The rise of the ‘even more creative bucket list’ amongst runners has led to a boom in the marathon and ultra-distance races worldwide. Runners are now travelling more and further than ever before to events of all sizes. But after all your training is done, how do you ensure a well-executed result despite all the variables that come with overseas competing?
You often hear of people travelling badly, not recovering properly from the flight or long distance train or car journey, not being able to find the right pre-race nutrition in a new country or sleeping poorly in new surroundings. These are all obstacles to overcome, but here are a few tips that should make that first overseas race feel like your annual club competition.
#1 Avoid Sightseeing Till After The Race
Travelling to a marathon is a great way to see a new place or city but irrespective of the distance you’re running, you want to remain as fresh as possible for race day. Plan your trip and sightseeing activities for after your race. Walking around a city the day after the race is also a great way to loosen your legs and aid recovery.
#2 Pre-Race Nutrition
Practice your pre-race nutrition the night before and on the morning of long runs and make sure you have those foods and drinks available on your trip. One of the biggest complaints of people travelling to their first race overseas is that they were unable to get the foods they usually eat at the destination they travelled to. Be smart and pre-empt this.
#3 Long Flights/Journeys
Wherever possible, give yourself plenty of time to recover from a long flight, car or train journey before the race. Usually, a good night’s sleep is a great first step but if you’re travelling 6 hours+ then it helps to give yourself 2 or 3 days minimum to shake that jet lag off.
#4 Be Ready For The Conditions
Check the typical temperature and weather conditions for your race before you enter so that you can plan, prepare and/or re-evaluate your race strategy. It takes a relatively short time to adapt to the heat or humidity so arriving early (1-2 weeks before) is also a great plan where possible and necessary.
Good rest before an intense effort is always good. The more days you have to adapt to your new hotel, hostel, campsite the better, but don’t stress if you don’t have a good night’s sleep the night before the race. The rest in the days and weeks leading up to the event are what counts and your taper should have left you feeling fresh.
#6 Plan In Advance
Often when you travel it’s not a case of just hopping in the car and finding a parking space as close to the start as possible. Check whether the race puts on any transport or check the metro, train, bus times (often different on weekends) and although there’s usually other English-speaking runners around, expect the maps not to be in English.
Take Home Message
More than any of the above, enjoy it! The great thing about racing overseas is the experience. New culture and enthusiastic support that transcends language within a holiday-like weekend or week long getaway. When planned within the winter months it can help you stay focused on your training and break up the dark, cold British winter, kick-starting your passion for running.