Running a Marathon isn’t easy, and traveling to an unfamiliar area — even with a guide — can add another layer of stress if you leave something essential to your success at home.
Below, you’ll find a brief list of items you might want to consider before you board a flight to an unfamiliar destination:
- Vaccinations and medical check-ups
Many ailments you’re likely to encounter abroad may not be covered by routine vaccinations in your home country. There may also be some requirements by specific countries to get certain vaccinations before entering those countries.
Make sure to do a little research on the part of the world you’re going to and make sure that you’re in good health for the duration of your trip.
- Important documents and running essentials
Especially if you’re flying, you’re not going to get very far without up to date identification documentation. Make sure that your passports and government-authorized authentications are up to date, as some documentation can take week or months to get.
You still have to abide by the same travel rules and restrictions as any other place you visit. Remember your ID, boarding pass, and any other documentation you might need to get from one place to another, especially if you’re traveling out of the country to attend one of our international races.
If you’ve been issued a race form, waiver, bib, and/or chip in advance of the race, remember to stash these in your carry-on. You may also want to bring along proof of time (if you’re hoping to move up in the corrals), pace charts, and your travel itinerary. If you’re traveling internationally, don’t forget your passport and any necessary visas.
Make sure you’ve got a printed and digital copy (in case you need to reprint) of your race confirmation. You’ll need one for any running event you attend that requires registration, and you’ll need to present it at the expo in order to get your race number.
We can’t stress how important it is to keep the information on you. It’s completely possible to miss a race without your registration confirmation. Pack this with other essential travel documentation and double-check that you’ve got it before and after your flight.
This is an easy one to forget!
Even if you’ve got a map of the general area, don’t forget to get directions to the running expo. You’ll have to show up at the expo to present your confirmation and receive your racing bib.
If you’re bad with directions, consider scoping out the location in advance so that you know exactly where to go.
Once you present your running confirmation and retrieve your racing bib, go ahead and attach it to your clothes. If you aren’t planning to leave the event grounds before your race, there’s no point in carrying the bib around. By attaching it to your person, you’ll also make sure that it doesn’t wander off.
After the race, hang onto your racing bib. Every bib makes for a great souvenir. If this is your first marathon and you’re planning to participate again, this bib might be the start of an amazing collection.
You can check out some cool things other runners have done with their racing bibs right here.
Especially if you’re headed out of the country, you might find that your cellular plan doesn’t work or that the roaming penalties are borderline ridiculous. Talk to your cellular provider about international plans and see if they suit your needs. Alternatively, if you’re more technically inclined, you may choose to purchase a temporary cellular plan in another country and take advantage of the local network at local rates.
Where would we be without cellular phones? This essential carry item deserves its own category, especially if you’re planning to listen to music, podcasts, or audiobooks for the duration of your run.
If you’re in a new place, try to hook your phone up to a wifi signal if you need to download new content. Don’t use cellular data if you can help it! You’re likely to return home from your marathon adventure to a high phone bill.
Make sure your smartphone is fully charged and easily accessible. If you’re running during the cold season, make sure that it’s well-insulated or you may find yourself a few miles in with a dead phone. The same goes for headphones. Wired headphones are more straightforward and may be better for marathon-length runs due simply to battery life.
These days, many runners choose to use a Garmin, GPS watch, iPod, smartphone, or other technological accoutrement while running. If you’re in this camp, then it’s important to remember to pack the respective chargers for all of this gear. Some items you might want to bring are:
- Mobile phone
- Electronic charger (for mobile phone, iWatch, camera, etc.)
- Maps and area guides
Whether you choose to buy a tourist city map or rely on an app like Google maps it completely up to you. There are advantages to having a hard copy when spotty cellular services go out, but nothing screams “tourist!” like a fold-out map. Study the area around your hotel and the running event.
We recommend reviewing the area where you plan to stay well in advance of your flight. Get comfortable with the landmarks, the basic lay of the land, and where to get the best coffee. Every bit of knowledge will help make your marathon adventure a success. Some items you might want to bring are:
- Directions to the start line
- Meet up location at finish line to meet friends or family
Make sure you pack a set of clothes that aren’t related to your upcoming marathon. Keep your outfit practical and down to earth. Bring a second pair of running or walking shoes that are comfortable. There will be a ton of exploration to do before the race, so your outfit should be practical. Don’t try to be stylish and end up with foot pain on race day.
No matter where you’re going, it’s smart to pack for all kinds of weather. Temperatures can swing wildly between the start of a race and its end, particularly when you’re starting out early in the morning or running at high elevations. And then, of course, there’s the ever-present risk of rain, wind, intense sun, and freak weather events. Prepare for it all by bringing along a variety of layers, a running hat, gloves, sunglasses, a racing jacket and tights, and so on. This is particularly important if you’re traveling to a climate that’s different from the one in which you’ve trained (say, from New York to Colorado or from Australia to NYC). Since your body won’t be adjusted to that climate, weather changes may feel more extreme. It’s important to have the right apparel on hand so you can be as comfortable as possible. While you’re at it, go ahead and pack a back-up base outfit for race day—that way you’ll be covered in case anything gets wet or ripped.
