How to Choose a Destination Race

There are a lot of wonderful things about racing close to home: the familiarity, the ease of logistics, sleeping in your own bed, and the support of your family and friends! However, running is a fantastic way to see a new place and a great excuse to travel. It’s no wonder that more and more runners are now choosing to run destination races. If you’ve never traveled for a race before, though, the options can be daunting. Here’s how to choose a destination race that’s the perfect fit for you.

Enjoying the warm ocean after finishing the Reggae Half Marathon in Negril, Jamaica!

1. Consider your budget: Whether you’ve got thousands of dollars to spend for an international event or just enough to cover a hotel room in the next state over, decide how much money you’re willing to spend well ahead of time. In addition to the cost of the race, you’ll need to factor travel expenses (flight, rental car, gas money, etc), hotel costs, meals, etc. There’s no right or wrong amount to spend, just the amount that’s right for you! Pro tip: travel with running buddies and split hotel and rental car costs!

2. Check out the course: Some races, like the Berlin Marathon, are renowned for being extremely flat and fast. Others, like the Nevis Marathon in beautiful Nevis, West Indies, are known to be more challenging. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of traveling for a race, but it is worthwhile to know what to expect from the course before you sign up. When choosing a destination race, make sure you don’t overlook the topography of the area and compare it to your training.

The Nevis Half Marathon was hilly and hot, but absolutely beautiful!

3. Look at the average temperatures/weather: Some of the most popular destination races are those that take place in warmer climates during the middle of winter. The appeal is obvious: escape from a snowy, icy hellscape and make your way to the beach! However, many runners overlook the fact that they aren’t acclimated to heat and humidity in January. If you are choosing to run in temperatures you aren’t used to, make sure to set your race goals accordingly. When I ran the Reggae Half Marathon in Jamaica in December 2015, I definitely wasn’t ready for the heat! By the time the Run in Paradise Half Marathon in Antigua rolled around the following May, however, I was much better prepared.

Coming in strong at the Run in Paradise Half Marathon in Antigua!

4. Think about fuel: While traveling within your own country won’t yield many surprises, visiting another country for a destination race is more of a wildcard when it comes to fuel. When I ran the Dublin Marathon in 2013, the electrolyte beverage on the course was Lucozade – something I’d never tried before! Although it turned out to be delicious and sit fine in my stomach, the opposite could also have been true. Research what electrolyte drinks and fuel (if any) will be out on the course for the destination races you’re considering, and plan accordingly.

If you’re thinking about #running a destination #race, don’t forget to check in-race fuel! Danielle from… Click To Tweet

5. Decide on your goals for the trip: Why are your goals important when choosing a destination race? Obviously, your goals will affect the importance of the weather, the course topography, and more, but it will also help determine how long you should travel and what you should do. If you are choosing a destination race specifically because you know the course to be advantageous and you are trying to hit a specific time-related goal, like a Boston Qualifier, you may not be as worried about sight seeing but may be more concerned about acclimating to the altitude and weather. If the reason for your trip is primarily vacation and you just want to find a fun run to do while you’re there, you probably want to account for enough time to sight see while still resting up for your event. If you’d like to run fast and  sight see, choose a race like the Prague Marathon and plan the bulk of your trip for after the race, when you can be on your feet as much as you want!

Can’t wait for this view at the Prague Marathon in May! Photo courtesy of RunCzech

6. Be realistic about your nerves: If you have never traveled for a race before but get extremely nervous before hometown races or when traveling in general, start small when choosing your destination race and go with a nearby state or city. If you’re ready to go a bit bigger but still find the logistics surrounding international travel intimidating, consider an event like the Run in Paradise in Antigua, where the race organizers provide transportation to and from the airport and the race start, offer organized tours for runners, and even have a charter flight just for runners. If a vastly different environment is more fun to you than intimidating, think of something like the Tokyo Marathon! Otherwise, stick to traveling to another state or city and ease into the process slowly rather than being a nervous wreck on race day.

Heading to Japan pushed me way outside of my comfort zone, but it was one of the best experiences of my life!

7. Do your research: Websites like Marathon Guide can be extremely helpful in learning about different races. You’ll be able to review other runners’ experiences and learn about the logistics associated with each event! You can also check the event’s Facebook page for posts by runners written immediately before and after the event to see what went smoothly and what didn’t.

Whether it’s running races across the states (40 and counting, so far) or in different countries (six and counting!), I’ve enjoyed every event I’ve ever done. When choosing the destination race that’s right for you, the most important thing is to be honest with yourself about your goals and let the rest of the pieces fall into place! There is an event out there for everyone. Need some suggestions? Check my race reports page for reviews of all of my events!

LEAVE A COMMENT: Have you ever traveled for a race before? What is the most important aspect you consider when choosing a destination race?