Tips for Destination Race Success

Guest post for Run Away Shoes written by local runner Rhonda Kempen


Rhonda is a local runner, and destination races expert, who has completed a marathon in each of the 50 states and is en-route to her 100th marathon (93 done as of 2/11/18!). She is anticipating completing her goal at the 2018 Community First Fox Cities Marathon in September.

My attraction to destination races initially started as an idea to complete a 26.2 mile running tour of major cities I had never been.  However, I soon realized an additional benefit was that I could spend more time with my friends and family relaxing and lying on a beach. I would embrace the taper pre-race and allow myself to recover by lying on the beach instead of keeping to a “training schedule” while on vacation.  Whatever motivates you to explore destination races, these are some tips I have learned.  If your goal is to complete a race in all 50 states, I have also added some tips to saving money. I have more energy than I have money!

  1. Pick Your Race

Whether you are looking for destination races during a certain time of year, or a certain location, or if you are seeking one with a positive review, I suggest checking out a few of the following websites: Running in the USA, Marathon Guide, and running clubs both locally and nationally including Marathon Maniacs, and 50 States Marathon Club.

*Tip* If you join running clubs, frequently the websites also include discount codes.  You will find these websites particularly beneficial if you decide to participate in back-to-back marathons or multiple marathons as a part of a series.  By searching these websites, I was able to find subsequent (Saturday/Sunday) races in neighboring states if you do declare a goal of being a member of the 50 state marathon finisher club.

50 States

50 States Finisher

2. Travel

Once I choose a race, I begin searching airlines for the best deals.  It is imperative not to look only at Priceline or Travelocity, but also keep in mind Southwest, Spirit Airlines, Jet Blue, and Alaska Airlines are NOT featured through the travel websites.  If airfare is too much, I may re-consider the race I chose.

*Tip* To save money, if your schedule allows, accept being “bumped” for the free voucher or consider opening the credit card for the “free miles.”



3. Lodging

When you are committed to a race, print the course map, then you may begin searching for a place to stay. Know the address to the facility in which the expo will be held and the geographical address of the start and finish line location.

*Tip* Don’t limit yourself to hotels, but also investigate Airbnb and VRBO websites. You may find a better deal for closer. If you are traveling on a budget, the added benefit of this is a kitchen in which you can prepare your own meals for less.

Dorothy and the Wicked Witch


Perform a “GOOGLE” search of the driving distance between the hotel address and the race start address to know if it will be within walking distance the morning of the race or if you will need transportation.  Some races that are point-to-point offer free shuttle from the finish to the start following the race; therefore, economically speaking, it may be in your best interest to find a hotel near the start line.

Other races will offer a free shuttle to the start prior to the race, but not after the race, then it would benefit you to find a hotel near the finish.  Investigate public transportation.  By this I mean, know your options to get back and forth from the airport; as well as, navigating your plans and knowing your options on race day. Some more remote locations, you will not be able to avoid renting a car. This was always a last resort as car rental fees are an expense that can often be avoided.


As Dorothy, in Kansas – Have fun with race themes!

4. Explore

Lastly, always take time to reward yourself and recreate in the city you worked so hard to explore. Many races now have some sort of after party.  If you are amongst other runners, you are never a stranger.  Meet new people.  Runners love talking about running.  You will be amazed at the people you will meet and the challenges that brought each one to the starting line. You will be motivated by the accomplishments of other runners. They may give you additional tips to destination marathons such as which races have the best medals/swag, best crowd support, easiest courses, etc.  Stick around for live music and free beer and food if it is offered.

Hot Air Balloon

New Mexico

*Tip* Prior to taking your trip, “GOOGLE” things to do in your choice destination.  Almost every search of a city will produce a top 10 list of what to do when you are visiting. For example: the National Parks, museums, hidden beaches, and legendary restaurants only the locals know…In San Antonio check out the Alamo.  In New Mexico, take a hot air balloon ride.

Every state has given me a unique experience just as every race has taught me a lesson!

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