Running a marathon in a foreign city is fun. It’s a great way to sightsee, keep running fresh, and take on a different challenge if you usually just run local races. Unfortunately, attempting to perform your best in unfamiliar situations and locations also has drawbacks.
I participated in the Osaka Marathon this past winter. It was my first time running a marathon outside my home country Taiwan (this race taught me many lessons). I also wanted to break my personal best (PB), so the trip wasn’t all fun and games or just an opportunity to tour the Japanese city. I definitely wanted to run fast too.
Below are the pros and cons of attempting to run a PB at a destination marathon. Consider these recommendations when you’re preparing for a fast one later in the year.
The pros of running a PB at a destination marathon
Travel and run
These are two of my favorite things. Take on a physical challenge and appreciate new sceneries on foot – hard to find a better combination. Since travel has been difficult the past few years, aren’t we all itching to go abroad? So let’s go!
Keep things fresh
Are you a long-time runner losing some of that fire and feeling a little “passion-less” about running the same local races and routes? A destination marathon is a great way to keep things fresh and reignite your love for putting one leg in front of the other.
Find your pace pack
There will naturally be more participants similar to your ability in bigger marathons. Osaka Marathon had 30,000+ runners, the largest event for me thus far. Whether I had to slow down to regroup or speed up to make up time, I always had a pack to tuck into and “sleep.” It was conducive to good performance if you have others with similar time goals to share the workload.
No real-world responsibilities
Having zero responsibilities is impossible, but certainly less since you’re on vacation.
I didn’t even bring my computer on my Osaka Marathon holiday. I logged off from work, enjoyed myself, and got ready to run.
The cons of running a PB at a destination marathon
Mess up your routine
If you’re a creature of routine, visiting a new city or country certainly affects your well-crafted daily schedule – not able to eat what and when you prefer or sleep in your bed, for example. But you don’t have to let this stress you out. Relax and keep an open mind. If your work schedule permits, arrive a few days early so you’ll have plenty of time to sightsee, rest or even go to a grocery store to buy foods of your choice.
When running your hometown marathon, you know all the twists and turns and every uphill and downhill. You might even have loved ones throughout the course to cheer you on.
Unfortunately, you won’t have any of that running a destination marathon. Don’t let this deter you, though. Study the course map and elevation profile. Go check out the key segments of the race (hopefully, they’re locations worth visiting). You don’t have to run a destination marathon completely blind.
Increased time on foot
Visiting tourist spots, shopping, looking for restaurants, etc. Your time on foot will naturally increase when you should be tapering. Enjoy yourself, but don’t overdo it if you have a lofty time goal.
It could mess up your digestive system when you don’t get to eat familiar foods or eat at regular hours. Stomach issues, including diarrhea, are not uncommon when your routine is turned upside down.
I recommend sticking to your favorites for dinner the night before and pre-race breakfast. There’s a time to play and explore, but don’t mess around when it’s time for business.
Visiting a new city or country to attempt to run a marathon PB has both positives and negatives. On the flip side of a new and incredible destination is an alien race environment. The drawback of going on a running holiday might be a less-than-ideal setup for tapering.
If you’re a person that thrives on routine and is borderline OCD, you are likely better off selecting an A race closer to home. Or take it easy and go on a running holiday with a training partner that could use a pacer.
However, if you thrive and are energized by new experiences, a destination marathon might be what you need precisely to have fun and kick ass.