Running a Marathon Out of Town

I’m exactly one month away from running a marathon all the way across the country! The marathon is scary enough, but it makes me even more nervous when I think about different weather, different terrain and packing for the race. It would be the worst to forget something important.airport

Since the Chicago marathon is this weekend I thought I’d share my Traveling for a Race tips today…

Check the weather – is a great place!

Check the course elevation – for me that’s on the NY Marathon website

Take care of your travel arrangements early to ensure a less stressed arrival and departure. Check out the race website for Start/Finish line location and try to get a hotel near one of them.

Some races, like the NY Mary, Start at one location and end at another very far away! Make sure you check those things and let your cheerleaders know.

Stay hydrated while on the way to your race destination. Airplanes can suck the life outta ya.

Make a Race Day Checklist

and/or check out Tips for Traveling to a Race

airplane in bwi

Question: Ever traveled to an out of town race? Please share your must-haves and packing list!


  1. says

    Great post, Monica! Living in a small town, almost all my long distance races are out of town so these are good tips to remember!

    I’d say my bit of advice is to make an essentials list for packing (shoes, sports bra, ID and money) and not stress about other things that can be purchased, borrowed, etc.

  2. Deb says

    I ran a 10k in PR. It was actually at the end of a cruise vaca, so I wasn’t traveling there just for the run, which almost made it harder since I had a lot of other things to pack. I really tried to only think about the race for an hour and pack specifically for it and put everything in a separate compartment so I wouldn’t be tempted to wear any of it during my vaca. THAT WAS HARD! I agree about checking out close hotels. We ended up getting a hotel close to the airport, which was a forever bus ride to the race. We did a “dry run” bus trip the night before to make sure we knew where we were going. That helped. Not really any good advice here. I think you got it covered. Have Fun! Can’t wait to hear aout it. :-)

  3. says

    If any of you are coming to Chicago this weekend, look for me at the expo, in the Team PAWS booth on Friday morning or cheering on Team PAWS at mile 14. I will have a name tag at the expo. The weather will be perfect for the marathon on Sunday. High about 53, 35 at 7:30 AM!!!! No rain.

  4. sally says

    First let me say how stoked i am for the NYCM! Exactly one month away! If I see you i’ll be sure to say hi. But without your banana costume how will I know? =)
    As a New Yorker it’s my “usual” weather and terrain, but i’ve traveled to other states including Nevada, Wisconsin, Louisiana and Arizona to run 1/2 marathons and packing has always been very strategic for me. I’ve learned it’s not worth trying to always do carry-on because of the liquid and bag size restrictions for flying. So i suck it up and pay the baggage fee to have the peace of mind knowing i’ve got what i need. The biggest piece of advice anyone ever gave me was NEVER to put your running sneakers in your checked luggage because if they lose your luggage you can’t break in a new pair. Probably a good idea to keep your running attire in your carry on too. Bring a ziplock with things like safety pins, band aids, anti-chafe stick, sunscreen, hair clips/bands. I usually toss in some advil, tums, and cough drops or other sucking candies. And a really important thing to have is some sort if ID on you with emergency contact info. Especially if you are out of town. You want to be sure if you should faint or fall during the race someone will be able to get that info from you.

  5. says

    My essential race items – Spibelt, travel size Aquaphor, GU gels, Ibuprofen, headphones, Hammer elecrolyte tabs – can all be stuffed into my Camelbak handheld bottle with side pocket. Running (tech) clothing for any climate can easily be rolled up and tightly packed without any worries of getting wrinkly. I stuff a pair of fresh socks in my shoes and put them in a side pocket in a plastic bag. I always bring along a small drawstring bag in case I need to check anything at the start of the race that doubles as a barrier for stinky running clothes after the race. Depending on where I’m running, I like to make sure there’s a convenience or grocery store nearby to grab a bottle of coconut water the evening before the race to hydrate.

    If I’m driving to a race 2+ hours away (and this is far more often than flying somewhere) I keep a freshly stocked “duffel bag ‘o running crap” in the back of my trunk with a spare pair of shoes, shirt, shorts, rain jacket, socks, bug spray, gels, bandaids, Biofreeze, Aquaphor, Travel Stick, Liter of water, kitchen sink, etc.

  6. says

    So excited for you to run NYC and a bit jealous!!! I have travelled to Catalina once, took the boat over on Friday and the race was Saturday morning but that was about it. As always I completely overpacked and had way more than I needed. I do that no matter what though.

    Good part about traveling for a race is the hotel ice machines for your ice bath after the race. Only problem with mine in Catalina is that as my sister was pouring the ice over me (she enjoyed that too much) there were bits and pieces of cockroach legs and wings. Thankfully I was still fully clothed in my dirty running clothes and didn’t care too much.

  7. Kate says

    I travelled to the states to run my first marathon (Marine Corps 2011) and I completely agree with knowing the course and the weather! Another key thing for me was checking out if there were grocery stores nearby in case I forgot something I like to have AND checking out the restaurant options to make sure you can get something as close as possible to your typical night before the race meal!

  8. says

    I’ve run a few in Northern CA and I seriously don’t get stressed about forgetting things. They’re these awesome inventions- these big buildings where you can go and buy stuff- have you heard of them? I think they’re called stores? Just kidding 😉 Joking aside, unless you’re running in like Amish country making a quick stop to pick up some Gu or headphones is usually doable if you have to. If I were flying I think my only concern would be my running shoes- I’d either wear them or carry them on, in case my checked luggage got lost.

