How to Find Running Races While Being Abroad
Perhaps runners that go to work abroad fall in the minority, but they should never go neglected especially in understanding how to sign up for races while being abroad. As a runner who went to work abroad as a full-time ESL teacher in Daegu, South Korea, I was presented right away with the initial concern that I’d never be able to sign up for a race again till I came back into the United States.
I was worried first that there wouldn’t be as strong of a race community than in the United States. And, I also worried also that I’d never be able to sign up for the races that did exist due to the initial language barrier and me not understanding the host country’s language at the level I needed to. How can you go about finding races overseas?
Just like in the United States, searching for your “foreign city and country + races” can yield good results for both landing pages listing races as well as the races themselves.
As evident, Facebook comes up as the #1 source in Google and this leads me to my next strategy for finding races abroad.
Facebook Running Groups
More often than not, just like in the United States, foreign cities have Facebook running group pages dedicated to meet-up times for runners as well as links to races being held in the area and beyond. See below for the screenshot of the Daegu Running Club which I joined:
And often host runners from the country will go out of their way to not only provide links to all the upcoming races, but they will also offer good ways for you to translate the pages so you can know all the exact information: when the race starts, where it starts, how long it is, and most importantly, how to register.
Google Translate is popular and it is quite effective in providing a simple overview of the main information you need: name of race, city, phone number, and relevant links to the race registration website:
When you do go to the webpage, another popular web page translation site is Systran which renders key language words you need to know when navigating your race web page.
Of course, as someone who has done race registrations abroad, my best advice is if you have language concerns or questions, find a friend or a friend of a friend from the host country who can translate the information for you, in particular, registration and address information. Many sites require you to find the exact zip code and postal codes to populate their systems versus manually filling out the fields. And you certainly don’t want your bib and shirt sent to the wrong address, trust me!
Register in Advance
Also, it is good to be aware that you should typically register for a big race in another country at least 2 months ahead of time as countries like South Korea do put a cap on the number of participants as well as the deadline to register. There is the call-in possibility within that one-month period, but then you are risking have trouble communicating in addition to not being able to register because of being too late in the registering process. For South Korea in particular, it is easier to do call-ins to bigger races held in Seoul due to the number of volunteers on hand and also because of the strong western presence in the city.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit when it comes to registering for races in other countries, I’m not as knowledgeable. However, talking to individuals who have done races in other countries in Asia and Europe in particular, these general online techniques are universal and help the registration process go much smoother.
How Were Races Different in South Korea Than in the States?
Certainly I had to spend more time for each race registration online making sure I inputted all the correct information. However, when I got to the races, they were much like races you’d find in the United States. The courses are marked properly and you have the typical water stations as like any other big race. What I actually found comforting was the fact that there isn’t the extra charges for bag storage like big races in the United States. All the races I attended in South Korea had volunteers who’d collect your bags at no charge.
I was pleasantly surprised at how much the payout is for top runners (top 3-5). Also, South Korea is certainly a country that seeks to acknowledge all its race participants. This begins before the start of a race as music plays and there are group stretches and even neck rubbing to relax all runners. And, from my own experiences, every runner gets a medal for completing the race.
If you do fall in the small selection of runners who are working abroad or going to work abroad, be aware there are opportunities for you to race and race well at that! You just have more of a challenge ahead of you: you have the language challenge and race registration challenge. But once you do the race registration process multiple times, it becomes as easy as riding a bike, really!. You know the key words and links to click on (even in the host country’s language) and before you know it, you’re there at the starting line and the gun is off! And, most importantly, you get to say you ran your first race abroad and learned more about the host country’s awesome culture and historical sites in the process.
Are you a runner who has registered for races overseas, in particular using the host country’s language while doing so? What did you do and how was the process? Share your insights for all the international runners out there!