Ahh… the sweet joys of a vacation. Time spent doing what you love, foregoing your worries for another day. Running away to a beach in the winter or a city calling out to be explored or a race begging to be run. That’s right, why not make a destination race the objective of your leisurely escape from the day to day?
If you think about, running has always been a sweet excuse to travel. World famous marathons like those in London, New York, Tokyo, or Athens are a great excuse to get on a plane to somewhere new. Running a race this weekend might be just the justification you need to treat yourself to a get-away.
And, hey, running can be the best way to see a city. How else could you see, feel, and smell 26.3 miles of a new city, enchanting terrain, or rugged wilderness in just four (or so) hours? We’ve put together a guide to finding your destination race to help you do just that.
What are destination races, and how do I find one?
Destination races are popping up all over the United States—and that’s where we’ll start. To me, destination races are a great way to motivate yourself to get in shape—you’re running for yourself, you’re running for the race, and you’re motivated to do so because you’re treating yourself to a vacation. What could be sweeter?
A destination race can be an all-inclusive experience, like the wine country races complete with structured social and culinary experiences. Or it can be a journey of self-discovery in the rugged trail running races of Georgia. Or the Australian outback, if running races in Georgia sounds a little too close for home.
The point is that there’s races the world over, all over the world. If you’re actively running races, you’re bound to plateau at some point and destination races offer a great boost of motivation. There’s a growing industry of destination races dedicated to a certain theme, but any race can be a destination.
Destination races are growing in popularity not only because being active and running races is getting more popular, but because it’s so easy to find races anywhere you want to run. Running race calendars are a quick search away—but we’ll make it easy for you.
Runner’s world has put together a complete list of 2018 running races for destinations around the world. This list includes many 5k running races, all the way up to half-marathons and full marathons. Aims world running has another running race calendar that makes it easy to find a race to run this weekend, if you’re in desperate need of a get away.
If your passport isn’t up to date, and you’re looking for races in the United States, running in the USA is a great resource for finding local races across the US. Or if you’re a Canadian passport holder—or non-holder—a raceguide.ca is a similar resource north of the border.
If you find the calendars mentioned a little too inclusive, there’s plenty of guides online that have highlighted the best races around the country—and around the world. Health.com has made finding your dream race a little easier by finding the best race in every state. Runners world makes it easier on those of us who are indecisive, by narrowing their list down to nine.
Why should I sign up for a destination race?
You’re right. Destination races can be complicated, maybe even expensive. There’s all the work of buying the plane ticket, booking accommodations, taking time off work, and all of that after finding the perfect race. Is it worth it?
Certainly, destination running isn’t for everyone. Who really wants the thrill of running through a destination they’ve only seen in pictures, alongside other runners from all over the world, with nothing to show for it but awesome memories, new friendships, and an overwhelming sense of accomplishment? Sounds terrible—right?
For us at askrunners.com, running isn’t about taking the path of least resistance. It’s about the challenge, the thrill of the run, the endorphins that follow, and the journey that is a runner’s lifestyle. Running is about motivation. Running is about improvement. Running is about moving forward with each one of a million small steps. It’s about living your best life.
Destination running races are a great way to combine all those things. Making a plan a few months ahead of time is a great way to stay motivated. Making a plan to run your destination race might be what you need to finally run that first 5k, 10k, or marathon. It might be what you need to cut your time. It might just be what you need more generally.
If you’re a new runner, 5k running races in a destination of your choosing can be just the shot of inspiration you need reach your goals—even your new year’s resolutions. The great thing about 5ks (and all races for that matter) is the social element. You’re challenging yourself to be better among hundreds of like-minded individuals. Many races include post-race social events.
If you ask me, traveling can be lonely—so why not plan your next trip around a race and make lifelong friends, or weekend tour guides, in the process? If you want to know an experienced runner’s secret, the rush of endorphins that follows a race is a great social lubricant.
Is running a destination race right for me?
Are you a runner? Then yes, you would enjoy a destination race. How can you be sure? There’s endless possibilities. If you’re a serious runner with a serious disposition, you’ll love the rush and challenge of an elite race like New York or Boston. But are all races so serious?
The Marathon des Château Du Médoc is a great example of a not so serious race for serious runners. It is a true marathon in which runners in traditional marathon gear run along-side many other runners in costumes. The race ends with around eight thousand participants drinking wine together to celebrate their accomplishment. And it’s in France, so you can scratch that off your bucket list. Did we mention you can actually drink wine along the way?
If wine after a race sounds self-defeating, and not Spartan enough for your tastes, consider the Patagonian International Marathon that takes place in Chile each September. It’s a smaller race, usually attracting about a thousand people, but it takes participants through painfully beautiful terrain and microclimates.
If history is more your thing, there’s two marathons that really stand out. The Inca Trail Marathon to Machu Picchu and the Great Wall Marathon. That’s right—you can complete one of the greatest sporting accomplishments alongside some the worlds ancient architectural wonders.
If you’re just in it for the rush, there’s 1.7-mile underwear run that takes place before the New York Marathon each year. While that might not be the race to build a family vacation around, Walt Disney World offers a variety of family friendly races—from themed races for children all the way up to marathons—every year in January.
Of course, the destination doesn’t have to be so far from home. Something that has often surprised me about world traveling runners is that despite having stories from races around the world, they often have explored very little of where they came from. A destination doesn’t have to be around the world. A race can be a great excuse to explore what’s in your own backyard.
Conclusion—whatever it takes, get out and run!
Destination races are a great way to push yourself, stay motivated, and see the world.
Trail runners love to talk about the sport as a spiritual experience, and destination running ignites a similar feeling. Just think of the possibilities—the sights, the sounds, the smells, the sore legs, the endorphins.
Remember, even though destination running is an experience all its own, proper training is essential. It’s going to take just as much work to run your dream marathon (or 5k) as it would to run it locally. You’ll need a plan, and you’ll need to stick to it.
If you decide to run a destination trail run, you’ll need the same gear as if you were running in a near-by state park—the risks don’t change once you leave your zip code. OF course, we at askrunners.com are here to help. Check out our posts about trail running gear, types of run races, or dietary advice for runners. Do you a question we haven’t answered or want to share your destination running story? Leave a reply below.
Destination running has the potential to motivate you to keep moving forward, even on those mornings where sleeping in sounds so much more appealing. We hope the resources we’ve collected in this article bring you closer to the destination run you’ve dreamed about, and the memories you’re yet to dream of. Take the next step—sign up for the destination race that’s right for you.