What You Need to Know Before Running a Race in a Foreign Country
No matter the avenue, when traveling to a fun and foreign location you need to be more prepared than a race you’ve run before. While a country that speaks the same language could appear to be easier to navigate, it might end up that resting on the same-language-laurels won’t cut it. Race prep is stressful enough without the logistics of traveling and international travel especially. Aside from normal race day preparation, what do you need to figure out to race in another country?
While racing may seem like it’s pretty basic, show up to the race with a number on and put one foot in front of the other until the finish line, it’s not always that simple. There is a different protocol for different races. Some large races you have to show up for long before the gun goes off and other smaller events you can park 20 minutes before you toe the start line if you want. You need to know when to show up at the start line and how. Do you need to take public transportation? A shuttle? Stay close enough to walk?
After you get to the start line, what is acceptable attire to warm up in? In the United States, it’s common for runners to wear clothes and toss them on the race course. Often race officials or volunteers will pick those up and donate them to a local homeless shelter. However, tossing errant clothing could be a huge faux pas in other countries.
Also, think about using the bathroom mid-race. There are some races where running into the brush to relieve yourself is perfectly acceptable, others it’s not even an option on the course. In some countries, even if it was an option, it could not only be inappropriate but illegal. Same goes for spitting. Some runners spit out of habit and some out of necessity but it’s not the cutest habit and even though acceptable is not exactly a runner’s best look. It could be entirely frowned upon in your exotic locale. It’s best to do your research on race threads or read reviews if possible.
Aside from comfort and speediness for your race, checking the local running attire protocol might be in your best interest. Most running attire at the race will be acceptable but if you are one who prefers the less is more look and feel when racing you might want to check out local customs. Men running sans shirt could be considered rude or may really out you as a tourist. Same goes for women, some of the shirts that are in fashion right now might convey an attitude of indifference for the culture you are in without any ill intent on your part. Both sexes should check into apparel, see what the norm is and follow suit when possible.
You are intelligent but even the smartest of us need a little help sometimes if we have run a few, or twenty-six point two, miles. It’s a good idea if you don’t have any issues with it, to run with your phone. Dropping a pin of your hotel on the map application is free and will work even if you don’t have international voice or data. If you are carrying your phone you can also snap a picture of the front of your hotel and a picture of your hotel’s business card with its address and local phone number. Don’t like running with your phone? Place the business card for your hotel somewhere on your body. Especially in countries where you are not quite fluent (or even remotely fluent), road names can sound very similar. The last thing you want to be doing after a race is wandering the city wet, stinky and tired, looking for your hotel.
Tame Your Tummy
Creatures of habit, we runners like certain items before, during and after races. Traveling abroad may not afford us our pickiness. Before the race might not be quite to so hard to stick with our routine and trying something new and exciting post-race could be fun, but during the race is a different story. Check out the race website and see what energy they offer and try to replicate it if at all possible during your training. That’s the wonderful thing about the internet; you can order any type of energy gel, bar and drink powder being handed out at the race to have it shipped to your door to use during training.
Taking your own gels is easy enough but hydration becomes a little trickier. You might also need to prepare for foreign water if your tummy is a bit sensitive or try and carry as much as you reasonably can with you. While race food and drink will be completely safe, sensitive tummies should be on the offensive and not the defensive.
Traveling internationally can be extremely exciting or a huge headache. Preparing for a race, your destination and a race in your destination is imperative. While it’s probably impossible to be over-prepared, focusing on the stress of it all will take away from the fun of the trip and the exotic locales where you are racing. And if you are a runner who rarely purchases extra swag or souvenirs at Expos, make this the one time you buy yourself a little something extra. It’ll make for great conversation for years.