9 travel tips for your next runcation (running vacation)

How it all started...

A few years ago, I had this memorable conversion with one of my runner friends Lynette at Bukit Aman Lake Garden during one of our Sunday runs.

It was a rather casual conversation asking her about her next holiday destination.

Lynette shared excitedly, "Oh! I will be having my runcation (running vacation) in Xiamen, China! In fact, I will be running Xiamen International Marathon to celebrate the New Year as the highlight of my holiday!"

Her reply shocked me.

That was also my first time hearing of the term "runcation"! I even doubt if such word exists in Webster's dictionary.



I looked at her in disbelief and asked, "What? You will be running a full marathon during your holiday? Are you crazy? Wouldn't it spoil your relaxing holiday? You will be so tired and exhausted after a full marathon. How can you enjoy the rest of your holiday?"

She smiled back at me and said, "Yes, Vincent! I have done it many times. It's so wonderful to combine running a race in a foreign country with your holidays. You must try it one day!"


"You must try it one day!"

Yes, I must try it one day! :)

Not only have I tried it once, I'm hooked to having running vacation (runcation) ever since.

I went for my first ever overseas running vacation (runcation) in Taipei, Taiwan in December 2013. I ran 42km full marathon in the rain at Taipei Fubon Marathon 2013 followed by the exploration of beautiful Taipei city with my chaffing thighs and "crab walks"! lol! It was one of the most memorable holiday trips I have made ever!

Why not combine the joy of running and the fun of travel? I can kill two birds with one stone!!

Since then, I've been hooked to having running vacations instead of just pure leisure travel and holiday.

My local running vacations thus far have covered Penang, Perlis, Perak, Seremban and Sarawak.

As for my overseas runcations (running vacations), I have run a full marathon and traveled in Taiwan (Taipei and Kaohsiung), Thailand (Chiangmai and Hat Yai), Indonesia (Bali), Hong Kong, and Myanmar (Yangoon). In fact, I will be having my next runcation in Taiwan again next month. As for 2018, I will kick off my overseas running vacation in Tokyo, Japan running Tokyo Marathon 2018! Yohoo! I'm super excited!


9 travel tips for your next runcation (running vacation)

It's always good to run different races in different places and countries for different running and travel experiences. Besides joining local races which are close to your home, I would like to recommend that you also take a train, or bus, or drive or fly to a new place or country to run. It will give you a totally different level of running and travel experience!


1. Decide on your next travel destination 

Is there a specific country or place on your travel bucket list that you would like to visit? Perhaps a beach holiday in an exotic island? Or a shopping spree at one of the capital cities of the world? Or may be even a retreat to the mountain?

It can be a local travel destination in Malaysia or an overseas travel destination in one of the most exotic places in the world. It doesn't matter! But it must be an exciting place that you want to visit.


2. Look for a running event to join

You can ask Mr Google for any running events to be held in your planned travel destination. For example, if you would like to run and travel in Bali, you can simply google, "Bali marathon" and you will be shown some links and listings to Bali-related runs and marathons. 

Do you need to join a full marathon at your travel destination?

Not necessary. 

You can join a 5km fun run, or 10km run, or half marathon

But personally, I would recommend and challenge you to join a full marathon. :)

Why?

By running a full marathon in a new place or country, you will cover more unchartered territories on foot, seeing more about local culture, and experiencing more about local people.

Another recommendation is to look for a well established running event to participate. You don't want to end up signing up for an overseas running event but it's been cancelled the last minute due to "unforeseen circumstances".

To be on a safe side, do not go for  an "inaugural event" organised by some unknown event management company. Try to read some race reports or reviews of the same running event held in previous years to gauge how good the race is organised.

All these are crucial information for your next runcation because you don't want to spoil an otherwise fun running vacation!

3. Plan your travel dates around the race day

Once you decide on which race to join in a new place or country, you can then plan your travel trip.

You can either:
  • Enjoy all the sightseeings first and run your race towards the end of your running vacation
  • Run your race first only then enjoy all the sightseeings during your running vacation
I have tried both.

I even cycled 48 km around Sun Moon Lake in Taiwan 2 days before the actual Taipei Fubon Marathon! And the few days before the race, I walked so much that my legs were rather tired before the actual race day.

Therefore,  I would recommend to go enjoy your run first and only then relax and enjoy the rest of your holidays.

If this is the approach you are comfortable with, that means you will travel to the destination 1-2 days before actual race day. Therefore, Friday or Saturday will be the best time to travel since most of the races are held on Sundays. You can then spend the Saturday collecting the race kit, relaxing, carbo loading, massaging, etc. :)



4. Look for like-minded friends to join your runcation

You can go for your running vacation with runner friends, family or alone.

