Paris Marathon From The Air

Running Away From Home

Thinking of entering a race overseas but worried about the logistics? runABC spoke to some international race enthusiasts for their advice…

For runners who enjoy travelling, the appeal of taking part in an international event is obvious. But when it comes to figuring out transport and accommodation – not to mention acclimatising to a new country and overcoming the language barrier – many can be put off. Here are some tips from runners who’ve previously ventured overseas for an event…

Shona Thomson

As only the third British woman to run a marathon on every continent, Shona knows a thing or two about running abroad. So what’s the big draw to international events? Shona explains: “There are so many things! Firstly, if you’re going to suffer, it’s more fun to do it in an amazing location. Secondly, I enjoy meeting new people and experiencing new cultures. It’s a fantastic way to see a new location. If you’re not ready for a full marathon, there are lots of half marathon and shorter options available.”

If you’re worried about the hassle of making travel arrangements and booking a hotel, Shona suggests letting someone else handle it: “I’d book with a specialist company. They take care of all logistical planning, leaving you to focus on enjoying your run. They’ll also make sure the hotel location is within easy reach of the start and finish, something which is priceless!”

Rory McGinley

Less prolific in his international running events but no less enthusiastic is Rory McGinley who took part in Barcelona Marathon. Rory echoes Shona’s sentiments on the joys of running abroad: “It’s a great way of seeing a new city. You can go on a guided tour and walk around for hours seeing the sights. Or instead you can combine the two and run a race.”

If you’re someone who gets a boost from hearing strangers yelling out your name at a race – and let’s face it, who isn’t?! – be prepared for some slightly unusual interpretations of your name, warns Rory: “The Barcelona crowd struggled with my name a bit. I have a Scottish/Gaelic name and so I heard many different pronunciations of it along the course. It felt great though having them make the effort. It was like I’d been accepted as a local.”

When abroad it’s easy to be lured into eschewing your regular eating habits in favour of exotic local delicacies. Rory advises to resist this urge: “It’s really important to be selfish and realise you need to put your own needs before local customs. Try and stick to your diet/schedule that you would were you racing back home. No matter how tempting your new surroundings are!”

Stephen Bell

After failing to get a place at London Marathon, and determined to run a marathon with his son, Stephen Bell secured entry for Paris Marathon – his first international race. He then went on to run Amsterdam Marathon (‘very flat’) and Rome Marathon too. It’s fair to say he’s caught the travelling bug… in a good way.

“There’s a lovely atmosphere about races abroad, you’re surrounded by runners of all nationalities. And supporters too. I find the whole experience quite relaxing. Hearing French/Dutch/Italian people shouting out, ‘Stevie’ was great fun!"

Instead of choosing a travel company, Stephen prefers to go it alone: “That way if anything goes wrong I’ve only myself to blame! On a serious note, I like having the control over where I’m staying/how I’m travelling. I understand why others would prefer to use a specialist company though.”

Being neither fluent in French or Dutch or Italian, did Stephen have any linguistic difficulties while abroad? “None at all. Paris and Amsterdam both cater for non-native speakers and don’t expect your French or Dutch to be up to scratch. Picking up my bib wasn’t an issue. I’ve yet to meet anyone who’s run abroad and had any problems.”

Top Tips

  •     Stick to your dietary routine – no matter how tempting the local fare might be!
  •     Book well in advance – either with a specialist company or by yourself.
  •     Don’t worry about the lingo – most events will have instructions in English.

If all this talk of running in foreign countries has whetted your appetite, you can visit Destination Sport Experiences to see the range of international events they have on offer. Bon voyage!

Image: Destination Sport Experiences

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