Racing ‘Abroad’. Pack a Buddy!

Despite the hundreds of races that are available to get involved with in my own country, and even in the locality, there’s definitely something a little special about entering a race in another country.

My first experience of this was the Dublin Marathon back in 2010. After completing the London Marathon three times I was in desperate need of a change of scenery (not to detract from the awesomeness that is the London Marathon: it’s one of the biggest races in the world and for good reason!) so keeping things still fairly local, I dipped my toe into racing abroad (and clearly by ‘abroad’ I mean there was an actual flight and change in country involved despite the fact I was technically still in the UK!)

Needless to say that I had to actually incorporate more organisation into my race prep. If you know me, you’ll appreciate I have a nasty habit of literally rocking up on the day, putting one foot in front of the other and breathing in and out! If I’m feeling good I speed up, if I’m a bit knackered I’ll slow down: all VERY technical! But this ‘casual’ approach to marathons has served me pretty well so far pulling out times I never thought I’d ever be able to achieve.

Obviously I’ll never win such an event but I’m also confident I won’t come last, therefore the pressure’s off! So, why then do the nerves kick in at least a week before race day and the anxiety dreams always involve me running the wrong route or getting to the start line late and desperately trying to catch up with the rest of the runners?!

No matter whether I feel I’ve done adequate training or actually fallen a little short on some of the longer distances it’s always the same, but come race day I have everything I need close to hand to get ready and set off to the start line. However, when the start line is a plane ride away from your home one has to think about what to take in case of every eventuality.

This doesn’t sit well with me. I’m more of a ‘small backpack for a weekend away’ kinda girl so whilst sat on the plane with my racing buddy talking about what we’d each packed I had a minor meltdown.

It turns out that wash bag, running kit and pjs wasn’t satisfactory race packing! Thankfully, my mate had everything you could possibly imagine, including the kitchen sink: different running kit (depending on what the weather would be doing come race day); heat pads; anti-inflammatory gels/pills; blister pads; Vaseline; nailclippers….in fact the list goes on and on. He even packs exactly what he likes to eat for pre-marathon breakfast as well as the coffee he likes to drink!

At first, I couldn’t help but mock (just a little!). Surely this was all going a bit OCD? However, he was the one to have the last laugh…

I think I used pretty much all the first aid kit he’d packed! It seemed I was asking for something every five minutes, and it didn’t seem to matter what it was I needed, he had EVERYTHING! Since that race, it’s now an ongoing joke that his pre-marathon shopping includes ‘Steph’s first aid/race kit’ but hey, saves me the weight in my own bag!

I will admit though, it’s lovely having a racing buddy I can travel with, share the race with and then recover with. If you’re venturing a little further afield for your next race I would highly recommend a pal who can at least share the baggage with as well as the experience…next race for me is the Prague Marathon this Sunday 13th May. I better get on the phone and make sure my mate has got ‘my kit’ packed already :)   

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