Traveling is one of my top five excuses for why I miss runs. I love to travel, and I use any excuse I can to get away and see something new. Last week I tried my first real runcation (vacation based on running), and I cannot recommend it more highly!!
My husband and I have had what I would call mini-runcations before. We’ve spent the night in hotels for races in places like Frederick, Annapolis, or Richmond – but we’ve never traveled much farther than that for a race. We have a tradition of taking one of the long weekends in winter (either MLK weekend or President’s Day) and stretching it into a longer weekend to go somewhere warm. We both tend to get grumpy in the winter time, and having a warm weather break, even if just for a few days, really helps us keep going! Back in September we found out the Austin Marathon was over President’s Day weekend. I had never been there before, but my husband loves the city – so as soon as we realized there were some great airline deals to be had, we bought our tickets and started training!
Our trip was wonderful and happened to fall on what turned out to be the coldest weekend of winter we’ve had this year (perfect timing!). When we got back home we both agreed that taking a runcation is a really wonderful way to get to know a new place, and is perfect for recovery. Why so ideal? Here’s our thoughts –
Any time you sign up for a race, you have agreed to put your money where your mouth is, but usually it isn’t TOO much money. Runcations are a different animal. Airfare, hotels, dog boarding – it is certainly cheaper to just stay home! But if you need something to really kick you into gear, dropping more money than you are used to can certainly help out. That isn’t to say taking a running vacation needs to be expensive!! Southwest Airlines has a TON of sales all the time and a decent frequent flier program. We were able to book our flights for only $11 – plus we got bonus points for renting our car through one of their affiliates. Running vacations don’t need to be too far from home, but for us, having a huge change in scenery was wonderful.
Trying out local foods and flavors.
I love food. So much. Most runners I know do. Traveling gives you a chance to check out all sorts of different foods. In Austin it was lots of food truck tacos. We also visited a local arts flea market to pick up some gifts for kids at home. There was certainly something novel about getting to carb up with Thai food from a truck.
Great way to explore a new city.
Races tend to take you through some of the most interesting parts of a city, and the Austin Marathon was no exception. The race started right in downtown Austin and started with running over the Congress Avenue bridge – known as the home of the biggest urban colony of bats in the world. The race went along South Congress Avenue, lined with restaurants and small shops, along the river where you could watch kayakers and folks on paddle boards, and finished just passed the State Capitol building. It was a wonderful tour of the city and let us see some sights that we knew we would want to come back to later on in our trip.
Making friends with locals.
We came to know folks from Austin as exceptionally nice. They were nice drivers, friendly and engaging in conversation, and generous race spectators. In this photo I am right around mile five, enjoying a cup of beer and some cake. Later on in the race there were three other people handing out beer, someone with shots of tequila (I recommend against this one), and cups of champagne. We enjoyed making new friends at food trucks and while out hiking and enjoying the sites of Austin.
Opportunities for active recovery.
Just about every major city in the US is close enough to some beautiful outdoor experiences if you have a car and are willing to make a little drive. The day after the race we decided to head here for our active recovery – Hamilton Pool. This collapsed underground grotto allowed for some hiking (hellllooooo quads!!), some quality laying on sand listening to water time, and what I will refer to as an ice bath – a few quick dips in the pool itself where the water temperature was right about 58 degrees.
All said and done, our trip to Austin spanned five days – two travel days, one race day, and one day before and after race to enjoy the sights of Austin. Because we wrapped our trip around a holiday weekend, this meant only missing two days of work for a five day vacation (and because I am a teacher and one day ended up a snow day – I got super lucky and it was only one day off!!). We know that it is hard to find time to vacation, but by using long weekends and involving something we already loved (the whole running thing!), it was exactly the kind of vacation we needed.
We hope you try out a running vacation too!!