For runners, the all-important question of ‘what race am I doing next’ has morphed into ‘where will I run my next race.’ Destination races are quickly becoming the most popular way to run distance races, and international races taking the spotlight with many exotic location races available to choose from. Whether you’re a ½- or full-marathoner or even if you prefer the shorter races, obstacles races or triathlons, some runners won’t even consider a race that doesn’t involve travel to somewhere interesting and beautiful. While many have lofty goals of running races in every state, others have put together race bucket lists full of exotic international locations, and then of course some people plan their races based on the quality/quantity of the race medals. I have to admit after my recent trip to Israel to cover the Jerusalem Marathon, I’ve been bitten by the destination race bug, and I’m already planning my next racing adventure.
Runners! We’re a funny, but dedicated, bunch!
It goes without saying that running a destination race is an excellent way to cross some serious travel off your list while doing something you love, and getting a nice medal when you cross the finish line. And of course, it’s always more fun if you’re traveling with friends who are also runners. Do I hear the call of a girls weekend complete with race bibs and compression socks?
Since you’ll need to arrive a couple of days in advance to acclimate to any climate and elevation changes, and you’ll want a day or two for active recovery (wink wink), you might as well plan to make a vacation out of it, at least spending a long weekend or even a week. You can take the days prior to the race and actively explore the city and race course, taking in museums and culture along the way. If you’re worried about saving your legs for the big day, why not look for something relaxing without too much walking. In Jerusalem, the day before the race, we did a Segway tour, and it was one of the highlights of the trip for me! I was able to do some serious site seeing while rolling along and saving my legs.
Post race, plan to spend the afternoon doing some active recovery walking around a museum or hitting the local shopping area. It’s a perfect time to pick up some souvenirs for the folks back home, and try some local food or beer while keeping your legs loose. No doubt you’ll also be starving and drinking some local beer is always a great way to recover from a race.
If you can build in a few days to stay after the race, you might consider hiring a tour guide to help you along hitting all the important sites. In Jerusalem we had a fantastic tour guide named Ori who taught us more over the course of a few days than I could have learned in an ancient history course in college. True story. He even taught us a little Hebrew on the tour bus.
In closing, destination races are so much more than traveling and running. Taking the time the immerse yourself in the local customs and cultures can make the trip life-changing, and you might just walk away with a little more than a technical shirt and a sweet medal.
If you’re planning a destination race, here are some things you might want to consider:
- Arrive at least one day in advance, especially if it’s a long (or overseas) flight.
- Plan to wear compression socks on the flight to help your circulation.
- HYDRATE with water, not adult beverages on the way. You’ll have plenty of time to drink after the race.
- Make sure you remember to pack all of your race gear. Make a list and check it twice.
- Plan ahead for race fueling by checking to see what type of nutrition will be offered along the race route. If it’s a foreign country, your body might not agree with what they have to offer.
- If your family will be with you, check out the race route and plan a meeting spot post-race.
- Check with your cell phone provider regarding international charges and plans.
- Bring your phone or camera on the course, especially if you’re in a foreign country where you’ll most likely encounter some beautiful sites along the way.
- Don’t plan to PR, especially if the race course is vastly different from what you’re used to. Plan to ENJOY and take in the sites, sounds, and excitement of running somewhere different.
Have you done a destination race? Leave a comment and tell us where you went and what distance you raced. Do you have any advice to add to my list?
If you’re looking for ideas for destination races, stay tuned for our next installment of Top 10 Destination Races to Add to Your Bucket List.
Disclosure: My trip to Israel was sponsored by the Israel Ministry of Tourism in exchange for my coverage of the Jerusalem Marathon. All opinions are my own.