Earlier this year I shared my tips for making your first race day experience go smoothly, however what about preparing for a race a little further away from home? One of the many wonderful things about running is that it’s something you can do wherever you are, and these days more and more runners are taking advantage of the opportunity to race abroad. Regular readers know that I’ve now run the Paris marathon 5 times (4 of those in consecutive years) and have become used to racing 5ks during my summer trip to Florida. Not only does racing abroad offer a fantastic way to see a new place, but it can also form the basis of a holiday or short break. Ideal!
But just as racing closer to home needs a bit of advance preparation, travelling abroad for a race brings with it a few additional steps to make sure that everything goes smoothly. Based on my own experiences, here are some tips to make sure you have an enjoyable time:
- Check if there are any additional requirements in order to race. In some countries, including France, runners must provide a medical certificate signed by their doctor before they are allowed to race. Perhaps you’re travelling even further afield and need to check visa or health requirements. Taking care of such things in good time means you can relax in the lead up to your trip.
- Confirm all bookings such as flights and hotels. Print out anything you need such as booking references, boarding passes and race entries and pack them in your carry-on along with other essentials like your passport (and while you’re at it, check your passport is still valid – you don’t want an emergency trip to the passport office when you should be on your flight!)
- Remember travel insurance and any health requirements such as an EHIC card.
- Make sure you have all the usual travel essentials – guide book, travel adaptor, phone charger, currency – as well as race-specific ones like your race pack or any other details you’ve been sent. If you have to visit an expo to collect your race pack, make sure you know how to get there and what you will need in order to collect your pack – some races require a confirmation document and/or photo ID.
- Check the weather forecast and plan the kit you are going to need. Make sure you have a couple of options in case that forecast changes. Remember not to wear anything new, and make sure you have something to keep you warm/dry before the race as well as something to put on afterwards if you have a bit of a journey back to your hotel. If you’re going somewhere warm, make sure you pack your sunscreen otherwise you’ll have “interesting” tan lines to show off! I ALWAYS pack my race day kit in my carry-on so I know I have all my essentials safely by my side. If you’re travelling for a marathon, I recommend compression socks or leggings for the day after, especially if you’ll be flying, as they always help my legs to recover.
- Think about food. Ok, I know as runners we’re always thinking about food, but what I mean is to think about what you’re going to eat before the race. If you have a meal you always like to have e.g. porridge, it may be best to bring your own in case your hotel doesn’t have what you need. Likewise, you may not be able to buy your preferred race fuel (gels, drinks, etc) at your destination, so pack whatever you need. I usually carry a few snacks for the flight as well, since you never know what food options there will be on a travelling day.
- If you’re taking any tech like a running watch or smartphone, make sure you have any chargers you might need (and the appropriate adaptor to plug them in!)
- Pack a few first aid essentials like blister plasters and painkillers in case you need them after the race. It’s not a bad idea to have some safety pins for your race number either, just in case!
- Be sensible ahead of race day. It’s easy to notch up 10+ miles simply walking around a big city and ideally you want to turn up at the start line with reasonably fresh legs. That said, if you have the chance then it’s worth checking out the start and finish areas to make sure you know your travel arrangements for race day.
- The night before your race, do exactly as you would at home – read over your race pack, lay out everything you need and try to get a good night’s sleep. And make sure you eat well – I wouldn’t be trying any unusual or spicy foods the day before. Stick to something familiar and save the local delicacy for your post-race celebration!
A little planning will help remove some of the stress that can come with travelling and you will be able to relax, get the most out of your trip and, crucially, enjoy your race.
Have a great racecation!