It's always more fun to go on a running vacation with your runner friends though. Everyone is like-minded and having the same objective for the travel. The joy and laughter start even before the plane takes off! haha!

But of course, you can also have a solo runcation! Fret not for being lonely. You will not be lonely. You are bound to bump into some other runner friends who travel separately to the same event. Even if you don't bump into some familiar faces, you can still make new friends from different countries and the local runners. Isn't it wonderful and exciting?

I have gone for my running vacations with family, runner friends and alone. All have their advantages and disadvantages.

The important thing is: try new things in life and have fun along the journey!


5. Make it happen

All set? Now, it's time to book your air ticket!or train ticket or bus ticket!

I believe this step is quite straight forward.

Please compare prices before you make the booking for best value. But please don't save a few dollars in sacrifice of your comfort and rest, especially if you plan to run a full marathon.


6. Stay close to race venue and points of interest

Stay as close as possible to the race venue or a place convenient for both running and sightseeing

Reason: It allows you to have plenty of rest and make your travel to the race venue much more convenient, especially in a new place or country you haven't been to.

Just type in the race venue name in any of the popular travel portals, you will be shown a list of hotels, hostels, bed and breakfast places close to the race venue. Alternatively, you can also check with some of your friends who have run at such events before for their reference.

I have stayed within 1 km radius of race venue many times. For example, Kuching Marathon, Chiang Mai Marathon, Hat Yai Marathon, and Penang Bridge International Marathon. I personally  find it to be most convenient!

Having said that, I have also stayed at hotels rather far away from race venue that requires public transportation or taxi due to budget purpose. :) 

Another reason why I stay further in some of the running vacations because I would like to stay in a place which is convenient for both running and sightseeing

After all, it's a running vacation, right? 

For example, I took mass rapid transit (MRT) to arrive at Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon, Taipei Marathon, Kaohsiung Marathon. I took a taxi to race venue at Perlis Marathon. I took the shuttle bus service provided by race organiser from Ubud to Bali Marathon' race venue.

It's fun to be in the public transportation with other runners. The only setback is that you need to wake up much earlier and arrive back to your hotels from the race much later.

7. Carbo loading with local food and cuisine

Some runners suggest that it's best not to try anything your stomach is not used to, especially dishes you haven't tried before, on the day before race day! You don't want to have stomach upset during your race!

But I beg to differ.

Since it's a running vacation, why not try the local dishes, local food, even as carbo loading for the race?

I even drank the local beer and munched on fried insects as part of my carbo loading on pre-race day. Haha! Thank goodness I didn't need to rush to toilets during my race the next day! But of course, I would not recommend this to anyone! Just for those who are more adventurous in food! :)


8. Enjoy your run and make some new friends

Yes, please enjoy your run! Don't go for your personal best records all the time! 

Look out for different little things that you might see along the race route. 

It can be the interesting costumes of the cheerleaders lining up to cheer for the runners! I experienced this in Taipei Marathon. 

It can be the environmentally friendly runners who carry their own steel cups to run so that they don't drink from the paper cups at water stations. I experienced this in Kaohsiung Marathon in Taiwan.

It can be the children and villagers in their traditional local costumes who form the support cheer leading team to sing, dance, play gong, etc as runners run past their kampung villages. I experienced this in Bali Marathon.

Or it can be a unique building along the race route that might impact you for life!

Whatever it's, please open your eyes to run and enjoy! Don't keep looking at your GPS watch!! lol! You will then miss the whole point of a running vacation!

Oh yes - please don't forget to make some new friends too!

9. Enjoy your vacation

Now that the "running" part of "running vacation" is over, you can then focus on the "vacation" part more now!

Go and explore! Do your usual travel, sightseeing plans to tourist attractions!

Just remember to give your Sunday a slow relaxing day because you might need to take a nap after the Sunday race. And you might walk like a "crab" if you are running 42 km! haha!


Recap

  1. Decide on your next travel destination
  2. Look for a running event to join
  3. Plan your travel dates around the race day
  4. Look for like-minded friends to join your runcation
  5. Make it happen (book your air / train / bus ticket)
  6. Stay close to race venue and points of interest 
  7. Carbo loading with local food and cuisine
  8. Enjoy your run and make some new friends
  9. Enjoy your vacation

Now that you have all the 9 travel tips , it's time to go for your next running vacation! Enjoy!!


You can also read my race reviews by country if you are interested: Race Report by Country

If you want to find out more about what to do after your run, you can also check out some of the articles and photos of travel destinations in the "Travel" session in this blog.



Written by Vincent Khor on Oct 10, 2017.

Image: Pexels

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