Singaporeans love running – within the last five years, there has been a 134 per cent increase in interest for marathon running. As running becomes the go-to exercise for many Singaporeans, popularity for overseas marathons is also rising.
But compared to running a race in your home country, running a marathon overseas can be much more exciting, exhilarating and nerve-wracking at the same time. And according to Michell Sky, 40, Sports & Event Specialist at Flight Centre Singapore, there is a lot more preparation involved in running an overseas marathon.
An award winning travel retailer, Flight Centre has been making waves in the Singapore travel industry since it arrived in Singapore in 2011, organising trips ranging from dream destinations, to offbeat locales as well as retreats for wellness, sports and events.
Overseas marathons can be more stressful
Said Sky, “The unfamiliar surroundings such as different sleep environment or food habits, and even jet lag all adds up to the stress level. However an overseas race is an experience that is bound to be an unforgettable one with the added bonus of sightseeing and travel. Overseas marathons consist of different terrains and climates which can be challenging to competitors and this must be taken into account prior to their registration. Most athletes who choose to travel overseas to compete often do so with friends and family. This way, they are not simply experiencing the thrill and adrenaline of the race, but also able to spend quality time with their loved ones to create lasting memories.”
The most addictive thing about overseas races, though, according to Sky, is the experience. She said, “Overseas races become more about the experience than the performance. You’re unlikely to do a personal best, but you will be able to develop fantastic memories. It also allows one to slot in time for a holiday.”
Common mistakes of runners taking part in overseas races
Sky also added that some of the common mistakes that runners may make, when heading for their first overseas race, are that they may fail to arrive early enough to familiarise their bodies to the new environment, or to consider the differences in climate. She added, “As well runners may not factor in enough time to settle into a different surrounding. People often say it takes a few days or a week of holiday before they start to relax. In order to perform at one’s optimum, it is important to ensure that one reaches a comfortable state before the race flags off.”
To cope with jet lag, Sky recommends runners to arrive at the destination a few days to a week before the event to give the body time to recover. She added, “Also, forced sleep habits that tally with the local timing is a must, and source for a local chiropractor or massage therapist in case of neck and back stiffness caused by long-haul flights or aching muscles after the event.”
Preparation is extremely important, when heading for your first overseas race. Said Sky, “You need to prepare ahead and do a lot of research – speak with others who have experience competing overseas and learn from their mistakes. Also familiarise yourself with the destination. Have your flights, transfers, accommodation and tours booked well in advance, to prevent further stress and make sure your accommodation is located close to race headquarters.”
To cope with the climate changes, if any, Sky recommends runners to arrive at the destination a few days before the race starts. She said, “This allows time for your body to adjust to the climate. Also, take short walks and do light exercise outdoors. Day tours are perfect for this. You should also ensure that you stay thoroughly hydrated and always drink bottled water. The last thing you need is a tummy upset right before the race starts.”
Food and Hydration
For runners who may not be accustomed to the food at the running destination, Sky recommends to look for accommodation that includes a kitchen. She said, “Generally there will be a local supermarket with products that are similar to what you have back home, otherwise you can always bring your own. And experiment with local cuisine only after the race. Also bring your own race nutrition and medication, as these may not be available for purchase at the destination.”
Make the most of your time there
Ultimately though, Sky urges runners to make the most of their time spent overseas. She said, “Making the most of your time when overseas is extremely important. It can cost a lot of money to do overseas marathons, so to miss out on seeing the highlights of your destination would be a shame. I recommend arriving at your destination early to allow time for sightseeing, as this will also help to acclimatise the body, if necessary.”
According to Flight Centre, some of the top marathons in the world for Singaporeans to travel to, are as follows.
Gold Coast Marathon
For runners looking to make their overseas running debut, the Gold Coast Airport Marathon is a great place to start. A flat and scenic route of Australia’s picturesque coastline, this race, of which temperatures average about 12 degrees C, is a breath of fresh air for Singaporeans who are used to the humid tropical heat.
Great Wall Marathon
For those who love challenges, history and adventure, the Great Wall Marathon in China is a great option. Billed as one of the world’s most challenging marathons, this race whisks you to a historical run back in time and rewards your efforts with breathtaking sights and sounds.
To complete your Chinese experience, end the trip with tour of Beijing and a stay in Jixian, for a touch of China outside the metropolitan city.
Bagan Temple Marathon
For those who love culture, running in Myanmar’s ancient city of Bagan, home to more than 2,000 temples, is a treat to the senses. Sacred pagodas and mystical temples line the race route, but the humid conditions and dusty course may make this race a challenge.
BMW Berlin Marathon
One of Europe’s busiest cities, the Berlin Marathon attracted more than 58,000 runners from 122 nations last year. And now into its 44th edition, this fast, flat marathon course holds the title of having the most number of marathon world records for both men and women. Coupled with the mild temperatures and roaring spectators, this is a bucket-list worthy marathon for everyone.