Running an International Marathon

November 27, 2023

Have you ever imagined running an international marathon? Embarking on the journey of an international race is more than just lacing up your shoes and hitting the pavement – it’s a blend of cultural exploration, personal challenge, and connections with the global running community. Team Injinji Athlete Alexandra Mueller competed in the Bilbao Marathon in Bilbao, Spain, and immersed herself in the unique experience of running through a foreign city. Follow along as Alexandra reflects on her adventure, the unexpected twists, and everything she would do differently next time.  

Alexandra getting ready for the raceAlexandra getting ready for the race
Bilbao Night Marathon Starting LineBilbao Night Marathon Starting Line

Running an international race takes a lot of planning and commitment! What motivated you to participate in the Bilbao Marathon? 
For sure! Well, I have family and friends in Bilbao. So, coupling a visit to see everyone with running my first international marathon seemed like a dream trip. 
What was your favorite part about racing internationally? Would you do it again, given the opportunity?
I would 100% do it again! I have a lifetime goal of completing all of the marathon majors and earning the title of an Abbott Six Star Finisher. So that definitely requires a lot of traveling! My favorite part of racing internationally would be my realization that even though I am many thousands of miles from home, and hearing different languages being spoken all around me, we have all come together because of our shared passion for running. The running community is such an inclusive one and it brings me so much joy to see complete strangers supporting one another and pushing each other toward our goals, and then celebrating together. It is the most beautiful thing in the world. 
Can you share insight into any goals that you set for yourself as you began training for the marathon? 
I didn’t really have any marathon-specific training goals going in. I have been training for my first 100-Miler next year since July, so I have a lot of training miles under my belt. I definitely felt confident about my fitness so I was hoping I could PR. (and I did! 4:44:27) 
An international race can bring on some significant changes in routine in the week leading up to the race. What was your experience like preparing for, and racing in, the Bilbao Marathon? Reflecting on your experience, is there anything you would have done differently? 
Well, Bilbao was a night marathon beginning at 7 pm. That was definitely new for me, so I scheduled my flight over to arrive on Friday morning, with the race being Sat night. I wanted to arrive as close as I could to race day so I wouldn’t be adjusted to the time change yet. 7pm for me in Spain was 1pm for me in the States, so even though I was still so tired after the race, I wasn’t sleepy on top of it. The only thing I would have done differently is had tons of food ready post-race back at my place where I was staying. I didn’t get back from the race venue until after midnight and had a hard time finding places that were still open! 
Do you have any pre-race rituals or routines that you found particularly helpful the morning of the marathon?  
Hmmm, I definitely try to find the balance between being hydrated and having to pee constantly. I also like to have all my clothes, gels, Injinji socks, shoes, bib etc. all laid out the night before so when morning comes, there’s no “race before the race”. 
What Injinji socks do you wear during long races, and how do they help your feet?  
For marathons, I wear the Women’s Ultra Run Crew. I appreciate the maximum cushioning and the toe separation keeps me blister-free as always. And we can’t forget the cute colors! 
In your humble opinion, what was the best song on your marathon playlist?  
While music is one of my passions, I prefer to run without it. I enjoy hearing the crowd cheering and being able to talk to a fellow runner. Even the sound of my feet hitting the pavement offers a meditative vibe that helps me feel centered while I’m out there racing for multiple hours. 
Do you have any advice for runners hoping to race internationally in the future?  
Absolutely go for it! Turn it into a little getaway and explore the city after your race. Soak in the sites and connect with fellow racers. Learn where the locals go to hang out and I guarantee you’ll make some friends and have the time of your life! 
What’s next on your list of goals? 
I have a couple Ultras on tap for next year. Rocky Raccoon 100-Miler in Texas in February, which will be my first attempt at that distance. I have my first Ironman 70.3 in Quebec next summer and following that, I’ll head to Wales for the Montane Dragon’s Back Race. 
Whether you’re a seasoned marathoner or dreaming of your first global run, Alexandra’s story inspires us all to embrace every step of the marathon journey. As you plan for your next marathon adventure, don’t forget your Injinji socks to keep you comfortable and blister-free throughout your training. Happy running!