The 2019 Travel Marathon Checklist

A woman wearing orange shoes climbs a set of concrete stairs.

So, you’ve decided to run your first (or next) marathon in a faraway place.  Congratulations! Marathoning isn’t easy, and traveling to an unfamiliar area — even with a guide — can add another layer of stress if you leave something essential to your success at home.

That’s why we made a travel marathon checklist!

While this guide is designed to help you arrive at a new destination and successfully complete your race, it should also serve as a reminder to experience the place you’re in!  Don’t just sit in your hotel and wait for race day.  Get out and explore both before and after you cross the finish line.


Getting There

Whether you’re flying solo or touring with a group, your first step to participating in an upcoming marathon is to get there!  Below, you’ll find a brief list of items you might want to consider before you board a flight to an unfamiliar destination:


1.  Vaccinations & Checkups

We’re definitely not medical professionals, but if your running event is out of the country and you’re going to a place you’ve never been before, it’s not a bad idea to get yourself checked out.  Many ailments you’re likely to encounter abroad may not be covered by routine vaccinations in your home country.

Do a little research on the part of the world you’re going to and make sure that you’re in good health for the duration of your trip!  The CDC Destinations List is a great place to start.


2.  Passports & ID

Especially if you’re flying, you’re not going to get very far without up to date identification documentation.  

Make sure that your passports and government-authorized authentications are up to date, as some documentation can take week or months to get.  If you need a passport, don’t forget to check the processing times, as they can fluctuate wildly in the lead-up to peak travel seasons.


3.  Travel Confirmation & Tickets

When your documentation is in order, book your flight.  

We recommend Google Flights for this.  It’s a great tool that can help you find cheap flights that fit your schedule.  You can even save a little extra money if you’re flexible on your flight days!

Keep your confirmation and tickets in a safe place, and consider taking advantage of the app downloads and remote check-in options that many airlines now offer.


4.  Transportation & Logistics

Before you leave home, decide how you’re going to get around and where you’re going to stay.  Just because you’re going on a running tour doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy yourself.  

In many major cities, public transit may be enough, but if you want to explore every nook and cranny of the surrounding countryside, you may need a car.  

Be sure to explore your region of interest while planning your details.  The US Department of State website has some general information to help you get started.


5.  Communication While Away

Especially if you’re headed out of the country, you might find that your cellular plan doesn’t work or that the roaming penalties are borderline ridiculous.  Talk to your cellular provider about international plans and see if they suit your needs.

Alternatively, if you’re more technically inclined, you may choose to purchase a temporary cellular plan in another country and take advantage of the local network at local rates!  

This guide from TripSavvy can help you get started.


6. Maps & Area Guides

Whether you choose to buy a tourist city map or rely on an app like Google maps it completely up to you.  There are advantages to having a hard copy when spotty cellular services go out, but nothing screams “tourist!” like a fold-out map.

Study the area around your hotel and the running event.  Use a website like TripAdvisor to browse the local attractions and make a list.  Find a nice park or a comfortable loop nearby to do a “shake it out” run when you get off the plane.

We recommend reviewing the area where you plan to stay well in advance of your flight.  Get comfortable with the landmarks, the basic lay of the land, and where to get the best coffee.  Every bit of knowledge will help make your marathon adventure a success!


7.  Street Clothes

Make sure you pack a set of clothes that aren’t related to your upcoming marathon.  Keep your outfit practical and down to earth.  

Bring a second pair of running or walking shoes that are comfortable.  There will be a ton of exploration to do before the race, so your outfit should be practical.  

Don’t try to be stylish and end up with foot pain on race day.


8.  Travel Alarm

As tempting as it might be to sleep in on race day, you’ll be kicking yourself later if you came for a running tour and managed to miss the main event!

Make sure you pack a travel alarm that you’ll respond to and be sure to set it before you go to sleep.  Most travel alarms are small, lightweight, and battery powered. Here’s a TravelSavvy article to help you find the right alarm clock for you.  

And don’t forget:  If you’re extra-nervous about missing race day, a wakeup call from the front desk is usually free.


9.  Medicine

If you take prescription medicine on a regular or semi-regular basis, make sure that you’ve got enough of what you need to cover your trip.  Especially while abroad, finding medicine to replace what you need may be next to impossible. Make sure this is top of mind while packing for your travel marathon.

The CDC has a great list of medicines and medical necessities you should consider.


10. Personal Care Products

In the midst of preparing for a running tour, it’s easy to forget one of the most basic items on your marathon checklist.  

As with many other items on the list, your preferred brands may not be available if you’re traveling abroad, so make sure that you’ve got everything you need before you leave.

Don’t forget to pack your toothpaste, hair care products, brushes, bristles and everything in between.  Don’t forget the TSA 3-1-1 rule for liquids.


Race Day

While it’s true that every day you’re in a new place will be an adventure, race day is the reason you’re going!  It’s the big day, and it’s a one-of-a-kind experience with a unique set of needs that can make or break your entire running tour.

Because packing for a travel marathon can be tricky, we’re splitting the knowledge base in two.  Read on to learn more about what you should pack specifically with race day in mind.

You might find a few items from the “Getting Ready” section repeated here.  That’s not an accident! We want to make absolutely sure that you’ve got everything you need to reach the finish line!


1.  Race Confirmation

Make sure you’ve got a printed and digital copy (in case you need to reprint) of your race confirmation.  You’ll need one for any running event you attend that requires registration, and you’ll need to present it at the expo in order to get your race number.

We can’t stress how important it is to keep the information on you.  It’s completely possible to miss a race without your registration confirmation.  Pack this with other essential travel documentation and double-check that you’ve got it before and after your flight.


