From logistics and gear to technology and all that happens on race day itself, I learned a lot while racecationing abroad. Now that you have read all about my experience running the Rock ‘n’ Roll Madrid Marathon, I will share a few tips and tricks to make your next destination race a fun and memorable one.
Check out the course map and public transportation options before booking your hostel, hotel, or apartment.
I was lucky enough to find a very reasonable AirBnB apartment about a half mile from the starting line, less than a block from the metro, and close to popular shopping and restaurant areas. Do your research so you avoid ending up in the middle of nowhere!
If you are flying overnight, make every effort to sleep on the plane so you are ready to go when you land in the morning.
I eschewed the vast selection of movies and TV shows on my personal video screen in favor of a few hours of half-decent sleep. Motion sickness pills, a travel eye mask, ear plugs, and the airline-provided blanket and pillow were crucial. I was ready to sightsee as soon as we landed in Madrid!
Give yourself plenty of time to acclimate to your race city.
You will want to allow for settling in a bit especially if you will be crossing multiple time zones to get there. Like I mentioned in my first post, I gave myself three full days in Madrid before race day to get used to the time difference, but you may need more or fewer days depending on where you travel!
If you are flying, carry your running gear in your carry-on bag.
Or, pack light, only bring a carry-on, and avoid checking a bag altogether like I did! No one wants to arrive at baggage claim in a foreign country only to find your suitcase took a detour to another continent. You will be ready to go on race day if you keep your gear by your side! (Or in the overhead compartment.)
Bring everything with you.
Shoes, apparel for all weather conditions, socks (and extras), compression gear, your favorite nutritionals, hydration bottles, electrolyte tabs, safety pins, Body Glide, snacks, chargers . . . EVERYTHING. I found that many items I was accustomed to seeing at race expos in the US were nowhere to be found at the Madrid Marathon Expodepor. I’m looking at you, foam rollers!
Brush up on the language.
I had no trouble navigating the city of Madrid or conversing with the locals, but chances are you were not a Spanish major in college like I was. Pick up an [insert language here] for Travelers book at the library or download an app with key phrases and pronunciations to help get your point across. If nothing else, I find that native speakers love to see you making an effort to communicate in their language, even if it is not perfect!
Visit the App Store.
(Or Google Play, if you’re an Android user like me.) Keep track of your flights on your airline’s app. Most major cities offer free smartphone apps for public transportation. Google Translate is great for deciphering menu items and street signs. Audible offers a massive selection of reasonably-priced audiobooks, and White Noise can help block out unusual hotel sounds when trying to rest. Just like in the US, Yelp offers reviews and ratings of restaurants, stores, and attractions, and XE easily calculates exchange rates between any two currencies. Also, make sure your phone will work on the mobile network of your destination country, and look at international plan options before you leave home to reduce voice and data roaming charges.
Shop at local markets for groceries.
I know, I know, I told you to bring everything with you, but a loaf of bread was not going to survive my six-hour transatlantic flight. I visited the large grocery section of the department store by our apartment, El Corte Inglés, the day we arrived to stock up on necessities. For me, those were peanut butter (imported from the US!), bread, and my favorite European crunchy indulgence, Paprika Pringles. You can also save a little money by shopping for breakfast and snack foods rather than eating out at restaurants for every meal.
Take it easy the day before the race.
Do as I say, not as I do. If you plan on sightseeing, get it out of the way in the morning and take the afternoon off to sit at a cafe and people watch while resting your legs.
Put your travel buddy to work.
If you have someone along for the trip, see if he or she will carry extra supplies like socks, shoes, water, nutritionals, pain relievers, and Body Glide to certain points along the course so you are prepared for the unexpected, and ask him or her to wear identifiable clothing, hold balloons, or carry a sign so as not to be missed as you run past!
Last but not least, enjoy the journey.
Both to your destination and as you run the course. Chances are you will see areas of the city that tourists normally overlook, and you will make memories that will last a lifetime.
By Erica Gminski, Pacers Fairfax