Hip & Healthy: Run a Race at Your Vacation Destination

Like most New Yorkers, I spend a lot of summer weekends out of the city, and because I have a hard time getting back on the horse if I break my workout routine, I generally plan a way to fit exercise into my travels. In a pinch, I’ll simply use a hotel gym, but typically I like to do a little research beforehand and ask friends in the area for recommendations. That way, I not only get to explore a new location, but their best local fitness options, too.

On a recent trip upstate, for example, I asked my sister for recommendations and found out there was a killer boot camp nearby that accepted drop-ins. And if I'm not in a city, I try to take advantage of outdoor activities, whether it is hiking in the Adirondacks, kayaking on Lake George or riding a bike on Martha’s Vineyard.

Running's also always a great way to sneak in exercise while traveling because all it requires is a pair of sneakers and a route. Almost every hotel I have stayed in over the last few years has had a running map available at the front desk. At one particularly runner-friendly hotel in Boston, they offered early-morning runners complimentary water bottles and granola bars -- talk about added motivation to take a lap around the Charles!

This past Fourth of July, I really upped the ante by incorporating a race into my travel plans. And not just any race -- the Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta, the largest 10K in the country.

Of course I had to wake up much earlier on the morning of the race than I normally would on vacation, but it was 100 percent worth it. I was initially worried about the organization of a race with over 55,000 people, but the Atlanta Track Club planned well and the twenty start waves kept things moving smoothly.

As I took off down the streets, flags waved in the early sun all around me. I had never run a 10K race that brought out the community in such force: local business and families came out to cheer us on, and bands and radio stations provided a soundtrack for our journey as we ran from one end of the city to the other. I got a real sense of the local flavor; I even used landmarks such as the Pencil Building to orient me in the race course.

There were some serious hills and it wasn't an easy race, but this run was more about fun than speed -- there weren’t even time clocks at the mile markers. During the last mile, all I could think about was seeing my friends and the post-race festivities, and that excitement kept me motivated until I finally saw the finish line ahead. After the run, the Peachtree had a huge celebration in Piedmont Park. Not only do the 55,000 finishers relax there, but their family and friends come out to make it one huge party.

The race turned out to be the perfect way to marry fitness with fun. It had a marathon feel without all the exhaustion of running a destination marathon (which don't leave you with much desire for sightseeing!). The typical marathon festivities were there: a big expo, a top secret t-shirt design and a huge post-race celebration, but it was contained to a much more reasonable length: 6.2 miles. By 10 a.m., I’d finished a great run, kicked off my Fourth of July celebrations and after a few hours relaxing by the pool, I had plenty of energy to go hit the town.

If you’ve never considered running a race on vacation, you might just find that it’s a great way to explore your destination. To find local races across the country, check out the Runner’s World Race Finder.

Melissa is a NYC resident and workout junkie. She keeps motivated to stay fit and active by trying out new workout classes, signing up for races, and keeping an eye out for a fun fitness challenge. She hopes to complete the New York City Marathon for the second time in 2011. Read more about her healthy adventures in New York City at her blog fitnessnyc.wordpress.com.

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