The Control Freak’s Guide to Running and Traveling

One of my lovely Rock’n’Blogger friends mentioned she was doing a post about traveling to races and if anyone had any tips and I thought “hey! I have loads of tips!” What a great idea for a blog post! While I shared some of this with her, I thought why not just write something up myself? And anyway, our trip to Paris for the Marathon is coming up faster than I can run a 10KM race, so it’s just all so appropriate!

As you know I love to run (duh!) and I love to travel. Combining the two is something I make an effort to do and while it may seem boring to some that ALL my travel pretty much has a race involved, that’s ok with me. Before I was running, I used to travel to see concerts. Things don’t really change with me that much! However, being a runner and going to races that are even 2 hours away in the same country or outside of the country takes quite some planning and organisation. I have a tendency to be a little (my husband may think this is an understatement) control-freaky but in the end things usually go quite smoothly (usually…).

First things first:
Before you even start planning which race you want to do, do just one thing. Just one. Make a list of all the stuff you require in your race kit. This means everything, even if you won’t need it for the particular race you will be travelling to. You will want to include your shoes (duh!!), clothes, watch, HR monitor, body glide, safety pins, sunscreen… all of that stuff. Make that list in excel or word so that when it comes to packing you forget nothing. Things on my list (besides shoes and clothes) include:

KTape or regular sporttape
sanitary pads
energy bars
soluble electrolyte tablets
Tiger Balm
bib/ gel holder
several buffs
phone pouch
emergency thermal blanket
throwaway rain poncho
extra small sports bag for change of clothes after the race
plastic bag for sweaty stinky clothes after the race
hair elastics
recovery vitamins like magnesium and zinc
electronics like extra power bank for your phone, laptop/ phone charger / sport watch charger

So, see where I’m going here? make the list for yourself with absolutely everything you can think of that you may need, including your after race gear! When you are about to pack, and you’ve checked your destination weather 3,682 times, you can cross off the stuff you don’t need for that particular trip.

flat runner check
flat runner check
Packing the cat is totally optional.
Packing the cat is totally optional.

OK now, where do you want to race?
Now we don’t all have disposable income or vacation days so it’s good to be rational about your decision. We try to go either places we’ve never been, or places that we really love, or places that have something “special” about the race. Or maybe it’s a series that you like, like the Rock’n’Roll Marathon Series, or the Nike runs, or maybe you want to run Disney and get all kinds of crazy medals (but remember you can get that with RnR too… just sayin’). We also tend to look at the time of year the race takes place. You don’t want to run in the blaze of Arizona Heat in July, do you? You also don’t want to do a marathon in Fargo in January. Personally, if I were much, much, smarter and less addicted to running, I would pick a spring event and a fall event. That way you have enough time to train and enough time to plan and save for both. (do not be like me and run all the races, or do and join the looney tunes running club with me!)

Do you want to run in THIS??
Do you want to run in THIS??

For example – we ran our first RnR event in Lisbon in October because: 1) PORTUGAL!! 2) Not as hot as in the summer and 3) We were super excited to run RnR for the first time.

who WOULDN'T want to run in Lisbon??
who WOULDN’T want to run in Lisbon??

We ran a Half Marathon in Gothenburg because: 1) We’d never been to Sweden, ever, 2) It is the LARGEST European Half Marathon (65,000 participants) and 3) It was at the end of the Spring and perfect weather.

Sunshine in Sweden!
Sunshine in Sweden!

We ran the Viaduct du Millau because: 1) South of France!!, 2) Tallest bridge in the world and 3) Hello excellent food and drink!

THE bridge in Millau - amazing to have run across!
THE bridge in Millau – amazing to have run across!

Here are some factors and practical tips from the Hubs:

1 – Preferred start time; some start at 6am some start at 1pm or later
2 – Check weather conditions for the time around the event and make sure you can prepare for it.
3 – Try to find an event that you can do with others, if you have a preference of not running “alone”
4 – Check if it is feasible to be on time at the start taking into account that you:
a: need to eat 3 hours before the start
b: need to go to the start with some sort of transportation.
c: need to drop off the bag
d: need to use the dixies at least once before the start

5- make sure you are aware of how busy it can be. Start corral but also in general. In the race, toilets, finish, etc.

I guess you get my point here; whatever you choose make sure there is some meaning behind it, that you really know what you are getting into and then you can plan a couple extra days (if you have them) to not only RUN the place, but see it as a tourist.

How are you going to get there? Are you going to fly? are you going to go by bus? Train? Boat? Are you going to drive there? Is someone going with you to share costs? This is something you really need to have nailed down pretty much by the time you are going to hit the SIGN-ME-UP-BUTTON. Sometimes we fly, sometimes we drive. For Paris we are taking the train. We haven’t decided yet for Berlin. For Liverpool we’ll fly.

