Destination Races

Yesterday I posted about essentials needed for running a race, and I focused on local events.

Destination races are a whole different animal.

I love destination races! Combining vacation and exercise is a dream come true.

I’ve previously posted about destination events. Some of my favorite races are from the Run Disney series, but I also loved the More Fitness Women’s Half Marathon (which loops through New York City’s Central Park; how awesome is that?) and the Nike Women’s Marathon (the original 26.2 miler that featured a Tiffany necklace as the finisher’s medal).

Preparing for a destination race requires more prep work than usual. Along the way, I’ve picked up some travel tips:

  • Arrive at your destination two days before the race. You’ll most likely need to pick up your race packet the day before the event, and if your arrival is delayed for any reason, you could find yourself arriving to locked doors. Missing out at the last minute would be heartbreaking! Get there a day early, so you can leisurely cruise the race expo and get set for the Big Event.
  • Having said that, don’t get there too early and try to do too much. I’ve known several people who combined one of the Disney races with visiting the parks. Trying to run 26.2 miles after a day of walking from Adventureland to Fantasyland and everywhere in between can be a challenge you don’t need.
  • Scout out hotels close to the start and/or finish line. Popular places may sell out. Book early. Try to stay close enough that you don’t need to drive to the race or can easily hobble back to a hot shower.
  • Bring any printed registration materials you may have. You’ll need your photo ID in most cases to pick up your bib (number), but also bring any printed registration materials you may have. I went to pick up my packet at one race and the volunteer staffing the booth couldn’t find my name on the list. Fortunately I brought a print out of my registration receipt and Everything Turned Out OK in the End. Whew.
  • Pack the nutrition gels and pre-run snacks that you usually eat. Don’t rely on the race expo to sell your favorite brand. I had to walk about four extra miles throughout San Francisco before the Nike Women’s Marathon in 2012 to find a running store that sold what I wanted. I mistakenly thought there would be gels at the expo. There weren’t. Lesson learned.
  • Bring a plastic bag to stash your stinky running gear for the trip home. It will befoul the rest of your luggage if it’s allowed to mingle. Trust me.
  • Better yet: find a way to wash your stinky running gear before heading home. Many resorts have laundry facilities. Use them. If there’s none available, swish your clothes around in the bathtub along with some hotel shampoo, roll the wet clothes tightly in a towel to wring out excess water, and hang dry overnight in the shower. Still bring them home in the plastic bag, though.

My packing list for a destination race:

  • GPS watch and charger
  • iPhone and charger (don’t forget chargers!)
  • Armband to carry iPhone
  • Nutrition gels (1 for a half-marathon and 4 for a full)
  • Running outfit, plus shoes and socks
  • Headband to hold back hair
  • Toss sweatshirt. This is critical if the weather may be cool at the start. A toss sweatshirt is an old and/or cheap sweatshirt that you wear for the first few miles, then remove and throw to the side of the course. You’re not getting it back, so make sure it’s not designer wear. Most big races collect discarded clothing and donate it to homeless shelters or other organizations. Some people buy sweatshirts from Goodwill or similar places for just this purpose. I use old ones from college or pick them up on sale at Target, where they often sell Hanes sweatshirts for as low as $5.
  • Compression socks or sleeves to wear after the race
  • Plastic bag to hold stinky clothes
  • Small plastic zip lock bag to hold emergency $20 during the race
  • Sunblock
  • Lip balm
  • Some type of anti-chafing skin protectant
  • Band aids
  • Flip flops or other really comfortable shoes

Try a destination race! It’s so much fun.


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