While I always try to stay fit on my travels as much as possible, whether that means booking a stay at a hotel with a fitness center or doing some body weight workouts in my hotel room before bed, I completely outdid myself when I traveled over 1,000 miles to run a 3-day, 33-kilometer (20+ mile) race. Thanks to some persistent nagging by my dad, who is an avid half-marathoner, I found myself traveling to Bermuda for the Bermuda Triangle Challenge: a 3-day race starting with a one miler on Friday, followed by a 10K on Saturday, and ending with a half marathon (or marathon if you didn’t get your fill after the first half marathon loop) on Sunday. Now that I’ve had a chance to reflect on my experience, here are 14 tips for taking a running vacation for anyone else out there crazy enough to travel thousands of miles to run.
1. Bring the clothes you’re most comfortable running in.
Whatever clothes and shoes you typically train in at home, bring that with you on your running vacation. If you typically train in different weather conditions at home than what you’ll be running on your holiday, bring the clothes you’re most comfortable wearing in that temperature. For example, the temperature back home in Chicago during my entire training period was at least 50 degrees colder than the temperature in Bermuda, where I would be running the race. Since I knew this would be the case, I trained indoors on a treadmill in warm weather clothes, and when I got to Bermuda, I wore those exact same clothes that I had grown so comfortable wearing.
2. Remember your non-apparel essentials.
Do you normally run with your headphones and your iPhone in a running armband? What about a waistpack? Or a couple of water bottles? Whatever your normal routine is, make sure to pack all the items you’ll need to be as comfortable as you can during your race abroad.
3. Pack some fresh laundry sheets if you won’t have access to laundry.
Whether you plan to start out your vacation with a few days of training or jump right into the race, you are going to come out of race weekend with some smelly clothes. One of my favorite packing hacks that I use on all my travels is to pack a few clean dryer sheets in a ziploc bag and layer them between my clothes after they become worn and dirty, so that my clothes at least still smell nice until I’m able to wash them. This hack will come in especially handy on a running vacation.
4. Pack a clean set of clothes for race day.
You’ll want to feel as fresh as possible on race day, so if you’re planning on doing any training on your vacation before the race, make sure to pack a clean set of clothes for race day, so that you’re not stuck wearing clothes you’ve already sweat through. Many races will include a t-shirt in the race packet, so if you’re comfortable wearing a new shirt on race day, you can plan to wear that during the race and save yourself a bit of extra space in your suitcase.
5. Leave room in your suitcase for race goodies.
Since most races do include a free t-shirt or some sort of goodie in the race packet, you’ll want to make sure you have extra space in your suitcase for your newly acquired race paraphernalia. I came home from the Bermuda Triangle Challenge with four new t-shirts and four medals – one for each of the three races and one for completing the Challenge – which I would have been forced to leave in Bermuda had I traveled there with a full suitcase.
6. Book a hotel near the start line.
You’ll save yourself a lot of headache and time if you book your accommodation near the race start line. We stayed at a resort about 30 minutes from the start line, and looking back, it definitely would have saved us a lot of time and planning if we had stayed somewhere closer to the race. Every night before bed, we had to decide whether we wanted to take a bus or taxi to the start line the next day, and either figure out the bus schedule and buy our bus tickets, or prearrange a taxi with our hotel for the next morning. While it wasn’t a huge hassle, it would have been a lot easier to be able to wake up and walk a few minutes to the start line.
9. If you need to take public transportation or a cab to the start line, map out your route or prearrange your taxi the night before.
With that said, if you do need to take public transportation or a cab to the start line, make sure you map out your route and prearrange your ride the night before, so you’re not scrambling to figure out how to get to the start line on the morning of the race.
8. Book a hotel with spa facilities, a restaurant, and a fitness center.
One thing I loved about our resort was that it contained a fitness center, restaurant, and spa, so I was able to do some light training before the race started, know that I always had meal options available on site, and relax at the spa after the race. You’ll want to have all of your basic needs covered on site, if possible, because who knows if you’ll even be capable of walking after the race! (kidding… but you just might not feel like walking or moving much)
9. Plan to do most of the activities you want to do in your destination city before the race so you can spend your post-race time relaxing.
If you are trying to combine your running vacation with an actual vacation where you get to explore some of the local sites, you’ll want to plan your vacation so that you get to do most of your sightseeing and exploring before the race. Again, you just don’t know what kind of condition you’ll be in after the race, so if there’s something you know you want to do or see, play it safe and schedule it in before the race.
10. Download all the music and/or podcasts you want to listen to on your run.
Since your phone data probably won’t work abroad, make sure you have any music or podcasts you want to listen to on your run pre-downloaded to your phone so you’re able to access it without cell service or wifi during the race. There is nothing worse than having to run 20+ miles in silence when you’ve only ever trained with music or podcasts.
11. Scope out the course beforehand if you can.
One huge mistake I made before running the Bermuda Triangle Challenge was not scoping out the course beforehand. Even though I had a few days in Bermuda before my race, I didn’t do any research on the terrain beforehand and was only able to explore a small part of the island in my few days there. Once the 10K race started on the second day, and I realized that the entire course would be hills, something I have no experience with coming from the Midwest, I knew I was in trouble. Don’t make the same mistake I made, and make sure to do your research on the terrain and elevation gain on your course far in advance so you have time to train accordingly.
12. Don’t outdo yourself.
Something I failed to mention was that I had originally only signed up for the Bermuda Half Marathon, not the Bermuda Triangle Challenge. It wasn’t until a few hours before the mile race on Friday that I impulsively decided to upgrade my registration to the Triangle Challenge. Even though a mile and a 10K race typically would not have been a big issue for me, running both on an extremely hilly course right before my first half marathon was in no way ideal. Realize that a running vacation is still a vacation, and don’t outdo yourself to the point where your travel experience takes a hit.
13. Give yourself some buffer days for jetlag.
Luckily, I didn’t have to worry about jetlag as there is only a two hour time difference between Chicago and Bermuda, but if you are traveling to a different continent or significantly different time zone for your race, make sure to build in a few buffer days for jetlag before your race. The worst thing would be to have to run a long race while you’re exhausted and sleep deprived.
14. Ask locals for any tips they may have.
Typically, a marathon or half marathon is a big deal for the host city, and most locals are at least aware of the race taking place or know someone who’s running it. Don’t be afraid to ask the locals if they have any tips or insider information that will help you be more prepared for the race. It seemed like every local I talked to in Bermuda either knew a ton of people running the race or had run it themselves in the past, but all of them were very aware of the race and energized for race weekend, even if they were not running it.
Despite making a few rookie mistakes, I had a very memorable first running vacation in Bermuda and would recommend it to any other runners out there or any traveler looking for a new, healthy, and fun way to travel. If you’ve ever taken a runcation before, I’d love to hear any additional tips you may have or recommendations for fun races around the world!
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