Tips for running the Rotterdam Marathon

Daniel Kucharski
7 min readMar 3, 2024

So you decided to sign up for the marathon of Rotterdam. This post will give you tips how to approach the race and what to expect.

Especially when this is your first, you are in for a treat. You will feel euphoria. You will feel pain. You will ask yourself how dumb you were for signing up. But the crowd will lift and help you cross the finish line.

You will never walk alone is the motto of this event and you will learn to understand why. Welcome to one of your best days in life.

Completing several marathons, such as Chicago, New York, Amsterdam, I still love to run Rotterdam, where it all started back in 2016 for me.

The day before

Saturday is the day when your anxiety starts to shine. The marathon expo in the middle of the city center is what you will visit first to get your race number. It will be a very crowded space so don’t panic. You can do this.

After navigating to the right desk which hosts your number , you will receive an envelop with your race number. So don’t forget to memorize your number you got by mail. After receiving your envelop you move to the next room to receive your shirt. Take an empty bag with you so you don’t drop anything precious.

Having received all your goodies you then walk in the room where companies showcase their products and services. If you would have forgotten laces, shirts, shoes or nutrition you still can get those here. If you don’t own an race belt to hold your bib number, I highly recommend getting one here. It’s much more comfortable running a marathon without having the race number pinned on your shirt. With a race belt you can move the race number around your body a bit. Some even let you attach nutrition you will need.

Take a moment to find your name on the wall together with all participants and take photos to cherish all the excitement forever. If it’s your first time, you will enjoy the before and after photos later even more.

I see a lot of people running the marathon with their newly acquired shirt, see the struggle (e.g. bloody nipples) and hear about inconveniences such as the shirt being to small. Don’t do that. I personally always run with a singlet which has served me comfy during training. The common advise is: do not try new things on race day. I fully agree.

There are a lot of restaurants to help you carbo load, especially near the Markthal (food hall). If you want Italian food, you can try Very Italian Pizza nearby or walk across the Erasmus bridge and find to the right a lot of restaurants such as Happy Italia , Loetje or Hotel New York (really really old building, very lovely place).

In the evening, in your hotel or B&B room, lay out our racing kit so you don’t have to worry about it on race day. This one is was my first time in 2016.

The big day

Nervosity will increase, can I do this? All those people I see look in better shape than I do, what did I get myself into? It’s really long and oh my god the sun is shining so hard already!

Don’t overthink and enjoy the start of the day. Think in steps. Step one is getting into the correct wave. There are normally two lanes (left and right) with waves placed after each other. I prefer the right lane as the left one is more crowded (because a lot of spectators near the left lane are saying goodbye to their loved ones doing the marathon).

When you have been assigned to a later wave, don’t start running a part of a warmup routine. By the time you cross the start you might be a half hour later and you have consumed precious energy which will bite you later.

The first unforgettable moment happens just before the start when Lee Towers sings the anthem You Will Never Walk alone. Everybody in your wave will sing so better know the text! And sing even if you can’t sing. Nobody will notice ;-)

When the song finishes, a gun shot marks the beginning of your adventure. The elite will start and you will slowly start to walk with your wave towards the start line. Exciting times are coming!

Yet another tip is to plan your playlist: my first hour is all about very calm music, to easy my mind (I love Haleos — Full Circle to begin with). Over time I move to more progressive uptempo and bouncy music and finish with a blast.

Near the start line you will move from walking to running (pun intended). This is step two, you start SLOWLY. Make a note here that most of the people run too fast in the beginning. Climbing the bridge at the beginning requires you to take care of yourself: tame your internal beast and run slow.

When crossing the bridge I always take a higher running cadence so the heart rate doesn’t increase too much. In general the first five kilometers my heart rate is usually high due all the excitement. Don’t panic if you are in the same boat. I found my heart rate to become more stable and meaningful after the first 5K.

The first 10K will go fluently. When you arrive at the first aid station take time to hydrate. Cups are half fulled so always take two. Walk so you get all the precious molecules in your body. It really is OK to walk at the aid station. Thank me later.

The first interesting section is the bike section near 15K. It is pretty narrow, especially when you are departing from a later wave. You will most likely be slowed down by people forming lines. Although people do overtake by moving over the grass next to the bike path, don’t do it. You risk to fall and consume too much energy. Allow yourself to be a bit slower than planned here and enjoy the scenery.

Refreshment sponges are supplied by volunteers, take two of them. One to refresh yourself immediately and hold the second one for later.

Take care of the heat. Most likely you have been training in colder weather but Rotterdam often surprises people with a relatively hot weather which your body is not yet acclimated to. Drink enough and compensate your pace. Watch your heart rate. I once nearly blacked out because I was so obsessed with a sub 4h goal and ignored my very high heart rate. Don’t be dumb like me.

Around 26K you see the Erasmus bridge again for the second time. This really is a wonderful moment, people will cheer you up and bring you into a higher state of mind. You are coming back to the city! Rows and rows of people will lift you up while running back into the city center.

The tunnel at 30K is something your legs will not love as they will become more tired. Use very small steps will climbing up. Save your muscles for later.

Running a marathon is a mental game. It starts when you progress to the Kralingse Plas, a big lake you loop around. People having completed the loop will cross you. That hurts a bit. The loop also typically is the place where a lot of people walk. Don’t get tempted to do the same. You got this!

When you complete the loop you are getting closer to that big metal waiting at you. Now the fun fun fun starts. You are going to get there, even if everything hurts.

40K point is when everybody become a party. You will be cheered by a lot of tipsy spectators enjoying the wild atmosphere. There will be a lot of music. I really love this part, they will not let you walk. They scream you to not give up. You are so close.

The last two kilometers are wild, euphoric and you will run harder than before. Cross the finish line and enjoy what you have accomplished. You did a marathon!


Daniel is founder of Trainingsparkle, a service allowing athletes to create a hardcover book out of their Strava and Garmin activities. Being a couch potato in 2014 he started running and did his first marathon in 2016. He moved into triathlon and finished a full distance Ironman in 2024.