I’ve raced Boston, New York, Chicago, Las Vegas, Erie, Pennsylvania, London—two times—Berlin, and I’ve just completed the marathon in Tokyo. I like racing abroad, though it changes a few things on race day. The following, assuming you might have a race abroad this spring or else one on a bucket list horizon, are tips to help make your run more smooth.
Pack your race gear in carry on! You don’t want to chance it not making it to your race destination. Think of your “pre race gear” or “flat runner/flat me” picture for social media. If it’s going in that pic, it should go in your carry on!
Bring warm throw away clothes that you can dump at the start line. (Throw aways are often collected and donated to people in need). If you don’t have room to pack throw aways, do some research and find a thrift or discount store you can stop by when you arrive.
Scout out local places you can purchase things you may have forgotten to pack. Finding the local independent run shop is also a great way to experience the local run community/culture. It can be fun to see new brands that aren’t necessarily available in your country.
Try to find a group to do your shakeout run with the day before the race. Tracksmith often does this at the World Marathon Majors, Berlin hosts their “Friendship Run,” Ottawa also offers something for participants, often times with John Stanton. It’s a great way to meet people from all over the world, see something new and soak in all the positive race vibes!
Other than your shakeout run and carb-heavy dinner, try to avoid making too many plans the day before the race. No museums or galleries. A day of the “slow shuffle” can put over a half marathon of steps on your legs that should be resting. If spending a day in your hotel room doesn’t suit you, consider a bus/boat tour. Watch that step counter on your watch and don’t let it get out of hand.
Bring Power Adapters and charging cables. While you shouldn’t be a slave to your watch, you certainly don’t want that dreaded low battery warning during your race! Make sure your plugs will work in the country you’re traveling to. You may need to invest in a converter or adapter. (Can you believe we stayed at a really nice hotel in London 2022 and it didn’t have any USB outlets?!?!)
Bring any “tummy safe” food you typically eat. Need those overnight oats for breakfast? Pre-measure the ingredients into Tupperware or Ziplock and pick up your almond milk when you get there. Scout out restaurants and make reservations, especially the day before the race. I like to bring snacks that aren’t always available abroad and put them in my drop bag so I have a little treat (Sour Patch Kids) right after the race. Bananas are fine, but come on…
Travel with a crew. There’s no need to feel alone, especially when there’s usually other locals going to your destination. It can be comforting to travel with a group of like-minded people. Meeting up post-race to trade war stories and enjoy a celebratory beverage or two can also be great. Another added benefit is your family or friends coming to support you can hang out with the other supporters in the group and not feel abandoned.
Connectivity is extra important if you’re traveling with a group. It can also be extremely useful for things like maps and translations. If you have a phone/device not locked to a carrier (Bell, Rogers, Etc.), E-Sims are the way to go. Airalo and Nomad are great options, just download the app and purchase really cheap data plans. Alternatively, most places will offer a portable wifi hotspot pod which will be much cheaper than your normal roaming costs.
Wear your medal all day, and the next day as well before it gets retired to your hidden location of choice. (Ours are all on hangers in our closet, one hanger/year). You’d be surprised how many people will congratulate you on the streets and how happy they are that you’ve come to their city to run a marathon. Toronto, you could learn from this!