Running a marathon is an accomplishment. When the marathon is a destination race, suddenly it becomes a vacation. For that matter, whatever distance you’re going making your next destination race a vacation gives you and your traveling cheer squad (aka friends and family) something to look forward to after you’ve crossed the finish line. Yes your training plan is your first focus, but your travel plans are just as important. Like those race goals, keep the plan simple, and you’re on the fast track to an easy, breezy post-race vacation. It really doesn’t take a lot of time and energy. In fact, the best destination race plans start (and finish) with choosing the right place to stay, which you’d need even if you weren’t planning on extending your stay.
Walk through the lobby doors at the Westdrift Manahattan Beach Autograph Collection and you’ll instantly feel a vacation vibe. Filled with natural light, the lobby’s muted finishes are offset by the vibrant larger-then-life artwork from local and regional artists. Visually, the space feels as rejuvenating as inhaling the Pacific Ocean breeze, a feeling of Califonia cool at its best. It’s a welcomed change of scenery for so many of us who have spent these past countless months looking at the exact same interiors of our homes. From the fitness area to the pool to the 9-hole golf course, the recently transformed Autograph Collection Hotel features a variety of amenities of interest to runners and wellness travelers. The hotel is more like a resort with a curated menu of in-room spa services and exclusive access to reservations with local recreation activities such as GoSurfing.
Since I’m arriving a couple of days before the Los Angeles Marathon, I’ve got an afternoon surf lesson on the day I arrive. This is probably not the best time to tackle a new sport, but I have always loved surf culture so I wasn’t turning down the opportunity to give it a try. Established in 2020, Go Surfing is a boutique surf experience company offering premium quality surf instruction to anyone with the desire to ride waves. My instructor John Stokke has been surfing for 24 years and he all but convinces me that I’ll be up on the board in no time. Looking out at the waves on Manhattan Beach, even with my wet suit on, I’m not easily convinced. Suddenly I’m thinking more about the marathon on Sunday and also wondering how my modest swimming skills will fare in these conditions. John tells me the tides are about five or six feet. As I watch each crest rise and fall, I’m now wondering if this is a good idea at all. Go Surf offers an inclusive,accessible surfing atmosphere. In short the instructors including Stokke believe that anyone can learn to surf, even in a single lesson. This is California and I’ve traveled here on my first trip in almost two years. I finally decide that I’m not leaving without at least learning the basics, first on the safety of the beach and then in the ocean. Stokke was right. With a whole lot of digging deep, eventually I did manage to get up on the board, and even ride a few waves. Needless to say, he also wasn’t wrong about the incredible feeling of the powerful nature of the waves beneath your board. There really is nothing comparable and I’m definitely looking forward to giving it another try when I return with my daughters.
Back at the Westdrift, I’m grateful for the relaxed comfort of my room including the balcony view of the golf course. After a couple of hours contending with the crashing Pacific waves, my room has a luxurious feeling with the right amount of California coolness. Each room has a spacious layout with an ecru interior colour pallet that provides the perfect backdrop to for the eclectic collection of artwork from Manhattan Beach’s surrounding artist community. It’s an atmosphere that already has me channeling vacation vibes even before my race.
Whether you’re racing, surfing, golfing or simply strolling along the beach, just about all of us could benefit from improving our flexibililty. At StretchLab Venice flexology practitioners will help you improve your flexibility, range of motion and energy. While massage therapy may be part of your regular routine, if you have ever wanted to have someone assist you in your stretching routine, then StrechLab is your place. You don’t need to be an athlete to benefit from this one-on-one assisted stretching. And the Venice Beach location is an airy communal space featuring an open-air entrance that offers a comfortable amount of breathing room between clients.
When you need to refuel after all the adventure, you’ll find there are pletny of options and local, sustainable cuisine is a big focus on restaurant menus. Healthy eating doesn’t mean cold pressed juices, smoothies, and salads. Even athletes crave indulgent meals, yet with the abundance of local food producers the best quality (and healthy) ingredients are readily available and many chefs are all the more inspired. With a welcoming neighbourhood vibe, Charcoal Venice features a seasonal menu that features local proteins and vegetables prominently. As its name indicates, chef and owner Josiah Citrin takes his culinary inspiration from backyard barbeques with each dish cooked over or in charcoal. From starters to desserts, each dish is served family-style making it a perfect spot for larger groups and families with diverse palates. Whether you’re diving into the grilled escarole with quince, persimmons, and pomegranate dressed in a charred scallion vinaigrette or a plate of the smoked pork ribs, deliver next-level flavour combinations. Plus, Charcoal’s house-made condiments including the smoked paprika mustard chimichurri or the red wine chipotle bbq sauce create an additional flavour dimension.
At Great White, a cafe in Venice Beach, seasonal organic produce features prominently on the menu. With breakfast served until 3pm, the Breakfast Burrito or Great White Breakie are satisfying options. No matter which you choose, you’ll need to order the banana bread served with honeycomb butter because it’s the right thing to do. Lunch lovers will enjoy the array of fresh salads which can be on the lighter side with fresh market greens or heartier with roasted beets and squash and in Califorina-style, share plates such as sustainably sourced fish tacos, mezcal con penne, and wood-fired-oven pizzas all pair well with a wine from one of the small, independent wine producers on the list.
From Manhattan to Venice to Santa Monica and more, California’s beach towns are epic. Wherever you’re staying along the coast, you’ll feel an instant sense of relaxation. This is the much needed atmosphere that begs you to stay for just a little while longer. After race day, or any day, this chill vibe is exactly why it’s a terrific destination for runners to plan an extended vacation. With travel restrictions changing almost daily, when you do have the opportunity to get away make the most of every moment. A vacation doesn’t have to mean a week-long getaway to Bali, though there’s a place for that too. As you mapping out your 2022 race schedule, adding in you destination races, making the most of your time post-event really is the perfect end, no matter what happens on race day.
Anna Lee Boschetto is a regular iRun contributor. An avid avid runner and traveler, she recently ran her 10th marathon in Los Angeles and enjoyed every moment.