Friday, June 7, 2013

International racing...tips and advice?

One of the particular joys of travel to new places is getting to explore while on a run.  

Though I've dodged cars through the narrow streets of Osaka and Tokyo, stopping to do pull-ups at tiny little parks, and nearly died along the banks of the Han River in the August humidity of Seoul, and my brother and I did a sibling jog together in Plitvice, Croatia
Plitvice Lakes National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
by the bluest water you'll ever see, my only international race experience was the 2005 Auckland Marathon. 


A friend and I had two weeks of leave planned in New Zealand and the highlight of our fall trip was a spring marathon!  We arrived the day before the race -- everything was as smooth as could be -- we had fun exploring the city to find packet pick up and the starting line, just as you'd do for any big race in any city that's not home.  Race day, my friend dropped back into the 10K race due to an untimely injury and I spent the remaining 20 miles converting between miles and kilometers and back again while asking some very concerned fellow runners, "how long is this race?" because I hadn't bothered to consider that a 26.2 mile marathon measures just over 42 km, and that a nation on the metric system might not post mile markers.  I admit, the fun of the mental math kept me busy.  To this day, every time I run a race that's only marked in miles (ok, so pretty much every race in the US, even 5Ks and 10Ks) I smile and remember my past confusion...while eagerly waiting for someone to ask me, mid-marathon, "how long IS this thing?"
Running the Auckland Marathon, you won't soon forget that bridge!
In fact, my experience at the Auckland Marathon gave me the idea to do more destination races, combining some vacation time with a running event, which is why I am heading back to Alaska in less than 2 weeks (for the Mayor's Marathon Half) and is exactly how I ended up at the Salt Lake City Marathon in April of this year as well as the Gasparilla Distance Classic in Tampa, Florida in 2010.  

In any event, the Auckland Marathon was and still is a PR for me, the highlight of a great trip.  I've gone back to New Zealand since then and it's one of my favorite places on earth and always will be.  I hope to run the Auckland Marathon again; it feels like a hometown race to me now.

I would like to do another international event, any suggestions for great race/vacation combinations?