While I’ve entered the lottery for a few New York races, I’ve only raced here once (Run10Feed10 10K). In the short time that I’ve been running, I’ve instead used racing as an excuse to travel. I’ve run three destination races and have at least two more planned. Planning a destination race is not like planning a regular vacation, so I thought I’d share the top 10 things I’ve learned to consider along the way. If you have any destination race tips to add, share them in the comments!
In case you want to go back and read my race recaps, I ran half marathons in DC and SF. I ran a full marathon at Disney World. I have plans to run half marathons in Pittsburgh and Vancouver. I’m also in the lottery for a race in Toronto. And who knows where I’ll be headed in the fall!
Where and when do you want to race? My destination race decisions have been driven by different factors. For DC and SF, I wanted to run Nike races and planned around their dates. This is also true for wanting to run in Pittsburgh (my hometown) and with Lululemon in Vancouver. However, I chose the Walt Disney World Marathon because of its date. I ran the Nike Womens SF Half Marathon in October and thought it would be convenient to train for 12 more weeks for a full marathon. Disney was on January 11.
Will you have to go through a lottery? If you have to go through a lottery to get into the race, you may not be able to start planning as early as you’d like. All of the Nike races have lotteries, which is why I’m still waiting to begin planning for Toronto in June. Pittsburgh is a less popular race, so it was easy to register. Disney miraculously had spots open a few months before the race, which is not typical. And I almost didn’t get into Vancouver, because the Lululemon race sold out in less than 15 minutes. While it may be more convenient to pick a race without a lottery, you know that races with lotteries are bound to be an amazing event.
Who will come with you? When I ran my first half marathon in DC and first full marathon at Disney, my parents came to watch. When I ran in SF, I met friends on the West Coast. My mom will be running Pittsburgh with me, and I just finished planning Vancouver with two college friends. It makes destination races even more fun if you can recruit friends or family to join you. After watching me race twice, my mom finally decided to join me for her first!
How will you travel there? With the exception of DC, which I traveled to by bus, I’ve flown or plan to fly to my other destination races. SF, Disney, and Vancouver are all far away from New York. I also don’t own a car. If you do own a car and can plan enough travel time, driving to the race may make it more convenient to get around while on your trip. In most cases, I’ve been able to plan for my trip early enough that plane tickets have not been too expensive.
How many days do you want to stay? This is a tougher question than you think. The first priority on your trip is running the race. However, you will still want to see some of the city while you’re there. It’s best to have a full day to relax before the race itself, plus one or two days for sightseeing before or after the race. This makes a trip of 3-5 days an ideal amount of time.
What day will you arrive and leave? Races are typically on Sundays, which makes arriving on Friday the best decision. However, Vancouver is on a Saturday. Rather than taking Thursday and Friday off from work, I’ve decided to arrive early Friday afternoon. No matter when you arrive, make sure you have time to hit up the expo and rest. When you’re leaving, it’s not ideal to travel only a few hours after you race. At least wait until the following day.
Where will you stay? For DC and Disney, I stayed at a hotel. In SF, I stayed with a friend who lives in the area. In Pittsburgh, I’ll be staying with family, but we plan to stay in a hotel near the starting line the night before the race. When planning for Vancouver, a friend suggested looking at Airbnb. I’m so glad we did! Between the three of us, we’re paying $55 each/night. It will also be nice to stay somewhere with a full kitchen, washer, and dryer.
How will you get to/from the race? Races start early in the morning. If you can take a bus, a train, or another type of public transportation, check to see whether they’ll be running special hours for the event. If public transportation is not an option, ask your hotel or a local about reserving a taxi or Uber for that morning. There will be thousands of people looking for transportation. Don’t stress yourself out by not having a plan.
Where will you eat after the race? You crossed the finish line–it’s time to celebrate! As with transportation, there will be thousands of people trying to find something to eat after the race. In DC and SF, I researched local brunch spots and estimated when I would be done running to make a reservation. I also plan to do this in Pittsburgh and Vancouver. At Disney, I was exhausted and headed straight back to the hotel for a bath and room service in bed.
What else do you want to do besides race? As I mentioned, you’ll want to do some sightseeing before or after race day. I often plan to sightsee on the Monday and Tuesday after the race. In DC, I walked around the museums and monuments. In SF, I walked from the Ferry Building to the Golden Gate Bridge. At Disney, I visited the Magic Kingdom and Epcot. In Pittsburgh, I’ll likely visit with family. I’m especially excited about racing in Vancouver. We plan to spend Friday-Sunday in Vancouver, then take a bus to Seattle for Monday-Wednesday!