Would you run a marathon as a part of your holiday trip?
Generally speaking, we all like travelling. Many of us actually do travel, while others simply like the idea of doing it. There are many different ways of structuring your travel routine: some people like to spend their holidays roaming around the ancient centres of civilisations doing a lot of sightseeing in the process. Others prefer to chill at the beach, or by the pool, casually sipping a morning latte, or a margarita cocktail. There are some crazy heads that love extreme sports such as the white water rafting or sky diving. Many like to hike. You can even hire a camel and ride through Morocco, or you can investigate the extremities of the Cola peninsula, Scandinavian Lapland or Patagonia.
Firstly, and fundamentally, this is a great way to stay fit. As the ancient Greeks used to say - if you want to be healthy - run, if you want to stay sharp - run, and if you want to look good - run. And these guys knew a thing or two about beauty, athleticism and mental prowess. Let us face it - only really gifted (from the physical standpoint) people, or those that live in a rural environment devoid of any meaningful transportation facilities are capable of running 21.1 km without any preparation. The majority of participants live in industrial megapolis stone jungles, and if you are planning to participate in several marathons per year, you will naturally build your lifestyle around some routine that will involve regular exercises and trips to the gym.
Next comes a sheer feeling of physical and mental satisfaction from accomplishing this feat of courage and endurance. Only a very small percentage of world’s population can boast that they actually have run, and finished a marathon distance, so it does make you feel exceptional. Doing this activity on a regular basis will bring you closer to interesting and like-minded individuals, so you will make meaningful friendships.
And last, but not least - as a rule, you will end up getting a great looking medal at the end of each marathon - provided that you choose proper destinations (some events do not issue the medals, and personally I ignore them). Imagine having a rack full of shiny, beautiful crafted medals from all over the world in your living room: your parents and family members are proud of you, your children think you are a super hero, and your friends are somewhat jealous. Sooner or later - and it is guaranteed, some of them will join you on your runs, later travelling with you to participate in one of the events that you will choose together.
So what do you need to keep in mind when you choose your destination? First of all, critically reassess your level of physical fitness. It is obvious that running on a flat ground is much easier than running through the hills - and some of the marathons are extremely hilly, so expect to spend a lot more energy than you usually do.
Some marathons, like the Great Wall of China, or Russian Siberian Ice Marathon event will require exceptional levels of physical preparedness. In the former case not only the distance is very hilly, but also you will have to run up and down the stairs, adding on more stress to heart rate pace and general exhaustion. And in the latter example you will have to fight against extreme subzero temperatures that will test even the strongest athletes.
Some of the best destinations - in my humble experience - are the great and renowned city marathons worlwide. As a rule, they are very well organised, well supplied with food stuffs, energy drinks and water that the contestants get to consume along their paths, and they also offer some of the best views that this particular city has to offer. Imagine running through the streets of Paris, Berlin, Moscow, Boston, Miami, New York or San Fransisco with no traffic around, in a crowd of like-minded people, surrounded by spectacular architecture, with the spectators cheering you up every step of the way.
For example, during Semi De Paris half marathon that takes place during the first weekend of March musical bands were placed along the way, and I must say the bombastic melodies that they played were an additional and much needed source of inspiration since the temperatures were cold, and it poured all the way from start to finish.
A word of caution - you’ve got to plan early to be a part of something as big as any of these marathons - as a rule, they get sold out within a day or two after an opening date, so you’ve got to be quick. And here is some statistics - out of more than 55,000 people that got registered for the Paris event this March, picking up their running packs a day before the event, only 46,000+ crossed the finish line. Make sure you are physically rested and well prepared, do not exercise the day before you run, take it easy if you want to finish the race.
Secondly, get dressed according to the weather conditions - in Paris multiple athletes passed out due to hyperthermia. Thirdly, have a good night sleep, stretch well when you get up and warm up again before you run, eat light and nutritious meals early in the morning, and bring some energy gel packs along with you. I usually take three gel packs with me, eating the first one minutes before the start for slow energy release and to avoid the cramps, taking the second at 10-11 km distance to sustain the energy levels, and finishing with the third at 15-16 km for a rapid energy release in order to finish fast and strong.
One final word of advice for male runners - if you are wearing a tight shirt/singlet, protect your nipples with bandages against chafing. It is one of the worst/painful feelings in the world, believe me!
Photo via Wikipedia Commons / Peter Farlow