2.  Directions to the Running Expo

This is an easy one to forget!  

Even if you’ve got a map of the general area, don’t forget to get directions to the running expo.  You’ll have to show up at the expo to present your confirmation and receive your racing bib.

If you’re bad with directions, consider scoping out the location in advance so that you know exactly where to go.


3.  Marathon Running Shoes

If you’re about to run a marathon, we probably don’t have to lecture you about your shoes.  But if you’re participating in a travel marathon and you’re far from home, replacement shoes might be hard to find.  

Make sure that your shoes are in good shape a few months before your trip.  If you’re already starting to see signs of wear and tear, consider investing in a new pair and breaking them in well in advance of your competition date.

And — whatever you do — don’t forget to pack them!


4.  Race Day Breakfast (if possible)

Marathoners everywhere are known for eating strange things before a run.  We’re not here to judge, but your favorite pre-race meal might not be available in your destination of choice.

If at all possible, consider packing a race day breakfast and bringing it with you.  If it’s a product that won’t survive your flight or that simply can’t travel with you, find an alternative a few days prior to the marathon and try it out to see how it settles in your stomach.

A good rule of thumb is to avoid trying anything new on race day!


5.  Running Clothes

Earlier, we covered the need for street clothes, but running clothes are a different story.  Make sure that you’re dressed appropriately for your upcoming marathon.  Account for the climate and the weather.  If you need extra socks, pants, shorts, a sports bra, or a long-sleeved shirt, don’t forget to pack it.

If this is your first marathon or running tour, we recommend that you dress in layers.  The morning might start off cool, and it’s easier to strip out of a full-zip, light jacket than a thick running sweatshirt or a half-zip hoodie.


6.  ID, Money & Essentials

You’ll need to carry a few things with you throughout your running event.  IDs, cash for quick purchases, and other basic essentials should stay on your person, but don’t go overboard.

Consider keeping the equipment you carry while running to a minimum.  There’s no point in bringing unnecessary gear, like full wallets or a set of car keys.  

Keep your load light and you’ll find your run much more enjoyable.


7.  Running Belt or Alternative Storage

If it’s your first time running while traveling, you might consider a running belt.  They’re great for holding money or IDs.  Some are more focused on hydration or low-light visibility.

While a running belt isn’t essential to your success, it can go a long way toward keeping your necessities in order for the duration of your race.

If you need a primer, this article from Business Insider can help!


8.  Racing Bib & Timing Chip

Once you present your running confirmation and retrieve your racing bib, go ahead and attach it to your clothes.  If you aren’t planning to leave the event grounds before your race, there’s no point in carrying the bib around. By attaching it to your person, you’ll also make sure that it doesn’t wander off.

After the race, hang onto your racing bib.  Every bib makes for a great souvenir. If this is your first marathon and you’re planning to participate again, this bib might be the start of an amazing collection.

You can check out some cool things other runners have done with their racing bibs right here.


9.  Vaseline or Anti-chafing Lotion

If you experience chafing, bleeding, or any other symptoms that might get the better of you during your upcoming marathon, make sure that you bring them with you.

Like food or medicine, your preferred brand may not be available in a foreign country.  If you don’t speak the language, you may have a hard time finding a late-minute alternative.


10.  Medication

We’re mentioning medication again because we know it’s that important!  Don’t forget it!

That being said, we also want to take a minute to point out the dangers of taking pain relievers and similar NSAIDs before a race.  VerywellFit has a great article about pain relievers and marathons if you’d like to know more.

In short:  Don’t do it!


11.  Cellphone & Headphones

Where would we be without cellular phones?  This essential carry item deserves its own category, especially if you’re planning to listen to music, podcasts, or audiobooks for the duration of your run.  

If you’re in a new place, try to hook your phone up to a wifi signal if you need to download new content.  Don’t use cellular data if you can help it! You’re likely to return home from your marathon adventure to a high phone bill.

Make sure your smartphone is fully charged and easily accessible.  If you’re running during the cold season, make sure that it’s well-insulated or you may find yourself a few miles in with a dead phone.

The same goes for headphones.  Wired headphones are more straightforward and may be better for marathon-length runs due simply to battery life.  Of course, if you want to go wireless (and who doesn’t?), Runner’s World has you covered.


12.  Sunglasses & Sunscreen

Last but not least, don’t forget your sunglasses and your sunscreen.  Even if you’ve got to wear your glasses on top of your head for a few miles, you’ll be thankful that you have them once the sun climbs in the sky.

The same is true for sunscreen.  Go ahead and apply it before you line up, but if you think you’ll need it again throughout the race, keep a travel-sized bottle with you and reapply as needed.


After the Race

You did it!  Congratulations!  Whether you’re basking in the afterglow of a new personal best or things didn’t go exactly as you wanted, take a minute to pat yourself on the back.

It takes a monumental effort to run in an unfamiliar place!  That’s what a travel marathon is all about.  

Now that the race is over, though, you should take a little time to recover.  Spend a day relaxing, wandering around town, or sightseeing. Grab a bite of local cuisine.

If you’ve got the energy, save sleep for the plane!


Returning Home & Recovery

It can take weeks to recover from any marathon, but travel marathons especially can take a lot out of you.  Take it easy once you’re home and consider some exercises and stretches that don’t involve pounding the pavement.  Go for a walk, hit the gym, or take a break.

After a few weeks, test out your legs with a short run and see how they feel.  Build from there.

Before long, you’ll be planning your next running tour.  When the time comes, we’d love to have you along.

Take a look at our upcoming marathon tours!  We hope to see you there!

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