Traveling for a race is exciting. You can explore a new city, run new routes, and feel as though you’ve earned a few local treats once the race is over. However, it can be expensive and stressful especially if the race has a large number of participants.
I’ve traveled to races in big cities and tiny towns and have had weekends on both sides of the financial spectrum. I learn something new each time I travel for a race, but I culled together some of my favorite tips and tricks.
Where to sleep
Hotels are typically the most expensive option, but often offer a convenience factor that cannot be beat. If you find one within walking distance of the start/finish line, the stress of finding parking is easily removed from the situation.
Research the parking situation before the race to determine how important it is to be close to the start/finish. Many hotels offer coffee and/or breakfast which can also save runners time the morning of the race.
If a close hotel is not an option due to price or availability, consider using a taxi or Uber to get to the start. Bear in mind that the availability of these services might be limited in the early morning hours so plan accordingly. It is always important to weigh safety concerns, but you can also split the cost with other runners who are staying in the same hotel.
Off the beaten path
Airbnb and VRBO properties are another option for runners. Depending on the number of people in your party and the length of your stay, a rental often makes more financial sense. Many residential properties are located within walking distance of the start/finish line.
Additionally, runners who enjoy having the availability of a kitchen to prepare their own pre-race meals will find rentals a great choice.
Camping is likely the most inexpensive sleep option aside from staying with a family or friend. Many mid-sized cities have RV parks that runners can set up a tent and still have access to bathrooms, showers, and other basics.
Keep in mind that a good night’s sleep is iffy, especially if the weather isn’t great. Also, it is highly unlikely that a campsite will be close to a race start unless it is an ultra or trail race.
Where to eat
Pre-race meals are generally the trickiest as it is usually best to stick with foods you are familiar with. Before you begin your trip, have a couple of options picked out. The pickier you are, the more important it is to have backups in the event that the restaurant is busy or time becomes an issue.
If it is a large city race, make a reservation if possible. If it is a small town race, make sure there is a viable option. I once ended up eating Subway in a gas station the night before a race because that was the least scary choice.
Some races offer a pasta dinner the night before. Usually they are inexpensive and fairly generic, but this is not the time to want or expect a gourmet dinner. For runners who enjoy carbing up with a traditional pasta dinner, consider attending one.
I usually either bring my race day breakfast or scope out the nearest grocery store to purchase something for the morning. Being a coffee junkie, I have also been known to bring my own coffee wherever I travel. It is better to be overprepared than underprepared on race morning, especially when it comes to fuel.
What to do
It goes without saying that the day before the race should be as relaxed as possible with minimal time on your feet. Book a bus or boat tour. Or finally see that movie you’ve been meaning to go see. If it is warm outside, limit your time in sun and stay hydrated.
I generally like to book my race as the first part of the trip if I am planning on visiting a place longer than a few days. It is always easier to relax after the race is over.
Take it easy on your legs
However, if you end your trip with a race, make sure that your limit your activities as you get closer to race day. Plan your most active days earlier in the trip and end with things that keep your legs rested.
What are your favorite running travel tips? How do you make a “run-cation” successful as both a runner and a tourist?