How to Plan a Destination Race

The Five Things You Need to Know

No matter where you are in your running journey, racing can be an amazing way to see the world. Here, Saucony's own Linda Quinteros, an avid travel-racer herself, takes us through her top 5 tips for getting out there to truly Run Your World.

I've spent a lot of time plotting ways I can combine running with a vacation. And with my love of the spectacle that is a big city marathon, I've been able to cross off a few bucket list locations. Berlin, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and most recently, Cambridge, UK for the Saucony Half Marathon — the 6th race I’ve completed abroad. Along the way, I’ve learned a lot when it comes to tacking on travel to my race schedule! I am generally considered a planner but it comes out a little bit more when running is involved (Trust me: you do not want to compete with thousands of runners — and their families — when trying to find the best Italian spot in New York City for your carb-load dinner!). With that in mind, here are five things you need to know before taking off for an international race!

1. Pick Your Destination

This is the fun part, choosing your adventure! No matter what your running goals are there are plenty of races to choose from. I am chasing the Abbott World Marathon Majors so a lot of my options have already been made for me, but if you’ve ever dreamed of visiting amazing cities like Cambridge, Stockholm or Barcelona, you'll find a range of distances all throughout the year. I am firm believer that one of the best ways to explore a city is to run it! So go through your bucket list of destinations and pick your distance.

Need some inspiration? Check out our favourite worldwide running destinations at run.yourworld!

2. Get the Logistics Out of the Way

Once I've decided where I am going, I start my hunt for seat sales and sign up for email notifications for some of the airlines. Air Canada always seems to have offers and you may get lucky! When planning your travel, I would give yourself a couple of days pre-race for your arrival. I've traveled to a race once where I turned up the day before and sure, I saved a bit on hotel, but I was rushed and felt stressed. If you can afford an extra day I would take it. Many races have connections with local hotels to offer deals for their runners. Check their sites, I’ve saved hundreds of dollars by booking through the race hotel and usually these are close to the start or finish making life a little bit easier on race day. 

I'm a creature of habit and my pre-race meals are fairly consistent. Plain spaghetti with a tomato based sauce is my go to carb loading dinner, and I will go to the ends of the earth (or city I’m in) to make sure I have a restaurant reservation for my carb loading meal that has it on the menu. I also scope out my race day breakfast, which is usually a plain bagel with cream cheese and a very large coffee, to make sure I either have it with me in my hotel room or have found a nearby coffee shop that is open early enough for me to pick it up race morning.

3. Keep Your Focus

While you are going on a vacation, remember that you are racing too! Thinking about things like adjusting your sleep prior to travel can be important to make sure you arrive fresh. When racing overseas, time zones can kill your sleep patterns, so try adjusting your sleep schedule as you lead into the trip. Even 30 – 60 minute adjustments can help you get on local time a lot quicker. When I ran in Cambridge, the start time was 9am (or 4am at home!) so getting up a bit earlier on the days leading into my travel helped me reset my clock.

This one is important: pack your race day essentials in your carry on. I usually pack my contact lenses, my race kit, nutrition, and my race day shoes to bring on the plane with me. If your checked baggage goes missing, most everything can be easily replaced apart for these important items. If you're planning a trip to another part of the world, your go-to nutrition for race day may not be available and you don’t want to try anything new, so it's important to plan ahead. (Also a random tip: some of the regional races in Europe don't give you safety pins for your bib! Best to pack some just in case.)

Lastly, drink lots of water! You will get dehydrated on a plane, no question, so make sure you bring some on board with you.

4. (Try to) Stay Off Your Feet

When you're in a new city, it will be incredibly exciting and you will want to explore, but try to remember that you need some of that energy for race day. Try to save the wandering around on foot for post-race — you’ll need to loosen up your stiff legs anyway! Look for activities where you can sit, like a bus tour, a cool café, a boat ride (punting anyone?!). You want to arrive on the start line as fresh as possible.

As for picking up your bib at the expo, I would suggest doing this as soon as you can. For my first few races abroad I spent ages at the expo visiting every booth, ultimately buying little.  Plan out which brands you want to see and try your best to stick to that. All that time of your feet adds up!  Also remember that this is an exciting moment!  Every bib I’ve ever picked up has an associated photo that you’re sure to find on my Instagram. You’ve done the work, now you can enjoy the excitement as race day is just around the corner.

5. Celebrate Your Achievement!

Someone once told me that the race is the reward for all the work put into months of training. This is very true and I often remind myself of this as I'm in the last few KMs of the race (ahem!). However, I do love to take it a step further in my post-race celebrations. This is the one part that is always unplanned for me, but still somehow I've always found the best tasting burger and fries I've ever had in my life after my race. No matter the destination.   

Thinking now about how your next travel destination could involve running? Head on over to for locals' guides to running, playing, and otherwise getting around in some of the world's most fascinating cities!