As much as I rave about my first marathon being one of the best days of my life, (the triple whammy of it being my first marathon, in the city of Paris, on my 31st birthday … just incase I hadn’t already mentioned that a million and one times) unfortunately the day before my marathon was one of the most stressful and exhausting days, like, ever! All because I didn’t plan … come on, say it with me: fail to plan and you plan to fail *shakes head*
If you’re planning to run a marathon, especially abroad, there are two very important things you should know. The first – you cannot run in the race without your race bib. This is your race ticket, your race identification, your race tracker, it’s as important as the runners you wear on your feet and no it is NOT sent to you in the post – if only it were that easy. Your race number must be collected in person, at the Race Expo, which usually takes places in the days leading upto to the marathon.
The second thing you should know is, the day before a big race, especially one as big as a marathon, is supposed to be a day of rest. I’m not saying it’s necessarily lie horizontally for 12 hours and be a couch potato all day kinda day, but it’s certainly a day to avoid long runs, long walks, strenuous exercise and any kind of stress.
And yet what was I doing the day before my marathon? I was running around the city of Paris like a mad women, completely lacking power on just two hours sleep and an empty stomach, dragging my poor Mum and my packed-to-the-brim suitcase in tow, feeling stressed to the absolute max. We’d flown at 7am, which meant getting up at 3am. We had problems with baggage, we stood in hour long transport queues, we couldn’t find the expo, we took the wrong trains, we got lost, then lost again, and again, we argued, I cried. It was horrific, NOT the kind of day you want right before you take on the toughest physical challenge of your life, (and mental come to think of it).
But at the end of the (slightly traumatic) day, I had to laugh. It was only right that my last day as a 30 year old be as catastrophic and as disastrous as the year 30 itself had been for me. But every cloud has a silver lining – my calamity meant I could write this blog post and hopefully save a few fellow runners from making the same mistakes. So, here are my top four travel tips to take on board when doing a marathon abroad:
Arrive 48 hours before your race
Planning to arrive the day before your marathon is it a bit risky. What if your flight is delayed, or worse, cancelled? Travel complications will only cause you a lot of stress and hassle, something you really don’t need when you should be resting in preparation for the big run. You also run the risk of limiting your time at the Expo or potentially missing the opportunity to collect your bib. And remember – no bib, no run.
I’d also advise against booking any super early flights the day before the marathon too, yeah they may be cheaper, and yeah 6am might not seem that bad, BUT it will when you have to check-in at 4am and therefore leave your house at 3am, meaning getting up at 2am. Remember, your body NEEDS sleep before your big race. If your marathon is on the Sunday, I suggest arriving on the Friday, even if its late in the evening.
Check-in your baggage
People rarely check-in baggage these days because why pay extra when we can squeeze everything into one piece of hand luagge for free? But, with hand luggage comes restrictions, and an important one to consider is the liquid restrictions. Your carry-on bag can only contain one small clear plastic bag of liquids, they won’t allow you two and when I say small they are small (I have my own clear plastic bag, slightly larger than the airport ones, that I purchased from Boots years ago; the past four times I’ve travelled with it, I’ve been made to empty it out and squeeze all my liquids into a CAA approved bag *rolls eyes*)
Each liquid item can only be up to 100ml. So let’s take into consideration all your usual liquids – deodorant, shower gel, toothpaste, etc – but what about running gels? Energy shots? How many are you taking? Vaseline, are you taking that? What size? Maybe you have other creams you need, such as foot cream or a particular drink. This was a problem I ran into last time. I was trying to squeeze all my running gels, all my toiletries and all my makeup into one teeny tiny plastic bag – oh lord the stress! I’d also planned to take peanut butter with me to eat the morning of the race, but had to leave it at home.
Yes, I know what you’re thinking, these are all things I could just purchase in Paris – well maybe not the gels – but I didn’t want to a) waste time shuffling along a supermarket aisle trying to figure out what Peanut butter is in French (which in the end I had to send my Bro-in-law off to do and he failed) and b) I didn’t want to waste the money buying products I would inevitably have to leave in Paris because I wouldn’t be able to transport them back in my hand luggage. This time, for Marathon number two, I’ve paid the £15 to check-in my bag so that I can take all the liquids I need.
Wear your running gear to the airport
I get you may not want to wear your brand new running outfit to the airport, one that you’ve saved especially for the big day and plan to reveal on Instagram, but please at least wear your trainers to the airport and maybe a (back-up) running outfit. If something happens to your luggage (because even hand luggage can be stowed away last minute and lost) and you’ve packed everything in there – trainers, running socks, sports bra, the works – chances are you won’t be running in that marathon you’ve just spent months training for. Yes, worst case scenario you could purchase a new pair of trainers when you land, but we all know the marathon rule – nothing new on race day, especially footwear! You’ll only end up hurting yourself.
Please, for the love of God, buy travel insurance.
This one doesn’t need explaining. Don’t be an idiot. Even if it’s just for peace of mind, book yourself travel insurance. You think the worst thing that could happen would be injuring yourself during the marathon. Nope, the worst thing would be injuring yourself and ending up with a hefty hospital bill.
And there you have my top tips when planning a marathon abroad. Everyone is different and people may disagree, but from my own experience, these are the tips I would absolutely swear by. I never want a day like the one I had in Paris, ever again. Next weekend I fly to Dublin for my second marathon and I’ll be flying on the Friday to head straight to the expo, I’ll be checking in baggage, wearing my gear to the airport and I’ve already got my insurance covered. YAS! Bring it on Ireland.
Are you planning to run a marathon abroad? Or do you have any travel tips for marathons? I’d love to know in the comments below.
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