Sports Tourism: Preparing for a Marathon Abroad
There is something about running a marathon abroad that holds tremendous appeal to runners – and would-be runners as well! Maybe it is the idea of combining a personal challenge and a travel adventure all in one trip. The grueling training is offset by the ultimate training reward. And for some, running a marathon abroad is the chance to be part of history. Public events like the Berlin Marathon and the London Marathon have been the scene for record-setting races. Even if you are not exactly a contender, it is still exciting to be part of the field. If you harbor hopes of taking on the ultimate sports challenge by running a marathon abroad, here is how you can prepare for a safe and healthy trip.
Take Care When You Fly to Your International Marathon
They will not earn you any style points, but compression socks can lessen your chances of blood clots and reduce swelling and discomfort. Combined with frequent walk breaks and in-seat stretching, your muscles will be in good shape when you land. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and salty foods in favor of healthy, homemade alternatives. And while getting sleep is easier said than done, earplugs, a warm scarf, and eye shades scented with lavender oil will all contribute to your comfort and ability to rest.
Do not forget to bring along some hand sanitizer and wet wipes to stay healthy on the plane. Airplane seat trays, armrests, television screens, and even seatbelt buckles are all notoriously covered in germs. This is not the time you want to come down with a cold or stomach bug! A pre-race visit with your doctor will be helpful to discuss any other preventative measures you can take. Plus, you might need to see them to get a medical clearance note, depending on what the race organizers’ policy is. On that note, check to see if the race requires travel medical insurance for you to participate.
Plan For The Worst-Case Scenario
Absolutely no one wants to visit a hospital or clinic when you are traveling overseas. And you especially do not want to do so when you are focused on a huge goal like a marathon! Do a little advanced research about your destination before you go. Where is the closest pharmacy to your hotel? How do things work should you need to see a doctor – do you make an appointment with a clinic or visit an emergency room? Imagine if you need help in the middle of the race but none of the course volunteers speak English. How will you communicate with them? Preparing a multilingual card with your most critical health, medication, and emergency contact information is a smart addition to your gear. A bit of basic healthcare preparation will give you tremendous peace of mind so you can focus on what matters most during your trip – having the run of your life.
Make Jet Lag Work To Your Advantage
Whether you are traveling a few hundred or a few thousand miles to your marathon abroad, you can count on jet lag traveling with you. Since there is no avoiding it, use it to your advantage. If you are awake early or late, use that time to get in an extra walk or a light workout. Map out the marathon racecourse when there is no one else around. And take solace in the fact that the most commonly prescribed cure for jetlag – fresh air and exercise – is something that you are already embracing.
If it is more than jet lag you need to adjust to and you are racing in an area with a significantly different altitude or climate, give yourself extra time to prepare. Large differences in humidity, temperature, and altitude can take a long time to get used to.
Plan Your Race Outfit – And A Backup
There is only so much research you can do with a weather app. Until you are on the ground at your international marathon, you do not really have a sense of just how humid or chilly a spot is. Bring along your favorite race outfit, clothing you know well and have broken in. But bring along a few backup pieces just in case. Should the weather be extra cold, hot, or wet, you will have a plan in place. And do not forget to have a bit of fun. Decorate your shirt with fabric paint to show off your country’s flag, your name, even your favorite sports team. You will get extra cheers and jokes from the spectators along the way.
All this crucial gear should be packed in your carry on bag and never make its way to your checked luggage. You do not want to tempt fate when your favorite sneakers are at stake!
Indulge In A Nice Hotel Room
You may think that after such an epic run that you deserve a bit of pampering – and you are right! But booking a nice hotel room is a practical matter as well. A plum location near the finish line will go a long way in making your recovery a comfortable one. Having a luxurious shower or even a bath will be heaven to aching muscles. Amenities like an ice machine mean sore joints can be soothed with an ice pack. Furthermore, for extra TLC, you can try to book a hotel which includes:
- An elevator – your sore legs will thank you!
- Wake-up call services so you do not miss the race.
- In-room refrigerators for special foods or medications.
- Room service. You are going to be thankful you can get ice cream delivered to your room post-race!
- Laundry facilities to keep your running gear looking its best.
- A concierge desk – having a supportive, helping hand will make your international race experience a positive one.
While not all hotels can boast the services of a “running concierge”, most are able to offer a variety of running routes and can advise you on neighborhood safety, public water fountains, and small grocery stores to stock up on essential fuel.
Chain Stores Are Your Friend
Sure, it might seem sacrilegious to pop into Starbucks instead of a local boulangerie when you are about to run the Paris Marathon. But if blueberry muffins and hot chocolate have been your pre-marathon breakfast diet for several months, why mess with tradition? You will have plenty of time to indulge in your host city’s delicacies when the race is over. Do not beat yourself up for sticking with familiar food before you run. There is no shame in ordering pasta or pizza delivery when it is part of your regular training routine!
If there is something that you really cannot live without, like a certain flavor of sports drinks or gel fuel, bring it with you or ship it ahead of time to your hotel.
Connect With A Registered Massage Therapist Ahead Of Time
Few things are so soothing and restorative after a long race than a thorough session with a registered massage therapist. But in different countries and cultures, “massage therapist” can mean anything from an accredited health professional to something much more nefarious. You do not want to be navigating the nuances of vocabulary as lactic acid is settling into your hamstrings! For recommendations you can trust, reach out to your insurance provider, the race organizers, or even a physiotherapist center. They are unlikely to misconstrue what you are looking for.
Be Pickpocket Savvy
There is nothing pickpockets love more than large crowds and distracted people. They thrive in the lobbies of famous museums, at food festivals, outside major landmarks – and even at the starting line of a race. Just think of all the water bottle holsters with the standard side pocket containing a credit card, a few crumpled bills, a cell phone, and a coat check ticket for a backpack loaded with pricey sports gear and wallets. While no one can be completely immune to pickpockets, some simple precautions can help. Protect your essentials by stashing them within a small fabric pouch and using a safety pin to secure them to the inside of the water bottle holster pocket. They will be less visible and less susceptible to a quick grab and go.
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