Multiple Marathon Monday – Mileage Runs and Marathoning

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Welcome to a new series - Multiple Marathon MondayThis series is intended to help the current and potential runners who want to run multiple marathons out there in the planning and traveling of your series of marathons. Thanks for reading and good luck!

Mileage Runs and Marathoning

RwM’s reader Simon asked a couple of weeks ago if I could do a post about doing a marathon in the middle of a mileage run. I thought that would be a good fit for our Multiple Marathon Monday so here it is!

Introduction

Last Monday, I covered Mileage Running, what it is, what benefit it has, and how to go about the basics of it. To catch up on those details, make sure you check the post. Many people think it is crazy to fly for the sake of accruing miles and many people think it is crazy to run a marathon. Well, why not be a crazy traveling runner and combine it!

To sum up before delving into this week’s post, Mileage Running is about booking low-cost tickets and then flying on those tickets for the express purpose of earning miles – either for award travel or for elite status. We measure the success of a mileage run in terms of CPM – cents per mile. A decent mileage run is anything under 5 cents per mile. A good mileage run is under 4 cents per mile, with under 3 cents per mile being great and under 2 cents per mile fantastic! We calculate that number by figuring out how many miles we are earning (you would not count any elite bonuses that you may receive in the initial cpm calculation) and putting that into the cost of the ticket to get the total. For instance, I took a flight a few months ago that was $180 from Rochester-Philadelphia-San Francisco-Philadelphia-Rochester. When we divide the cost of the ticket ($180) by the amount of miles earned (5,534), we get a value of $.03 per mile. To find the amount of miles you can expect, at least a close approximate, plugin in your airports on this website for the totals. 

Now, when you start making a mileage run about more than just the miles (as in this case, matching it up with a marathon), you should be willing to let your valuation be higher. With most of the great mileage runs, you will be traveling on dates that are few and far between and it would be something amazing to have it line up exactly with a marathon. Since we are including a marathon in our mileage run, I would say it is ok to take it up into the 6 cents per mile range since you are getting some significant ground time (I mean, you are going to tour your destination city – 26.2 miles of it!).

Typically, mileage runs are an out-and-back type of trip. Most of the mileage runs I have taken have had me on the ground for less than 3 hours (the San Francisco run was only 20 minutes on the ground!). However, if you are creating your own mileage run, you can schedule however much time on the ground that you want. So, what happens if you want to do a marathon during that time on the ground? How would you go about planning such a mileage run and what tips can you use to help you along the way?

Planning a Mileage Run/Marathon

To simplify the process of finding a marathon, we will first search for a good mileage run and then try to establish a marathon in the area on the dates that the price is good for. There are a few different sources that are very helpful in planning mileage runs – Flyertalk has a forum devoted to them, Milepoint has a forum devoted to them, Airfarewatchdog covers different fare deals, Farecompare’s Where-To-Go Map,  and there is also The Flight Deal which publishes good ticket prices. So, let’s construct a mileage run using these tools and figure out what to do.

Search Flyertalk Mileage Run Forum

Let’s begin by going to the Flyertalk forum and browsing through for something close to our departure city. For the purposes of this exercise, we will search for anything with a East Coast departure. For the purpose of this exercise, we will assume that any frequent flyer program will work (though you may want to specifically search for the airline in which you are accruing the most miles or in which you have – or are working on – elite status).

Mileage Runs

The Flyertalk Mileage Run Forum with East Coast Departures Marked

For this mileage run, we will start with what sounds like the best deal. San Juan, Puerto Rico sounds like a winner, right? Before we even begin searching for flights, we will search for the San Juan Marathon to see when it is so we know what dates to search for.

Mileage Runs

Just missed it!

Oops! We just missed it with a race date that occurred just yesterday! Since it is not possible to book airfare one whole year out, we will have to cross San Juan off of the list and keep on searching.

Next one I found to be a possibility is Boston – Phoenix. The thread says it is in the $250 range, so I looked up the Phoenix Marathon and found it to be on March 1, 2014. Even though it is so far out, I was still able to find fares in the same vicinity.

Search for Tickets on Kayak.com

To search for the fares, since we have somewhat precise dates, I went to Kayak to search.

Mileage Runs

Kayak’s flight results

Since we are trying to keep this as a tight mileage run, I searched for flights leaving Boston the day before the marathon and returning right after the marathon.This way, the runner would be gone for only two days/one night. Since we have a couple of different options, here is what you need to look for when searching for potential flights that will work for mileage runs and a marathon combined.