If you’re about to run a marathon, we probably don’t have to lecture you about your shoes. But if you’re participating in a travel marathon and you’re far from home, replacement shoes might be hard to find.
Make sure that your shoes are in good shape a few months before your trip. If you’re already starting to see signs of wear and tear, consider investing in a new pair and breaking them in well in advance of your competition date.
And — whatever you do — don’t forget to pack them!
In addition to your race sneaks, you’ll need a comfortable, supportive pair of kicks that you can wear around town. You don’t want to suffer through your race with sore arches and achy legs because you were stuck with unsupportive shoes in the days leading up to the race. You might not want to bring your high heels at all—no matter how comfortable they are—but you could benefit from podiatrist-recommended sandals and fashion sneakers. Some items you might want to bring are:
- Running shoes
- Short sleeve shirt
- Shorts / capri pants
- Flip flops
- Extra shoes
- Dry clothes
- Fuel belt
- Compression socks
- Hat / Cap
- Light weight jacket
- Long sleeve shirt
- Gloves (for cold weather destinations)
- Running socks
- Waterproof jacket
If you take prescription medicine on a regular or semi-regular basis, make sure that you’ve got enough of what you need to cover your trip. Especially while abroad, finding medicine to replace what you need may be next to impossible. Make sure this is top of mind while packing for your travel marathon. Some items you might want to bring are:
- Personal care items
In the midst of preparing for a running tour, it’s easy to forget one of the most basic items on your marathon checklist. As with many other items on the list, your preferred brands may not be available if you’re traveling abroad, so make sure that you’ve got everything you need before you leave. Don’t forget to pack your toothpaste, hair care products, brushes, bristles and everything in between.
Marathons require runners to physically exert themselves outside for multiple hours—so it’s important to pack some sunscreen. Not only will it keep your skin healthier, but it will also spare you from having to add “sunburn” to your list of aches and pains the day after the race. Many runners also swear by Body Glide as a means of reducing skin friction during the race and minimizing pain and discomfort after it.
- Compression Socks
Wrestling into a pair of compression socks can feel like a workout in and of itself, but after your race, you’re going to want to put in the extra effort to slide them on your feet. A study in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research found that runners who wore compression socks in the 48 hours following a marathon performed better on a treadmill test than those who didn’t, which means that the sock-wearing runners had improved functional recovery.
Consider wearing compression socks or sleeves on your flight. Wear something you can move around and sleep in. Sitting in a small plane seat for hours at a time can cause you to tighten up – get up to stretch if needed. Walk around the airport in between flights and stretch.
- Healthy Snacks
Rest stops and airplanes aren’t exactly known for their healthy fare. If you’re concerned about pre-race nutrition (and you probably should be), it’s a good idea to bring along your own healthy snacks to consume in transit. Also pack your own energy gels and other snacks if you’re wedded to particular brands—if you’re traveling across state or country lines, there’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to find your favourite brands once you reach your destination. And remember to bring along a water bottle—staying hydrated is critical if you want to feel energized on race day.
Pack nutritious bites that you’re used to eating leading up to a big training run, as well as the foods you would like to eat the morning of the race. You shouldn’t change anything about your established routine for race day, so be sure to have the type of food that you can stomach. Having healthy snacks on hand are also useful for long plane rides or car drives when snack choices may otherwise be less-than-stellar. You can store these in your hotel room or your bag for easy access to nutrition while you’re on-the-go. Some items you might want to bring are:
- Hydration pack or a hand-held water bottle
- Calories and electrolytes: packets of energy gels and SaltStick or Nuun electrolyte tabs for long runs
- Healthy snacks and energy bars for the flight and the weekend
- More healthy snacks for the weekend (a few packs of instant oatmeal and peanut butter will make it in there and a couple scoops of protein powder in a small sealed container as well)
Before traveling, put together a playlist(s) that you can listen to both during your travels and before or during your race. Listening to music or podcasts is a great way to pass the time while you’re traveling and soothe any jitters leading up to the race.
- Check the weather
It could be below-freezing or even raining when you start the race, and the sun may be shining by the end of it so make sure you have everything you need.
Forecast says no rain? Great! Pack a raincoat anyway. You never know what Mother Nature will do on race day (or the days leading up to it), and you should pack anything you might need to make your trip as seamless as it can be. Over-packing is not a problem—for this one time in your life, do not feel guilty for packing too much for your race.
Check what the weather will be on race day – specifically during the race. If you’re living somewhere cold and traveling to a tropical climate you might have to dig out your summer running gear (or vice versa). Pack for the weather, but bring a few warmer or cooler options in case it changes or your body responds differently to the weather.