5 Marathon Travel Tips

Abbott experts offer advice on adapting to a new city while planning to run your best race.

Are you running a marathon in a new city? You're not alone. Marathons attract athletes from around the world and only a fraction of those are running in their hometowns.

Pam Nisevich Bede, MS, an Abbott registered dietitian, and 24-time marathoner and Ironman triathlete, has done her fair share of traveling to races.

So has Abbott's Mike Sheehy, an avid marathoner and Chicago native who completed all of the Abbott World Marathon Majors races — in Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago and New York — during one calendar year.

Pam and Mike teamed up to offer runners advice as they plan their next racing adventure. Here are five key tips to remember:

1. Pack what you need.
Nothing new on race day, says Nisevich Bede.  So pack clothes, shoes, and fuel that you've trained with. If you're flying, avoid potential luggage mishaps and pack your race-day gear in your carry-on – especially your running shoes.

2. Take time to acclimate.
Time zones, elevation, temperature, and humidity may impact your race plans. Ideally, give yourself two or three days to acclimate to new conditions. But Sheehy says to resist a sightseeing tour before the race. Rest your feet, so you can cross the finish line strong. Save the sightseeing for after the marathon.

If possible, plan to stay a few extra days after you finish, so you don't have a long car ride or flight home with sore legs.

If there’s room in your luggage, travel with your trusted foam roller to get the travel stiffness out before race day. 

Study the race course in advance.“No matter where you're staying, before the morning of the race, make sure to scope out the area," said Sheehy. "Do you know how you'll get to the start line? How close is your hotel to the finish? Study the race route, so you can plan ahead for water and aid stations.”

3. Fuel up and sleep well.
“In the weeks and months leading up to race day, start researching the type of food you plan to eat before the marathon,” says Nisevich Bede.  “You’ll want to enjoy something familiar and that you know sits well in your stomach. 

Nearby restaurants are often busy just before the big race. Nisevich Bede suggests making reservations based on advice from fellow marathoners and buying favorite foods from a local grocery store, so you have fuel with you wherever you go.

When it comes to sleep, the night before a race isn’t the time to change your bedtime routine. So, go ahead and pack your sound machine, favorite pillow, tea or sleep mask. If it helps you get a good night’s sleep, bring it. 

4. Take care of yourself – before and after the race.
Travel, especially by plane, can contribute to dehydration. Nisevich Bede offered these tips to track your hydration: "You’ll know you’re hydrated when your urine runs a light yellow color – any darker and you’ve got work to do.  Any lighter and you may be overdoing it.  Bring a water bottle with you to avoid becoming so busy and nervous that you show up to race day thirsty."

In addition to a foam roller, consider packing a firm ball like a golf ball or lacrosse ball to roll out the arches of your feet. Plantar fasciitis is common when the muscles in your feet become tight as you’re clocking in mileage. If you find any tender spots in the ball or arches, stay on that spot and wiggle your toes to help restricted tissue release.

If you have a long car ride or flight pre- or post-race, you may consider wearing compression socks during travel.  Not only do they help remove lactic acid faster, they're designed to compress muscles, veins and arteries in your legs, so blood gets back to your heart faster versus pooling in your feet. Wearing them following a long run, may help accelerate recovery.

But remember, compression socks aren’t one size fits all. Before you buy a pair, do some research and consider having them fitted.

5. Take your travel adventure in stride.
Sheehy offered one final piece of advice for traveling runners: "Enjoy the travel, even if you have a minor mishap. If you don't enjoy the journey, you're missing out on so many memories that make the whole marathon experience richer."

Want to take these tips to go? Download this infographic.


Abbott is the title sponsor of the Abbott World Marathon Majors, a series of six of the largest and most renowned marathons in the world: Tokyo Marathon, Boston Marathon, Virgin Money London Marathon, BMW BERLIN-MARATHON, Bank of America Chicago Marathon and TCS New York City Marathon. Click here to learn more.