4 Tips for Traveling to a Race

Photo by  Katy Belcher  on  Unsplash

Photo by Katy Belcher on Unsplash

Before I considered myself a runner, I thought it was ridiculous that people ran around a track or a city just to end up in the same place again. When I realized that people traveled to other cities to run, I thought that was even sillier—why travel to run? Aren’t there roads in your town?

What I’ve realized since becoming a runner is that some people don’t so much travel to run, but rather they run to travel. Registering for races in other cities, states, and even countries can give you even more motivation to get out there and get moving.

I live in New Jersey, and for my first half marathon, my husband and I decided to run a Rock ‘n’ Roll race. Turns out my husband, who doesn’t listen to country music at all (neither do I, to be fair), really wanted to visit Nashville. The timing was good, the city is in our time zone, and the airfare was reasonable, so we signed up.

The race was great and the city was so much fun to explore, but I certainly learned some things along the way. First and foremost, of course, is that one of the best parts of participating in road races is the opportunity to travel! Whether you choose a city where you want to visit a friend or you’re off to explore somewhere new, keep these tips in mind for a successful trip.

1. Leave room for travel hiccups

We didn’t have trouble getting to Nashville, but our flight home was cancelled just as we were making our way to the airport. We were supposed to fly back Sunday afternoon, and the airline switched us to Tuesday. Um, no thanks. We ended up renting a car, driving to Knoxville, and flying home from there in a matter of hours. The only good thing about the whole ordeal was that it happened on the way home, rather than the way there, so at least we didn’t miss the race! 

2. Save some sightseeing for after the race.

We planned our trip to be sure we’d be in town for the race, and couldn’t leave much time to sightsee thereafter. My husband had work on Monday, and we didn’t want to use one of his vacation days. We saw what we could the day before the race, but the whole time we were torn between wanting to walk all over and wanting to keep our legs fresh for the race. It would have been nice to spend a little more time in town afterward (while we were still on a post-race high and the soreness hadn’t kicked in yet!).

3. Use your bib for discounts.

Often local restaurants offer discounts to finishers on race day or even after. When you plan your trip, look into where to wear your medal or bib to get discounts on meals or local attractions. Part of the fun is seeing fellow runners around town in their swag, too, and realizing that you and these strangers now have a shared experience in completing the race. That sense of community, that making a big city feel small, is another fun, but unexpected aspect of being a runner.  

4. Consider the climate when you pick your race gear.

This one is my biggest regret. I trained for my half in New Jersey, from February through April. The race was the last weekend in April in Nashville, and the t-shirt I’d be wearing up north was a bad call in the heat of Tennessee. Partway through the race I wished I’d worn something that breathed more. I should have planned my race gear around my destination’s climate, even if it wasn’t exactly what I was wearing to train at home. As long as it wasn’t a new-to-me style, I think that would have been fine.

After that race in Nashville, I’ve run in Chicago (twice), a town in New Jersey I’d never been to before (so pretty!), and even a town I visited often growing up (weird to run on a highway you’ve only driven on). Traveling to run—even when it was only twenty minutes away—has been one of the joys of embracing this form of fitness.

Running has certainly strengthened my body, but it’s also broadened my mind and deepened my soul. God has created so much beauty in this world. We would do well to lace up, get out there, and enjoy it. Bon voyage!

Lindsay Schlegel wrote her college entrance essay about her lack of athletic ability. In the decade since, God's proven her wrong--and taught her a great deal about Himself in the process. Now a wife and mother, Lindsay has completed a half marathon, a full marathon (while pregnant), and a Spartan Sprint. She's the author of Don't Forget to Say Thank You: And Other Parenting Lessons That Brought Me Closer to God. You can find out more about her at LindsaySchlegel.com.