Who said running is all work and no play? Yes, training for a marathon or half marathon involves long runs, early mornings, weekend sacrifices and challenging workouts. But it can also be a great reason to explore a new city and plan a fabulous vacation. Or, as I like to call it: a racecation.
A racecation is a trip or vacation in which the destination is chosen based on running a race. After training for months, what better way to celebrate your personal victory and mark your accomplishment?
When I ran my first destination marathon in 2010, my husband and parents joined me for the big weekend. Although we thought we were in for a great racecation, we soon discovered we failed miserably. We did a lot of sight-seeing the day before the marathon, leaving my legs dead for the race. We also booked our flights home literally hours after the marathon, causing us to rush like wild animals to the airport and resulting in a painfully sore plane ride. That marathon taught me many things. But most of all, I learned that racing is also my chance to take full advantage of opportunities and experiences in life with people I love in exciting places.
If you’re considering turning your next marathon or half marathon into a racecation, follow these 6 tips to make it a trip to remember.
1. Arrive 2 days in advance of your race
There’s nothing worse than traveling all afternoon, rushing to a race expo and arriving to your hotel the evening before a race with no time to relax. Plan your travel so you have time to attend the race expo when it is least crowded (two days before or early the morning before the race). You want to have time to organize your clothes/gear, buy drinks or fuel you’ll need and get a restful night of sleep. Part of race day success is being in the right mental place where you are free of stress, worries and added anxieties that can come from rushing. There are so many things we can’t control on race day, so control what you can by arriving with enough time to prepare everything you need for a successful race day.
2. Choose activities that limit time on your feet before the race
You want to be well-rested and have fresh legs on race day. Exploring a new city generally requires lots of walking, while relaxing at a beach destination can involve hours in the sun. The day before your race, limit the time you spend on your feet and doing activities that can drain you. Look into activities where you’ll be seated for the majority of the time, such as bus, trolley or boat tours or a show or movie. Use public transportation or cabs to get from place to place to avoid walking around too much. Schedule all pre-race activities in the morning or early afternoon before your race so you still have plenty of time to rest and relax in your hotel room that day/evening. After your race, you can sight-see and explore as much as you want. I always recommend scheduling your race at the beginning of your trip so you don’t run out of energy by the time the big day arrives.
3. Don’t be afraid to be high maintenance when it comes to your pre-race dinner
I always eat the same thing before a race: a grilled chicken breast, a salted baked potato, some rice and a roll. Whatever your pre-race dinner ritual is, don’t be afraid to ask for it – whether it’s on the menu or not. From restaurants to hotel room service, ask if the chef can prepare your meal exactly as you would like it. If something isn’t on the menu, ask if they have it. I find restaurants and hotels to be very accommodating of athlete’s food needs during a marathon or race weekend.
4. Leave the fancy clothes (and shoes) at home
Lots of walking after your race will be good for you. But not if you are walking around in high heels, fancy clothes or uncomfortable shoes. You’re likely going to be sore. It may hurt walking down stairs (or anywhere really). You want to be as comfortable as possible. Plan activities in which running shoes or comfy flats are appropriate. The new Brooks Heritage line would be a perfect compromise between comfy and stylish.
5. Try awesome restaurants (after your race)
There’s no better time to indulge than right after a big race. Celebrate your accomplishment by trying a new restaurant and enjoying new cuisines as part of your culinary vacation experience.
6. Don’t fly out the day of the race
While it might be nice for your wallet to skip another night in a hotel and avoid spending more money on food and activities, do not fly home right after a big race like a marathon. You want to have adequate time to get back to your hotel room, shower, relax and reflect on your accomplishment. Celebrating with friends and family also makes the experience more meaningful. Rushing to get to the airport or back in the car to drive home will not only add stress; it will be hard on your body and make for a less than stellar racecation. If you’re going to take the time and pay the money to travel for a race, make sure to plan an extra day after the race to enjoy your full experience.
What tips would you add to have a successful racecation? What is your favorite destination race you have run?
Jesica D’Avanza is a Brooks Running Run Happy ambassador, communications professional and the blogger behind runladylike.com. As a runner, triathlete and coach, she’s on a mission to find her extraordinary and inspire others to do the same. On her blog – appropriately named by combining the words “run” and “unladylike” – she shares her uncensored and unladylike adventures of running and triathlon training. Jesica lives in Atlanta and has completed seven marathons, eight half marathons and numerous triathlons, including two half iron distance races. Jesica is also a certified marathon coach. In her day job, she serves as vice president of marketing communications for the nation’s largest nonprofit organization that fights muscle disease. You can also follow Jesica’s adventures on Twitter (@rUnladylike), Instagram (@runladylike) and Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/runladylike).