  9. Krystina says

    My fiance and I love destination races! Our first half marathon was RnR New Orleans and we’ve also run RnR Savannah. It’s the best way to see a new place! We’re running RnR Arizona this January too. (And yes, clearly we enjoy paying too much for races through RnR, ha). Before we head to these new places to race and also explore a new city, I do A LOT of research. I definitely stalk beginning 10 days out, print out the course and elevation, and google search a TON of restaurants. I make a list of restaurants that I want to go to and include the addresses and website for each. Some may call it crazy, I call it thorough. But thank goodness for my fiance for putting up with my travelling shenanigans. :)

    • says

      You’re so right! I usually combine race and vacay! Do the race first and then walk around, explore the place without the added stress of a run!

  10. says

    Great advice! I ran 7+ races out of town last year & had a blast. Pack extra bags to bring home dirty clothes, I buy travel size deals of PB & use the single serve jelly from the hotel to make sandwiches. Other big advice is to go early & arrive in town with time to spare- allow for travel delays & packet pickup. I usually like to drive the course or parts of it if possible, just to get familiar & not feel so intimidated. Good luck- see ya in New york!

  11. says

    NEVER put your race shoes in checked luggage. ALWAYS carry them on with you or wear them. You can spot race people a mile away at the airport. They are usually carrying their shoes. And just lay everything out as if you were doing the race right then and then pack it all.

    The Kidless Kronicles

  12. says

    I ran the NYC marathon last year and I traveled from Wisconsin. I am so excited for you! You will LOVE it. I don’t know if I can run another marathon after that one… people are packed on the sides every.single.mile. of the course, it’s amazing!

    I made sure I had plenty of options for clothes to wear as I had no idea if it would be warm or chilly. (I lucked out with the BEST weather ever, 50s-low 60s and sunny! I wish the same for you!) Also, make sure to bring throw away clothes! You might have to bundle up at the start, but need to toss your sweats in the corral or along the way. I also brought food from home so I knew I would have my go-to pre-race meal as well as the type of mid-run fuel that I like.

    Wish I could be there this year, but I busted my foot! Have a GREAT race!

  13. ina says

    Monica, I have a question related to marathons (or half in my case).
    How do you um, deal with the bathroom issue and not having to pee, etc? I know it’s TMI-ish but I notice many running blogs don’t openly cover this. How much should you drink BEFORE the race and how many hours before the race. Any tips? I know we are different in our bodily functions but what works for you? I am most panicky about that cause I don’t want to stop during the run! thanks

    • sally says

      I actually had the same concerns when i was preparing for my first full marathon last year and the weirdest thing happened. Other than my 1 or 2 trips to the port-a-potty at the start about an hour or 2 before the race i didn’t have the urge to pee again until 2 hours AFTER my race was over (and i’m a slow runner 5h28m was my time)
      I think 2 things happened.
      1. I was actually sweating out most of the fluid i had been drinking
      2. I think our organs (kidneys etc) sort of shut down or go into some sort of preservation mode.
      Best advice is to pee as close to the start time as possible.

  14. says

    This is a great list! I think if I were not going to wake up at home I would go so far as to take my own brand of coffee and oatmeal for race morning! I love routines.

  15. says

    Thanks for the tips! I’m running Long Beach on Sunday, which is a 2/3 hour drive (depends on 405 traffic.) I’m staying the night before on the beach and I’ve been mentally packing for days now. Maybe tonight I’ll start actually packing!

  16. Denise P. says

    I’ve become a pro traveling to Portland, San Fran, Vegas and Maui in the last year for races.

    Ziploc bags- to fill with ice for various body parts

    Tennis ball- use in place of foam roller to work those glutes, shins and other problem areas.

    Travel size women’s Body Glide

    Sunscreen wipes, makeup remover wipes – use wipes in place of their liquid counterparts to avoid TSA hassles

  17. Tammi says

    I run halfs while the hubs runs the full…that way I can be sure to beat him to the finish! We like to try to book a couple destination races a year. If traveling via airways we always pack all running gear in our carry on and I secretly hope the airline will temporarily lose the checked bag so I can hit up Nordies for all the things in my online shopping cart. We take in a few pints of coffee early race morning (early enough to get everything flowing). I’ll pack Starbucks via packets, Splenda, and creamer with us. My running man ALWAYS has oatmeal before he runs so I try to book a room with a microwave and bring a bowl, spoon, and baggie of oatmeal and his pre run meal is same as usual…grab a banana and we’re “off to the races”…Good luck in NY…if I ever decide to go the distance NYMari will be my first.

  18. says

    Yup although it has been fairly quiet on this front for the last month (i’m typically away at 1-2 weekends every month). My tip: make a list and save it somewhere, maybe online; print it every time you’ve a destination race. You can add or delete items which you found you needed or not after a trip – makes it “perfect” for the next trip.

  19. says

    No I haven’t ever traveled to a race. I’m running the Sedona half in February which is about 2 1/2 hours away so..

    I wanted to sign up for a California race this year but to be honest, the thought of packing (my whole family) & all the different things you mentioned freaked me out too! Maybe once I’m a more seasoned runner. I don’t even think I’m taking the kids to the Sedona half. Jessica

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