February 20, 2013

Top 5 tips for running a destination race

I ran a destination race in January: the Carnival Classic Half Marathon in Long Beach, Mississippi (I live in the Tampa Bay area). Here are the top five things I learned about packing and traveling for a destination race.

1. Pack a variety of race outfits. I failed in this area ... miserably. I checked the weather forecast, and it was supposed to be cold. I knew I'd be wearing a jacket. I knew I'd be wearing ear warmers. I debated buying tights (thinking my capris would be too cold). Thankfully, I didn't buy the tights. Thankfully, I just borrowed some ear warmers from a friend. Unfortunately, I didn't pack a shirt I really liked ... a shirt that I like without a jacket covering it. I packed one long-sleeved shirt, one short-sleeved shirt and a jacket. I knew I'd be wearing the long sleeves with the jacket. I knew it. Of course, it ended up being much warmer than expected, and I definitely didn't need the jacket. I didn't even need the long sleeves. Unfortunately, all I needed was a short-sleeved shirt. That meant the shirt that I didn't like. The shirt I brought for a hotel gym workout. This shirt was not meant for race day when photos would be taken. Now my poor decision lives forever in photos. Sigh. Why I didn't pack more options, I do not know. I managed to pack three pairs of boots, but only a few options for running. Running clothes are light and do not take up much space. Pack a variety of options (and perhaps not so many pairs of boots), and don't dread seeing your race photos.

My poor decision lives on ...

2. Lie out your race clothes like it's the night before the race.
I always set out my clothes before a race or even a long run. Mornings and I don't get along, and I like things to be simple when I wake up a few minutes before I need to head out the door. I set out my clothes (including sports bra, underwear, socks, watch and headband) and my fuel, along with my fuel belt (if needed). It cuts down on morning errors (that are all too common to me). But, to avoid my mistake of not having enough wearable options, make sure you put out a few options. Once you have the whole outfit (and all necessary supplies), pack it. Don't put it in the suitcase before it's all there; it makes it too easy to forget something otherwise. 

Race prep for the Women's Half Marathon

3. Arrive at least a day before your race (if it's a long drive or flight).
My drive (8+ hours) was on top of a rough work week (the whole three days I worked). Driving is not my favorite form of transportation (give me a jet, baby) because I get bored and uncomfortable. And, the last thing I'd want to do after driving or riding that long is run. I need time to get quality sleep, stretch and mentally prepare for a race. Even if I flew, I think arriving at least a day before is still a good idea
just to get acclimated to the area and get properly rested and hydrated.

4. Get familiar with the area before the race. Fortunately, when I picked up my packet on a Friday (before the race on Saturday), it was almost at the race start. I learned how far it was from our hotel (I even timed it), and I asked about parking and the exact start line. If I didn't have packet pickup close to the start, I think I'd do a drive to and from the race site — to make me more comfortable on race day. You don't want to map it out, think it takes 20 minutes, and then find out that there is construction that will make it take double that.  

5. Plan your sightseeing (and fun food and drinks) for after the race. This trip involved a day trip to New Orleans. I made sure to save the Bloody Marys, hurricanes and beignets for after the race. I can't imagine walking all over New Orleans, eating and drinking those fun items and then running a half marathon. Yuck. Talk about sore legs, stomach issues and dehydration issues. You definitely want the sightseeing to be involved in a destination race since that's part of the appeal, but make sure to plan it wisely. 

Save this for after the race.

Have you run a destination race? Do you have any tips? You can run Iron Girl as a destination race! Sign up for my giveaway here.


  1. I'll be running my first destination race this October - MCM in Washington D.C. I am already planning fun and sight seeing for the days AFTER the race. Great tips! :)

  2. I don't run, but think these are excellent travelling tips for all sorts of reasons

  3. I've done a few destination races. The majority have only been 2 hours away (south), but far enough for a climate change and a hotel. But I did a 128 mile race in November and I didn't pack the right gear for post-race activities. 3 days on the trail, running, kayaking, biking and finishing up in Key West with nothing cute to wear and too tired to do anything but drink beer ;)

  4. Great tips, especially to sightsee AFTER the race ;)

  5. I did the opposite when we went to St. Pete...we sightsaw (is that the proper past tense) before and I have to admit I was SUPER worried come race day.....luckily it worked out. Everything else though I did! I'll be going to my first marathon in chicago come October though so yay!!!!!!!!!!! I'll have to bookmark this post!

  6. These are great tips!!! Especially the lay out the outfit part. That is my biggest fear- forgetting the sports bra or shoes. Now I want to go somewhere:)

  7. Great tips, I have yet to run a destination race...hopefully someday...blessings



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