As we all stood at the starting line, the race director (bullhorn in hand) began his traditional pre-race banter. “6-minute milers only in the front. The course is marked with white arrows on the road. There will be two commands.” And a few other remarks as well. It could have been ANY race ANY where. But it was HERE!
The “here” was Rehoboth Beach and the event was a tradition in which I have partaken off and on since 1992. It’s about as far away a destination race while still remaining in Delaware as I can get over the Halloween weekend. To me, Seawitch is “the bomb.” And my family not only approves but usually partakes as well.
The growth of the destination race began many years ago with the advent of a group out of Boston known as Marathon Tours. Marathon Tours specialized in vacation packages for the runner-types to places like Dublin, Bermuda, Hawaii and Antarctica (yeah, even the penguins have a marathon). The concept was simple – to open up the possibilities of running in far-away places while providing a top-notch vacation and race experience.
The destination race has expanded the world of possibilities while at the same time shrinking the globe to a manageable size for us mortals who don’t have a sports agent booking our next flight to run in Dubai. Hanoi, South Africa, The Great Wall of China, and more have all become accessible to runners and their families. I mean, who wouldn’t want to race across the Serengeti with zebras and wildebeests as a part of the fan zone?
There are hundreds of destination events now, both domestic and foreign. And many races offer their own booking services in order to access the event and the accompanying holiday. By the way, I was recently shot down (temporarily) as I angled for a crack at a 10k in Havana.
Destination events don’t have to take on the super insane or the far-away either. Seawitch is a perfect example of a destination race that also provides a great two-day family festival. It’s more than just the race. There are all sorts of festivals across the country that also have associated races.
Back in 1999, my bride and I travelled to Davenport, Iowa for the 25th annual Bix 7. Bix is an awesome mid-summer race (complete with runners from Kenya) along the shores of the Mississippi, but it’s also a weekend-long jazz festival. We ran the race, along with just over 20,000 other runners, then hung out and listened to the sounds in downtown Davenport. If you’re a jazz-lovin’ runner, I highly recommend the Bix.
Finding a destination race is really easier than you think. In fact, I’d suggest figuring out where it is you want to go first, THEN looking over the race options. You may need to be flexible with when you travel in order to mix the event with the vacation. While honeymooning in Iceland in 1995, we found a 10k race and both had the experience of racing overseas in an exotic destination. I’m not sure we would have just gone for the race, but it was a great addition to an otherwise outstanding adventure.
Running websites and magazines, as well as travel sites and such are all great resources to locate that destination race of choice, whether it’s here or there. I think I saw the Havana race advertised in AAA magazine.
So get adventurous, grab a world globe and play that game we all used to play when we were kids – spin it as fast as you can, then stick your finger on spinning globe and voila! There’s your next destination race location. Hopefully it won’t be some atoll out in the Pacific. I did say ANY where, I guess…
Former standout Lock Haven University runner Andy Shearer is a member of the Middletown Athletic Club, the Greater Philadelphia Track Club and USA Track and Field.