Leaving on a jet plane for an overseas event? Lucky you! Here’s how to make sure you hit the ground running and avoid having a racing holiday from hell. Bon voyage!
BEFORE YOU GO
Getting A Visa
Without the correct visa you might never get off the ground. Check well in advance whether your race destination requires a visa, how long it will take to process and how long it will last. Some race websites will have information on visas if you are travelling from abroad.
You can apply for visas through embassies and specialist visa companies who, for a fee, will take care of all the paperwork for you. Visit the Foreign Office website for details on visas and up-to-date travel advice.
Don’t get caught out – although most races don’t fall into the dangerous-sport category, many standard policies don’t cover competitions. Make sure you read the small print and, if necessary, find a specialist insurer who will offer you a policy covering activities considered to be high-risk, such as running at high altitude or in extreme conditions.
Consult Your GP
Some countries (including France and Spain) will require you to have a letter from a doctor stating that there is no reason why you can’t run – you can find draught copies of these on some race websites. The cost of this is at your GP’s discretion.
"Your doctor might sign it for you for free or you may be required to pay a fee, the cost of which is a bit of a lottery – anything from £10 upwards." says Mike Gratton from 2:09 Events. "However, this will then cover you for any future events for the next 12 months."
Don't forget to take any medication you need with you for the duration of the trip and if you have a prescription, make sure the name on it matches your passport to avoid any problems at customs.
What To Pack
Make a checklist of essential running gear and tick off each item as you pack. "The most important thing is to pack your running shoes and any essential kit in your hand luggage," says Mike. "If it’s with you, then it can’t go missing!"
Be prepared for all weathers and take some old kit that you are prepared to discard if you need to keep warm or dry while hanging around at the start of the race. You’ll also need to remember to pack any sports drinks or gels in the hold due to restrictions on taking liquids onboard aircraft.
DURING YOUR FLIGHT
Avoid consuming any alcohol during the flight and stay well hydrated – this will help to alleviate the effects of jetlag once you arrive.
It’s also good practice to get out of your seat at regular intervals and stretch your legs. This will keep you from getting too stiff and help get your blood moving around your body, which in turn prevents the risk of deep vein thrombosis. Just don't try any high-altitude training!
Dealing With Jetlag
"Change your watch to the time zone that you are travelling to as soon as you board the aircraft," says Mike. "The sooner you start to think in local time the sooner you can adjust your sleep patterns – and often you might only have 24 hours to do this before the race."
Airline meals - although not necessarily very appetising - will also be served at times appropriate to those of your destination, which can help you to adjust mentally.
Coping With Time Differences
Stay up for as long as you can once you've arrived to help align your sleep patterns to local time as quickly as possible. The change in time difference makes flying west much easier than flying east. It's therefore advisable if you are travelling east, to try and arrive a couple of days earlier if you can.
Take It Easy
Stay off your feet as much as possible in the lead-up to the race. A coach tour or boat trip is a great way of seeing the sights while conserving your energy. By the same token, if possible, get taxis rather than walk long distances.
Running in hot and humid conditions and at altitude can have a serious impact on your race. "Without the luxury of acclimatisation in an elite training camp, arriving at the race destination a few days before the race is the best – and only – option for most runners to get used to the local conditions," says Mike.
If it’s hot, be prepared to run at a slower pace; if you're racing at altitude, drink plenty of water to ease the symptoms of altitude sickness.
Try to stick to as normal a pre-race diet as possible when you’re away. The more exotic the location, the more likely your hotel is going to be the safest place to eat. Avoid anything overly spicy, street food and ice cubes made from local water.
Make sure you stick to regular meals too - jetlag may affect your appetite but you’ll need to keep your energy levels topped up for the race.
Get Your Bearings
Once you've arrived, take a look at the race course and familiarise yourself with the start and finish areas. It's a good idea to plan your route to the start too, and familiarise yourself with the local transport networks by consulting maps and timetables available from your hotel or local tourist information centre.
THE HOME STRAIGHT
If it’s a long haul back to the UK it can be a good idea – time and money allowing – to book your return flights for at least a day after the race. This will give you enough time to relax, rest-up and avoid having to spend hours in cramped conditions after the rigours of a tough race.