If you fly: Put your basic running kit in your carry on. This is the most important thing you need for race day (plus any documents and ID you need). Let me say that again – PUT YOUR BASIC RUNNING KIT IN YOUR CARRY ON. I cannot even count how many times I heard about people forgetting their shoes!! THEIR SHOES!! or that the shoes were in the luggage that didn’t arrive! Or that they had TWO DIFFERENT SHOES WHEN THEY ARRIVED! Basics, people! Also, put your gels in your carry on, the ones you’ve trained with and want to use during the race. You can get mini soaps and things at the hotel or at a drugstore once you arrive at your destination. Priorities!

Taking other transport: Obviously if you are driving you can even bring the kitchen sink with you. We’ve brought all kinds of stuff including pots and pans, food, foam rollers, yoga mats, the works. A lot of freedom in taking the car, but then you may not want to have to drive for too long or have someone to share driving with since you’ll want your legs to be fresh for the race. Train and Bus (I have no boat experience, yet) I guess are slightly more limited than the car, but you can probably load up a huge backpack if you are so inclined. Since we are going to Paris by train, I’ll know soon enough how easy it is to bring all of the things by this way of transport!

If you've got the space, why not take all the rollers?
If you’ve got the space, why not take all the rollers?

By now you have decided, you’ve signed up and you are arranging your trip:

captain obvious

I may seem like Captain Obvious telling you this but seriously check that you have all documents needed or that you have a plan to arrange what is needed:
Passport/ Travel document
Any documents needed for the packet pickup: Confirmation, Medical Certificates, Insanity Certificate (ok, I made that one up)
Train, flight or bus tickets
Hotel or other lodging vouchers

confirmation of  registration for Gothenburg, one of several documents needed for packet pickup.
confirmation of registration for Gothenburg, one of several documents needed for packet pickup.

When to Travel
Personally – and I now have experience in the relaxed and the stressed out versions of when to travel – I think it’s best if you arrive one FULL day before the race. In other words, if your race is on Sunday, arrive on Friday. I suggest the same for the way back; race on Sunday, leave on Monday. I realise not everyone has the luxury to do this, but if you can (and that’s why I say plan 2 races – one in spring, one in fall – so that your family/friends/coworkers/whomever can quickly get over being mad at you for taking time off), this is truly the most relaxed way. Obviously you’ll have a lodging budget to deal with as well so that may determine when you arrive and depart. With the extra time you can also squeeze in a bit of sightseeing as well. Also you can go straight to the expo, spend money you don’t have on fun running stuff, gadgets you don’t need and enter a million giveaways in the off chance that you’ll win a new pair of Saucony’s or Adidas racers (not to be worn on race day, unless you completely disregarded my advice about the carry on), pick up your race packet, and orientate yourself on race day do’s and don’ts.

Our Strategy

Arrive on Friday before the race
Go to hotel / lodging drop off stuff
Hit up Expo
Pick up race packets
Take all the Selfies
Possible chance to meet up with other runners
Go for a drink/ dinner
Back to the hotel for planning out next days and rest

On the Saturday, participate in the 5k/ fun run if available
Possible chance for meet up with other runners
Don’t spend too much time on feet
Possibly easy sightseeing (like a bus or bike tour)
Early dinner
lay out all clothes and extras for the race
Early to bed

Sunday morning, up early
Breakfast 2-3 hours before marathon (or half) start
at race site minimum 45 minutes before start
Run the race
Get the medal
Drink the beer
Eat the food (we try to go to Hard Rock Cafe if there is one)
take the bath
hit the sack

Monday, sleep in
Eat all the things at breakfast
Easy sightseeing
if travel in the evening late lunch
if travel next day enjoy a nice dinner
Bask in your race glory

We have travelled on the day before the race, rushed to the expo, rushed to lodging, rushed to figure out food – this is highly NOT recommended.

I know not everyone is able to travel for races, but if you are, it’s one of the best ways to experience not only another country (even if for a short time) but a great way to see a city you’ve always wanted to visit. My head is full of places I want to go and run, which should keep me going until I am old and gray!!

Rock All The Races!!!
Rock All The Races!!!

Have you traveled for a race? What do you miss from my tips?

2 thoughts on “The Control Freak’s Guide to Running and Traveling

  1. wow! you are super prepared! I love travel for races but you are a lot more organized. Maybe we’ll see each other at a Rock n Roll race sometime! :)

    1. Lea, I know I’m late responding to your comment, but I would love to see you at an RnR race sometime! I’m going to Brooklyn this year… do you fancy joining me???

      and by the way, I totally forgot to pack my comfy pants for after the race! that even AFTER I wrote the post about not forgetting!!

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