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The only thing my husband Matt and I love more than running is taking our love for running on the road. We plan our vacations around destination races, which we use as an excuse to visit new cities and countries: from Quebec to Iceland, Las Vegas to Philly and Chicago to Phoenix. While Matt and I prefer destination races to local races, some elements of destination races are a bit challenging. Below are five reasons that destination races can be tough!
Destination races are rather expensive! In addition to race registration fees, you’ll potentially be paying for airfare, accommodation, a rental car and food before and after the race. Furthermore, if you are visiting somewhere for the first time, you’ll likely want to splurge to see some of the popular sights and attractions. Matt and I have learned to keep the costs down by booking accommodation far in advance and thinking creatively about where we stay (which is sometimes a bit off the beaten path!). To keep costs down, we also bring our own snacks and often go to a local grocery store for other fueling needs.
There is a LOT of thought that goes into packing for a destination race. I will never forget when Matt and I traveled to the Mississippi Blues Half Marathon in January 2015. A bit misinformed about the weather forecast, Matt only packed one race day outfit: a running tank and shorts. The day before the race, upon discovering that it would be 30 degrees at the start, Matt panicked. Luckily, he was able to buy a long sleeve tech shirt at the race expo, which was an absolute lifesaver! However, we learned from that experience that it’s best to pack multiple race day outfit options.
Some of your pre-race routines might be disrupted. I’m one of those superstitious runners who follows a strict routine before every race. I eat the exact same meal the night before (baked sweet potatoes), and I eat the exact same thing the morning of the race (instant oatmeal and a banana). Luckily, I’m usually able to find these foods while traveling. But if you are like Matt, and you have more obscure needs (Spiced Gingerbread Clif Bar and four Hawaiian rolls), you’ll need to either pack your own food or make sure you can buy your food on the go. Another thing to consider is that you are not sleeping in your own bed pre-race. So if you are a light sleeper and have loud neighbors in your hotel, your pre-race sleep might suffer.
The race terrain and climate might be different from your training environment. Some things to consider are the elevation of the course, temperature, humidity levels and altitude. Differences in any of these might affect your race performance. In addition, if you are traveling a far distance, you might not have friends or family along the course to cheer for you. Luckily, the crowd support at most races can make up for this, but it’s still something to keep in mind when considering a destination race.
This is ALWAYS my favorite part of traveling to a new place for a race. However, it’s important to plan your post-race time wisely. On several occasions, Matt and I were so tired and exhausted after races that we weren’t able to fully appreciate the destination cities. Therefore, we have found that we prefer Saturday races. This way we have plenty of time to recover after our race and explore and enjoy our destination city!