Let me should be clear: I am not writing to help make your next race easy. Marathons are never easy. Do we not remember the story of Pheidippides? If not, look it up.
Running a marathon, even when it’s in your hometown, can be a rather daunting task. It (usually) requires four to five months of training and (should) include a slightly healthier diet, early nights and earlier mornings, several pairs of shoes, countless gu packs, blocks, water, water, and more water. Oh, and Body Glide; never forget Body Glide.
Then there’s race week: more protein and carbs, less donuts and ice cream. More water, less beer. More sleep, less partying. And a runner’s favorite word: tapering - more rest and less running. Finally less running.
Marathon day presents an entirely different set of questions. When should you wake up? What should you wear? What do you eat? How are you getting to the race? Do you need to bring throw-away clothing? Are you checking a bag, and if so, what are you checking (I recommend a new shirt, recovery sandals and a cookie)? Have you gone to the bathroom (twice)?
So why do we do this to ourselves, really? Fitness? Competitive drive? A new challenge? Maybe even the hope of Boston Qualifying?
For all the time and effort you put in to preparing for your marathon, you deserve to enjoy the experience. So why not reward yourself with your next race and go somewhere new? I’ve found that disguising my marathon as a vacation does wonders for lessening nerves and adding excitement - and even if you do have a goal in mind - it helps take some of the pressure off.
During the more impressionable years of my childhood, my dad shared his love for photography - particularly that of wildlife and landscapes - with me and my siblings. He put cameras in our hands and let us loose in parks, zoos, our backyard and on vacations. Thousands of pictures were developed, but none ever looked quite like the pictures of Lake Louise that he took as a teenager. Since the moment he shared those pictures with us, I decided I wanted to go there - and when the park announced that they were going to host a marathon - I was set on running it.
So, in June I flew to Alberta, Canada to participate in the 2017 Banff Marathon.
From the moment I registered, I decided to run this marathon for the love of running. Not to race, but to enjoy my surroundings and internalize how incredible it was that I was going to run along the Bow River Valley in Banff National Park. I flew out a couple of days early to see the rest of the park and get acclimated to the higher elevation - naturally my preparation included over 20 miles of hiking, scrambling to the peak of a mountain called "Lady Mac" (which gives you an incredible 360-degree view of Banff), and a couple more cheeseburgers than I'd normally recommend in the days before a big run.
Needless to say, Sunday came quickly. As tired as my legs should have been, I was rejuvenated by the beauty around me. This is what destination running is about - traveling to a new place and distracting yourself with new adventures. I took the race easy and finished with a big smile on my face. Isn't that what life is all about - living in the moment and enjoying your time on Earth?
My suggestion: find a place that you’ve been wanting to go, and do a google search for races in that area. There’s bound to be something nearby. Then, register for the race and give yourself another reason to go there - you certainly won’t regret it! Oh, and when you’re running, keep your head up and enjoy your surroundings. The miles won't seem quite as long ;)
My next destination race: 2018 Big Sur Marathon. Maybe I'll see you there!
Written by: Gene C., assistant manager of PR Center City. Gene started running in 2011 as a mentor with Students Run Philly Style - a local non-profit that transforms the lives of young people through distance running. That year he ran his first marathon, and through training, realized how metaphoric running is to our everyday lives. He's been running religiously ever since - always challenging himself with different terrain and longer distances. He hopes to attempt his first 50-miler soon. If you see him running around the city, be sure to say "hi!". He'll most likely be rocking one of his many colorful Ciele hats.