at all.


Protected route, nothing special to say.
Same here.
Amazingly, here as well. A very few cars passed by, maybe 3-4, but there were police officers at each crossing, which is incredible for a 1 loop marathon.


The atmosphere in Budapest is always amazing. There is not a single boring minute on that race, many music spots, thousands of people rooting from the side, bridges, etc. This is a really fun race.
There were a decent number of people, but nowhere close that of Budapest, which is understandable for a much smaller city. Closing to the finish line was especially fun, as we crossed big squares and streets, where people were having their meal, coffee, beer, and rooting from there as well.
Again, what can we expect from a race that has 150 participants (the half marathon distance had a completely different track), that goes out of the city to small villages. Basically nothing, but that was not the case. It definitely was a peaceful marathon, and the rain helped for that too, but still, there was a refreshment point every 2.5 km, where young girls rooted us, took photos and videos, like we were among the first ones (which we were definitely not). Also, when the rain stopped, children, parents in the small villages came out of the houses to cheer for us. Not many of them, but still was amazing.

After the race

Again, huge race, so 16 volunteers were giving away the medals, then a pretty long walking until the finisher bag with some water, chocolates, and BEER is received.

The medal looks really nice, a big improvement compared to previous years: Finisher photos were available for free after the race, the others could be purchased.
Similar to that of Budapest, only scaled down. My only big disappointment was, that one of the sponsors was Puntigamer, yet we haven't received a beer after a very hot race, and had to buy a 4dl one for 5 EUR or so...

The medal looks ok, nothing really interesting. The photos could be purchased after the race.
Well, small race, everything went quickly, we got our medals, made some photos, and headed for the apartment we rented.

Kind of a retro medal. Not too many official photos, and not organized, but free.


As I said in the beginning, the three races are on a completely different scale. A larger race has more music spots, more things in the race package, but it is more expensive, you have to get to the race center much earlier, etc. Pros and cons.

Aspect 5-scale rating
Registration process (for non-native people) 4.5 3.5 2.5
Price compared to all the services / race package content 4.5 4 10
Information before the race 5 4 3
How well organized the event was in general 5 5 4
Route selection 4.5 4 5++
Refreshments 5 4.5 4
Atmosphere, "entertainment" during the race 5 4 3
Medal/shirt design 4.5 4 3
Photos/Race results 5 4.5 3.5

Final verdict

I am happy that I participated all of those races, and I think all of them was worth spending my money on. Maybe the ultimate question could be whether I would go back to the same race again, or chose something different this year. Well, I've already registered for Budapest, as it is a place where I meet a lot of friends from Hungary, where my running club has relay teams, etc. Regarding the other two: I think that Podgorica could be very good for running a PB, and I liked how minimalistic it was. But, if I have the chance to go to let's say Bulgaria on the same weekend, I'd chose that, because that would be new. Otherwise, it would be lovely to be back to Podgorica. Graz was a decent marathon, and I'd be happy to go back, because of a friend that lives there. Otherwise, I'd probably prefer another race in Austria, there are many more to try.

Bottom line: if you haven't been to any of them, you should definitely try all of them :-)