How to Prepare for a Destination Race

How to prepare for a race abroad

In just a few short days, I’ll be hopping on a flight to run my 7th half marathon: The Rock n’ Roll half marathon in Madrid. This is the first time I’ve ever traveled specifically for a race, so I did a lot of research to make sure I don’t screw it up. A race abroad requires a little more preparation than usual, so rather than hoard this valuable information to myself, I thought I would share my top 10 tips I gathered from my research:

  1. Save your major sightseeing for after the race. A new city can be exciting, but try not to walk an entire half marathon while sightseeing before the big day. You want fresh, strong muscles for race day!
  2. Drink extra water and limit alcohol. I would never tell you not to have a drink, especially while on holiday, but keep it reasonable. Not only would a hangover derail your efforts but air travel dehydrates you so make sure you’re chugging H20 like it’s your job. (Oh, and make sure to ask the front desk at your hotel if the tap water is OK to drink! If not, get yourself some mammoth water bottles at the nearest shop).
  3. Try not to deviate too much from your usual race day plan. Go to bed early. Lay out your clothes the night before. Charge your devices. Keep your tried and true system as consistent as you can.
  4. Pack your preferred gels or recovery foods. Don’t expect you can get your favourites where you’re going. Best to bring along all your fave treats rather than spend half the day running around a new city looking for a health food store.
  5. Arrive a day or two early. This is especially important if you need to adjust to a new timezone.
  6. Do your homework. Do your research before you board the plane. Check how far away your hotel is from the race, check the weather, check the terrain, check everything. No sense wasting time trying to connect to hotel Wifi for details. Have them with you before you go.
  7. Pack your race clothes as carry-on. If your luggage doesn’t arrive, you’re still race day ready. You could of course, buy new stuff if your luggage was to get lost, but remember the cardinal rule of race day: nothing new! So, yeah, just don’t risk it.
  8. Stay an extra day. What’s the point of travelling if you’re never going to see anything? Make sure you make time to see the city you’re racing in while you visit.
  9. Pack power adaptors. As part of your homework, research what power outlet your race country uses and make sure you get an appropriate adaptor. You don’t want a dead watch or iPhone on race day.
  10. Have fun! I know this sounds dumb but lower your standards. When I ran the British 10K in 2013 (before I lived in London), I spent half the race being mad at myself for being so tired and slow. The unexpected heat really got to me, and I was rather unprepared. Once I got over my own ego and just settled into the run, I had a much better time. Maybe you’ll run the race of your life, and that would be cool, but if not, just run and enjoy a new city.

Have you ever run a race abroad?



  1. Kathy April 19, 2016 / 6:31 pm

    I was lucky to be vacationing in Banff when the Terry Fox run was on and travelled to Niagara for the Women’s half marathon one year. The one thing I noticed in Banff was that my Nike sports watch had a hard time connecting (maybe the mountains?). It would be great to do a run in Europe someday! Good Luck in Madrid!

    • thoughtsandpavement April 19, 2016 / 6:33 pm

      That is a very good point! When I moved to London, I literally couldn’t get my Nike watch to connect for months! I caved and called support and they said to plug it in and update the GPS satellite data. I did it, and it worked. But a good point for any destination races if you want to track your pace. Nothing worse than a watch that won’t connect! Ack!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.