Living in an endurance sport boom, there’s no shortage of races happening on any weekend just around the corner. But there’s still something alluring about racing away from home. You can’t deny this when you see droves of people signing up to the Laguna Phuket Triathlon, the Tokyo Marathon or the 70.3 ironman.
New athletes may choose a destination race as their first taste of the sport to help motivate themselves to train, while more experienced athletes may be looking for a different challenge or have dreamt of finishing a race that’s on their bucket list.
When planning a destination race, a lot of thought should go into not only the logistics of how to get there and where to stay and eat, but also how to prepare yourself properly to race on unfamiliar soil.
Here’s how to plan your destination race.
Determine how far you’re willing to travel and how much you’re willing to spend.
If you’re the kind who gets antsy on airplanes or fidgety on long road trips, then that should impact your decision about which race to target. But if you believe that race is worth it, then go for it.
Budget is really the limit when it comes to destination races. If there’s a race you’re dying to do even if it’s on the other side of the world, you would pinch pennies and save however long it may take.
It’s just like going to a holiday destination, except there’s a bit more exertion involved than just lifting mai tais to your lips. And don’t waste the travel by heading immediately home after the race; if you can spare a day or so post-race to take in some sights and culture, I highly recommend it.
Research the requirements involved in traveling to that destination.
Most race websites will give you a rough idea of how to fly or drive into the venue city and may have partner hotels and airlines with preferential rates. The more thorough organizers will provide full travel packages at set prices. There are also third-party travel agencies that provide these services along with guaranteed entry to the race.
Sometimes these packages and deals can end up being more expensive than if you make the arrangements yourself. Scout the hotels within a one- or two-kilometer radius of the race’s start or finish on Google Maps and browse for deals on Agoda or Booking.com. For added thoroughness, check out their TripAdvisor reviews before booking.
Use a Google search to find out which airlines fly to the race city. Then you can see how much you could save by flying on budget airlines those versus full-service carriers. If you’re flying with a bike, check the fine print on the airline’s baggage policy before purchasing the tickets to avoid any nasty hidden charges at check-in.
Take note: it isn’t enough just to find out how much plane fares, hotels, and transfers will cost. Some destinations may also require jumping through visa hoops, so make sure you can get everything sorted before you fly out.
Decide on the race before registration opens.
Depending on your type of work and the labor laws in your country, you will receive days of paid leave which you’ll need to schedule in advance. Notice how most new races are announced in December and January? They want to be top of mind when you start thinking about when to take your leaves.
Once registration opens, many of the sought-after destination races sell out quickly. The most popular races and marathons in the world like New York, Tokyo, and Chicago run lotteries instead to allocate slots to their races.
So, once you’ve decided on the race you want to do, put yourself in position to pounce on a slot. Subscribe to the organizer’s email updates. Follow them on social media. Camp out on the registration page and keep refreshing if you need to, because before you know it the next chance to do the race could be next year.
Train properly for the race.
Because you’re going to all the effort and expense of racing somewhere different and distant, you should get your money’s worth. By preparing yourself properly for what the race will require, you can cross the finish line strong and personally triumphant.
Take a look at the course profile and prepare accordingly. If it’s a flat course it will recruit the same muscles over and over again so you need to train for that. If it’s a rolling course you need to build strength to maintain your speed over the varying terrain. If it’s a hilly or mountainous course, then hit the inclines! If its the 70.3 ironman then lock into a set training plan to cover all bases.
If the race is held somewhere with a climate or elevation that’s very different from your home country, you should find every opportunity to simulate race conditions while in training. This is where heat or altitude training comes in.
Don’t leave training ‘til crunch time; it’s important to build your fitness gradually so you can avoid illness and injury from doing too much too fast. There are a number of websites that provide marathon or triathlon training plans lasting several months (most will range from 12 to 16 weeks), perfect if your training for the 70.3 ironman! You can also retain a coach who can customize the training to suit your unique needs, abilities, and goals.
It’s better with company.
Some of us may be lone wolves in our chosen sport, training and racing by ourselves. But having friends training for the same race really helps when motivation flags. Knowing there’s someone you know out there on the course who will have your back when things go wrong does wonders for peace of mind.
Traveling in a group can also cut costs per head particularly when it comes to hotel rooms and transport fares. As an added bonus, if you’ve got spectators in your group you effectively bring your own cheering squad.
There are so many well-run races in breathtaking destinations around the world. This year, don’t miss out. Let your feet take you places… literally.