I love racing in different countries and if I had the money I would be hopping on a plane every month to do one. Within the running world racecations are becoming more and more popular and now whenever I’m at the start line of a big race I hear loads of different accents around me. I took my first racecation last year when I ran the Lisbon Half Marathon and my second this year when I did the Barcelona Marathon. Both were in countries that I had never been to before and were fantastic experiences.
It’s easy to see the appeal of racecations for runners. You get to explore a whole new culture, see a foreign city from a different perspective and get to do what you love doing – running. While I can’t race abroad as often as I like, I am definitely looking into running more races overseas and it is something I would recommend to all runners, no matter your pace or distance.
If you’re thinking about taking a racecation here are some tips I’ve learnt on how to plan and make the most out of your trip.
Choose the right race
Before choosing the city you want to go to, look around for the right race for you. If it is your first race abroad I would recommend doing a distance that you are comfortable with and there are some great races from 10k to marathons around. It is also important to choose a race that expects international runners as these will be organised to cater to foreign runners who don’t speak the local language and are often designed to make it as easy as possible for runners to find the sports expo and race start line. Big races in large cities are often the ideal choice.
Be brave with destination
I chose to run both races in countries that I had never been to before. This was a great way of combining being a tourist and exploring a new city and culture with being a runner. While I won’t run every race abroad in a new country, being brave with the location choice and going to completely new place adds an extra fun dimension to the trip.
Do lots of research
Once you’ve signed up for the race and booked your tickets do lots of research on where you’re going and the race information. I knew I was going to Barcelona on my own which, combined with never being to the city before, meant it could have been a stressful trip so I did loads of research about key race locations before I went. I had a rough idea of where the sports expo was located looking at race information available on the Barcelona Marathon website as well as looking at tourist maps and googling metro maps. This made the trip stress-free as I was confident that I knew where I was going and what I was doing. Once at the expo I also double checked information about the start location, times and baggage drop off.
Packing what you need
Along with packing your race day clothes also think about packing the race day extras that you will need. If you’re running a marathon make sure you have enough of your usual energy gels as it’s unlikely you will get the same brand once you’re there, plus you don’t want to be wasting time looking for a specialist sports shop. Also make sure you pack an emergency breakfast in case the hotel restaurant doesn’t open early enough before the race; I find porridge pots that just needed boiling water to make are great pre-race emergency breakfasts.
Make time for sightseeing
If you’re racing in a city you’ve been to lots of times before you’re probably not bothered about sightseeing, but if it’s new you’ll want to see as much as possible. In Lisbon I spent longer in the city so I got to explore quite a lot of it, but my time in Barcelona was shorter so I didn’t get to see as much as I would have liked. I’ve now learnt that making the most of touristy stuff like hop on and off buses are easy ways to see many main sites when you’re short on time.
Get there early on race day
However much you research and plan there is always the possibility of something going wrong, or getting lost. This is why I aim to get to the start line as early as possible and it means I won’t get (too) stressed if anything goes wrong. It does mean a long wait, but use this time to soak up the atmosphere, after all this is the main reason for the trip.
Enjoy the race
Wanting a new PB as a runner is natural but when racing abroad, especially when you’re running past iconic landmarks, just relax and take in what you are actually doing and seeing. The atmosphere at the Barcelona marathon was amazing from start to finish, which helped to make it an unforgettable race – plus running past tourist sites such as the Sagrada Familia was incredible. In Lisbon the race started across the 25 de Abril Bridge, which is not normally open to pedestrians and running across it was a completely unique experience.
Have you ever run abroad? If so, what tips do you have for making the most of your racecation?