Many say that the best way to see a new city is to run through it—I’m a big believer in this concept. From 5Ks on the West Coast to half marathons down South to international marathons (I recently ran 26.2 miles in Tokyo!), traveling for races has given me the opportunity to see the world while staying fit. And I’m not the only one who has fallen in love with this idea. “To combine these two passions is an incredible experience for people of all ages and abilities, and we are fortunate to see an increase in popularity each year,” says Jim Heim, senior vice president, event development and production, and race director of the TCS New York City Marathon, who notes that 40 percent of NYC marathon finishers are from outside the U.S.
While jet-setting for a race is fun, it’s not without challenges. It’s important to “prepare for the worst so the worst doesn’t happen,” advises Jes Woods, a Nike+ running coach. That means taking into account everything from navigating travel delays to figuring out food that won’t upset your tummy when you’re in a new country. To help you focus on the bliss of running in a far-off place, we’ve mapped it out for you.
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Perfect Your Packing
You get to your intended destination, but your checked luggage does not. Cue panic. Avoid this situation by packing race-day essentials in your carry-on. We’re talking everything from your outfit to your favorite hair tie to your energy gels. And because Mother Nature can be fickle, it’s not a bad idea to throw in some options. Take the 2018 Boston Marathon: “Race day was windy and rainy with some snow, while the next day it was a picture-perfect day for running,” says Chris Heuisler, Westin Hotels & Resorts’ global RunWestin concierge. Runners who had packed layering options were much better off than those who hadn’t.
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Plan to arrive at your destination a few days ahead of your event so you have some wiggle room. Asics elite athlete Emma Bates was on her way to the New York City half marathon in March when her flight was canceled due to weather. She had to drive five hours from Boise, Idaho, to Salt Lake City, where she boarded a flight a day later than planned. “I always head out in advance because I expect travel plans to go awry; when they do go according to plan, it’s a bonus,” says Bates.
As for the actual journey, if you have a long flight or car ride, walking about every few hours will prevent your muscles from tightening up. “Perform a few hip stretches while you’re at it, and keep a lacrosse ball on hand to use on your glutes or hamstrings—just move it around on the muscle to keep blood flowing,” says Carly Graham, DPT, a physical therapist at Finish Line Physical Therapy in New York City…