  • On the way to your destination, make sure you have connections of at least 60 minutes, more would be better
  • Many times, it is best to try and find flights that have a short leg as the first flight since short-haul flights typically build in a lot of extra time in the schedule so you will be able to have enough time to make a connection
  • As easy as it would be to have a non-stop, for the mileage purposes, you really would prefer to have at least one connection (more miles since the itinerary does not follow the most direct route)
  • Airlines normally allow you to receive a 500 mile minimum (for some airlines, you need to have elite status for that minimum) – this means, if one of your flights is only 200 miles, you will still receive credit for 500 miles. In situations such as this, it is best to choose a short (distance) connection so as to maximize your mileage earning
  • Go ahead and plan for tighter connections for your return (or even odd connections, like Phoenix-Seattle-Atlanta-Boston) since you are not bound by a timed event anymore and you may be able to receive a bump or accrue a lot more miles
  • If you do need to pick a tight connection on the way, make sure there is at least one more flight that day that is departing for your ultimate destination so that the airline can still get you there on time if your incoming flight is late

We will pick a flight that follows some of those rules. For me, this would be a great marathon trip. The itinerary accrues over 4,900 miles at a cost of $257 for a value of 5.2 cents per mile. That is not a great mileage run but since you are getting a marathon run out of it as well, this is very acceptable.

Mileage Runs

The itinerary we chose for our Phoenix Marathon Mileage Run

Decide Which Frequent Flyer Program to Credit To

Now comes the fun part. If this was me, I would be searching to find the best way to maximize these miles. I do not currently have United elite status, so I would only earn the 4,900 miles if I put my United number in. I do have US Airways elite status, so let’s see how many miles this would give me if I credited this trip to US Airways. As a Silver elite member with US Airways, I would receive 4,900 miles that would count towards elite status and 6,100 miles that would count towards award travel. If you have elite status with United, you would obviously want to credit these flights to your MileagePlus account. If you have Premier Gold status with United, you would earn 5,200 elite miles (because of the 500 mile minimum elites receive) and 7,700 award miles. Since I would value United miles at 2 cents per mile, that is basically allowing you to earn $150 of airfare for a $250 ticket. Not bad!

Of course, there are more partners that you could credit the flights to. To find which airlines are in the alliance with United, check here. If you are taking a flight such as this without any elite status, what may work best is to credit these miles to Aegean Airlines.

Aegean Airlines

Aegean Airlines is the national airline of Greece. They have the lowest threshold for elite status with only 4,000 miles required for Blue status (which equals Silver status in the entire Star Alliance). Just about every other airline requires you to fly 25,000 miles to equal Silver, so this is an incredible value! With Silver status, you will receive many great benefits – here. Some of those benefits include a free bag when flying on Star Alliance airlines, priority boarding, priority check-in, priority baggage handling, and others. To make it even better, when you sign-up for Aegean Airlines program, you will receive 1,000 status miles right away leaving you only 3,000 miles away from Star Alliance Silver!

To receive Gold status within the Star Alliance network, you only need to fly 20,000 miles credited to Aegean. All other airlines require 50,000 miles for the same thing!

If you were to do a trip such as this, you would be able to become an elite flyer with one airline and then match it to a different airline (normally would have to be an airline in a separate alliance).

Executing a Mileage Run/Marathon Excursion

With a trip such as the one above, you will need to be ready for some less than optimum conditions for marathoning.

  • You will be seated for hours in a not-very-comfortable seat hours before your marathon
  • You will be traveling back a few time zones with no time to adjust
  • You will need to drink a lot of water to offset the dehydration that comes from traveling
  • You will need to watch how much sleep you get in the air as it may cost you sleep that night
  • You will need to carry-on all of your gear – no room for lost luggage with an itinerary such as this!
  • You will want to get a hotel near the expo if you are arriving late in the day to minimize the time you will be out
  • You will need to stretch your legs throughout the trip by walking around the plane
  • It would be smart to wear compression socks on the plane before and after to reduce swelling
  • Have a backup plan of other flights that you can ask the agents to switch you to in case of a late arrival – check for flights with the airline you are ticketed on
  • Choose seats near the front of the plane so you can get on and off quickly
  • Enjoy yourself! You will be back home within 37 hours after having crossed the country and run 26.2 miles!

Let me know if you have any other hints that can make for an easy trip with something such as this.

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by American Express. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of American Express, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by American Express. This site may be compensated through American Express Affiliate Program.

About the author  ⁄ Charles Barkowski






3 Comments

  • Reply
    Simon
    May 14, 2013

    Great post. I had to figure most of this stuff out last year when I was trying to get Platinum on AA. I only managed to get two done in the last three months of year but managed to do one in Santiago with the AA business class deal back in April.

    The last one i did was a two day mileage run and then a marathon afterwards. Its really difficult or expensive to carb load on airport/airplane food.

    • Reply
      Charlie Author
      May 14, 2013

      Nice job! I agree – the carbo loading can be difficult. One way I have found to be an inexpensive way to get the job done is Sbarro. I have found them to be reasonable for a decent pasta dish (like, around $7). Another option is to use the different lounges. Do you have any lounge memberships? If not, the Amex Platinum will get you in US Airway clubs, Admiral clubs, and Delta’s skyclubs. You can find some decent food in there (not exactly carb-filled, but a good option). Do you have any coming up soon?

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