Feeling like broadening your running horizons and entering a race outside of the UK? Our club’s most experienced globe trotter shares his tips for making the most of your adventure.
The Art of Running Away from Home
It appears that more of us are running or contemplating running races which involve travelling some distance from our home comforts. With quite a few air, train and road miles behind me over the last few years, all in the cause of running Marathons or Half Marathons, I thought a few notes might help those entering their first away-from-home races avoid the mistakes I have made.
Entering a Race
Apart from the race distance, there are two types of race; those where entering is just a case of paying your money and you are in, and those where getting a place depends on a ballot. Although the direct entry route looks straight forward, don’t underestimate how quickly the race places fill up. Some races, such as the Paris Marathon, use a system where the earlier you enter the lower the entry fee. (Incidentally, Paris and possibly some others, require a medical declaration signed by your GP.)
Some other races make it difficult or more expensive to enter if you are a foreign national. In this situation you might have to book a package with a company like Sportstours International in order to get a guaranteed place. This will add to the expense as you will also normally have to book your flights and/or hotel with them. (Usually, such companies can get you an entry even after the ballot places have gone. Here you have to weigh cost against your determination to run the event.)
OK, so you have got your place in the race by direct entry (non-ballot situation). Book your accommodation immediately. Chances are that there could be anything from a few thousand runners to 55,000 (as in the Great North Run). This has two effects.
Firstly, hotels and guest houses will book up quickly and secondly, accommodation prices can become extortionate. (In the case of the Great North Run, some hotels “only had rooms available if you booked two nights” at an inflated price!) So book quickly or risk being screwed!
The same applies if you have just applied for a ballot place. As soon as you have your application in, book your accommodation.
“But what if I don’t get into the race?” I hear you say. That’s were being sneaky comes in. Use the hotel booking sites such as “Booking.com” or “Tripadvisor” and only book a hotel where you can cancel right up to the last minute without any cancellation fee. That way, if your entry application isn’t successful or you defer for any reason, you haven’t lost a fortune on hotel costs.
Check out the Race Route and decide whether you want accommodation near the Start/Finish or whether it is good enough to be near a convenient Metro. If driving to the race, you will want a hotel with parking.
If you are required to go to an Expo to collect your running number and timing chip, make sure you allow for this in your booking plans.
Obviously, teaming up with a fellow runner to share a room can cut costs. (I will leave the rest to imagination!)
Air fares and train fares can be reasonable if you book early. Like accommodation, book as early as possible, although many flights and trains can’t be booked more than six months in advance. Find out when booking will start to be available and create a calendar reminder to activate you. Flights especially can book up quickly when thousands of runners are trying to descend on a venue.
Unfortunately, train and air fares cannot be recouped unless you have a good insurance policy – and a good excuse! (By the way, when insuring for my New York trip, we found that Marathon running was covered by our insurance – worth checking as medivac is expensive!)
Once you have decided to run away from home ACT FAST.
Ken Stewart April 2014