This coming weekend will mark the anniversary of my first long-distance race, Dam to Dam, a 20K road race in Des Moines, IA. However, I’m adding a follow-up marathon the next day up in Minneapolis to make things interesting (we can discuss my sanity once I see how I feel on Sunday afternoon)! Although getting up at 3:45AM to drive down to Des Moines doesn’t exactly constitute a running vacation, the subsequent afternoon drive up to Minneapolis does count. Although only a brief, 24 hour “vacation” of sorts, it got me thinking about the constant debate in my head- do I organize races around vacations, or vacations around races?
I’ve done both, and I certainly enjoy vacationing without any races on the calendar as well. However, my quest for unique and enjoyable races around the country means I have the opportunity to visit some great places that I wouldn’t otherwise consider as vacation spots. To this point, the most memorable of those vacations was to Eureka, CA for the Avenue of the Giants Marathon. This was quite possibly the most beautiful race I’ve ever run, and it ended up being a wonderful vacation as well. Having the opportunity to run a small race amongst the redwood forests is like nothing else I’ve ever done, and had I not decided to run the race, I’m not sure it’s an area of the country I would have gotten to any time soon. I would have missed out!
Sometimes throwing a race into an already established vacation can be a lot of fun as well. The Twin Cities 100% Irish for a Day 10-miler earlier this year is a perfect example. I’ve also gone up to Lake Okoboji with friends the last two summers for a nice weekend get-away and tossed in a 1/2 marathon for good measure (probably my least favorite race to date, yet I still run it!). My trip to Washington D.C. last summer for the North Face Endurance Challenge 50K was another perfect example of a race and vacation melding together. After running the race, we had another week in D.C. and Maryland to visit family and friends, and had a great time (although the staples in my head that I earned on the course did mean wearing a hat the rest of the trip!).
Ultimately, my goal is to run a marathon or ultramarathon in all 50 states, so I am attempting to tailor my race schedule such that I don’t duplicate any more than I need to with destinations. Sometimes this will mean traveling to a great location for a race and vacation, and other times, it will mean driving in the night before, and driving home right after the race. With all of these races, the additional challenge becomes remembering to take vacations just for the sake of the vacation and not worry about the next race, and I’m constantly reminding myself to do just that!
In the end, I cherish my racing vacations and enjoy all of the opportunities they provide for seeing a different side of the country that I wouldn’t otherwise visit. However, sometimes you just need to fly to Trinidad in January, because you have a friend there, and it’s cold in Iowa…so we are doing just that as well! (Maybe I’ll go for a run along the beach 😉 )