In the years I’ve been running and training for long distance runs I never really separated the notions of training and preparation, I always thought they were the same thing… found out the hard way they are not.
Because I had mostly run in the Greater Toronto Area, this includes training and running events, I never paid much attention to elevations throughout a running route, types of clothing to wear outside of the climate I was accustomed to, or foods to eat before and after a long run. I was more in to getting in my runs and the times I was running them in.
In not putting much weight in to these factors I found out the hard-way, a couple of times, how they can come back and bite you.
Things to always ask yourself or prepare for when running abroad:
- Clothing – did you check the weather for the region and season?
Man, did this ever come back and get me the wrong way. When running in Reykjavik, Iceland, I was not thinking that their August weather would be different from Canada’s… boy was I wrong. When we touched down on the Thursday before the Saturday run it was sunny and 19 degrees Celsius and thought running in shorts and t-shirt would be no issue… when I woke up on the Saturday morning it was -2 degrees Celsius and dipping to -6. Really wished I had packed more than just a running shell/jacket, really could have used a warmer running shirt and maybe some tights or pants. That was a chilly run, indeed!
- Is the area I’m running a higher or lower elevation to my local running routes?
When running in Madrid, Spain, I didn’t clue in to the elevation above sea level or how it would affect my running… or breathing. To give you some perspective, Toronto is 246 feet above sea level… Madrid is 2,188 feet! I felt good at the start of the half-marathon run until I hit the five kilometer mark and felt like I had already ran 20; seriously, I was ready to give-up but luckily had a few friends running with me that pushed me along. Do not under estimate elevation and how it can mess you up!
- International cuisine is great… but may not suit your regular diet
Another hard lesson learned. When running a marathon in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, I went out to a couple of restaurants the day before, ate what I thought was some good food and would not cause me problems, and got a good night sleep… until it hit 3 a.m. and had to make a mad dash for the toilet! It seems that whatever I ate that day did not sit well with my stomach and I quickly was dehydrating myself with all the visits to the Porcelain King. Luckily, I had brought along sport drinks I’m used to and running gels that would help me get through the run.Needless to say, I was a complete wreck the day after the run and my muscles had seized-up on me. So, be careful of the foods you eat in areas you are not from.
So, in the end I would suggest that you learn from my mistakes – prepare for your mind and body ahead of running in different regions and train accordingly.