I have been running on and off practically all my life. I enjoy the adrenaline or happy hormones, as I call it, that goes with every run. I take in the sceneries and landscape. I feel closer to my maker. I also take a lot of pictures, including selfies. I call myself a runner yes, but more of a running enthusiast than a serious one. I am after the experience of running, more than getting PRs.
I have also been based outside of the Philippines for some time now, and travel for work and vacations. I combine these two passions whenever and wherever I can. I’ve run four marathons with each one in a different place (Metro Manila, Guam, New York, and Chicago), and have run in various cities in Asia, Europe, and North America. I call these my runcations, or work-runcations as the case may be.
Here’s how you can do it too:
1. It’s all about the planning.
Know your work and vacation travel calendar ahead, and check-out the races happening in that place. Or better yet, target a race you want to do and work your schedule around it. Entering and going for international marathons can be pricey, so you need to save up for it.
I have a marathon/race kit for this purpose. You also need to have a backup marathon plan, just in case you don’t get into the race you want. Big international marathons are usually done thru lottery. Or do some good in the world and go thru the fundraising route for a sure slot in the marathon.
If work brings you to a different place unscheduled, check out the weekend races and see if there are same day registrations or online registrations (and ask a friend to get your race kit, if needed). Registration fee is likely going to be pricier but may be worth it. I’ve done the Saipan Half Marathon and the New Balance 25K Run in the Philippines among others, thru this.
2. Always train.
This should go without saying but I’m saying it anyway. Obviously, you can’t run a marathon without proper training. Don’t even think about it!
However, even if I’m not training for a marathon, I consciously try to run 3-4x a week with at least one long run during the weekend (quick 3 or 4mi runs on weekdays, and ~7-10mi on weekends), so I’m always hovering around 15 -20 miles/week. That’s enough for me to join a 10K or half marathon readily.
3. Pack your gear.
If you’re OC like me, then you’ll have a checklist. If not, make sure you have the essentials – running shoes, socks, outfit, hydration belt, and race nutrition – packed as your hand carry. You don’t want to scramble to buy these items just in case your luggage gets delayed/lost in some foreign country. Make sure you check the weather of the place you’re going to and pack accordingly.
4. Fly like a pro.
I usually take the red-eye special flights – i.e., first in the morning or late at night. Not only is it cheaper, but it also minimizes jetlag.
Over time, I’ve realized it’s best to minimize jetlag by:
1. Staying hydrated – resist the array of free drinks, water is best.
2. Following the plane schedule – for example, pretend it’s breakfast time when they serve you breakfast (and do your usual breakfast routine like reading the news), or sleep when they totally turn off the lights.
3. Wearing compression socks/pants/sleeves – it helps reduce swelling and provides better circulation
4. Adjusting to the place upon landing – if you arrive in the morning, resist the urge to sleep but have the full day up and about. If you arrive at night, then rest and sleep. That is why I always try to do red-eye flights. It somehow makes it easier for me to follow the plane’s schedule and then the place once I arrive.
5. Do your prep.
It’s best to arrive at least two days before the race, especially if you’re running a marathon. This way, you can do prep runs to try to acclimate yourself to the weather and your surroundings.
I made the mistake of not doing a prep run prior to running the Chicago Marathon and didn’t realize how the chilly wind would make my throat feel very dry. I overhydrated during the race thinking I was thirsty. I felt so bloated towards the end and vomited right after crossing the finish line.
If you’re running in cold weather and realize during your prep runs that you have to layer more than what you packed, buy cheap ones you can throw away in the middle of the race once you’ve warmed up. The volunteers will pick these up and donate to charity. It’s best to do that vs carrying a thick, nice jacket all the way to the finish.
Don’t forget to do proper carbo loading (but no binging). Skip the beers and wines til after you finish the race. Stay hydrated.
Get the race kits and enjoy the symposium. I met Kathrine Switzer (first woman marathoner) and Hal Higdon (of the training plans) at the New York and Chicago marathon, respectively. Have a budget and stick to it. It’s so tempting to buy everything in sight at these packet pick-up symposiums.
Do your night before ritual. I usually lay it all out and take a picture. It’s for my social media chronicling but also a great way to do a pre-race checklist and not have to panic on race day morning looking for stuff.
6. Bring your own breakfast. Eat breakfast.
Most international races provide free food at the start but it’s best to skip the lines and just eat breakfast before heading out to the start line, or simply bring your own breakfast. Trying anything new (including food) just before or during the race can get you into trouble.
7. Run! Enjoy!
Best part of joining an international run is the running! Take pictures. High five the locals. Look around and marvel at the scenery. Best to do some research on the route so you know what photos to take along the route. Chat up a fellow runner. It’s a tour you can do as fast or slow as you want (just as long as you meet the cutoff time). Smile, even when it hurts (you never know when an official photographer gets a snap)! And finish strong… as if you won the race! Get your medal and take more pictures. Don’t forget to stretchhhhh.
8. Wear it proud!
I usually do my sightseeing after the race and bring along the medal. Weird? Not really coz I have fun with it. So, don’t be shy now. You earned that medal and you can bling it like you mean it days after the race.
If you did a marathon, you’re likely to have a funny walk day after the race. Do that with pride too! It’s all in the attitude, my friends. You’ve earned that funny walk.
Packing it all up.
Your gear. Your memories. The new friendships made. The friendships rekindled. Your life lessons and eureka moments as you ran. The place, the culture, the experience.