Running a marathon overseas? Then make sure you plan appropriately, writes Peta Bee

If you are looking for a new running challenge, then the vast range of overseas destination marathons won’t disappoint.

“From the high profile Marathon Majors to marathons that add that something extra with the location and climate providing an extra level of difficulty, there are plenty of options,” says Professor John Brewer, author of Run Smart: Using Science To Improve Performance and Expose Marathon Running’s Greatest Myths. And you need to be very well prepared to tackle them. Here are our top tips.

Prepare for the conditions

“Most major marathons are held in the spring or autumn when the extreme conditions of summer and winter are avoided,” says Brewer. “But your marathon training needs to prepare you for the climate you are visiting and you should use every opportunity to acclimatise.”

If heading somewhere warm, wear extra layers “to create a personal microclimate of warmth” and trick the body into thinking it is warmer than it is. You might also need vaccinations for the destination.

“Check the fine print before you go,” Brewer says.

Pack well

Packing a race day bag is important for any marathon, but when heading overseas you need to be extra well prepared. Think about everything you might need in the lead up to race day, not just your trainers, race confirmation and watch, but your passport, medical insurance, anti-inflammatory medication, shoelaces, power bars and drinks.

Think about taking some familiar snacks if you are heading to a foreign destination with new foods and flavours.

Plan accommodation

There’s nothing worse than finishing a marathon and realising you have scheduled your post-race accommodation an hour’s journey away.

Plan in advance and make sure you book somewhere within easy crawling distance of the finish line. And check how you are going to get to the start. Is public transport necessary? Attention to detail is crucial.

Avoid jetlag

Dr Neil Stanley, a sleep consultant and jet lag expert who was formerly the director of sleep research at the University of Surrey, says you should do everything you can “to reinforce the new time zone you are trying to stick to”, so sync any clocks on your laptop, watch, smartphone when you get to the gate.

Sleep on the plane only if it is night time at your destination, Stanley says, and try to get a window seat, keeping the blind open until it gets dark. If you are travelling to a far-flung destination, you need to make sure you arrive in plenty of time to adjust to the new time zone so allow at least a couple of extra days.

Take a cherry shot

Tart cherry juice contains high levels of phytochemicals including melatonin, a molecule that helps to regulate the sleep-wake cycle.

Professor Glyn Howatson, a researcher at the sport, exercise and rehabilitation department of Northumbria University, showed in a 2011 study that 30ml shots of Montmorency cherry juice enhanced melatonin levels and, consequently, may help to prevent jet lag.

“Take it just before a long-haul flight and at your destination when you are going to bed,” he says.

Avoid sightseeing

Spending the days before your race trekking around the destination on foot is not a good idea.

“You should be relaxing in the days leading up to your marathon and your legs will need as much rest as possible,” Brewer says.

“Avoid lengthy walks and also steer clear of foods and drinks that you haven’t sampled before. Save them for after the finish line.”

» This article was first published in our latest marathon guide, included with the October 31 edition of AW magazine, which is available digitally here or to order in print here

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