How do you define a holiday? A coastal paradise, a relaxing retreat set amongst the bush or close to a national park, a mountainous mecca, or a secluded country breakaway? Well, if you’re a runner, chances are the idea of a vacation takes on a completely different meaning to that which non- runners contemplate.
Recently, I headed away with my family to escape the familiar surrounds and chores of everyday life. I was blessed to be able to take two mini breaks the latter, with a close friend and her family. It was a relaxing and enjoyable time away but it highlighted the unusual creatures us runners are particularly, on vacation. If you’re heading away with a runner get set for things to be a little bit different. Here is what you need to know:
A holiday for a runner is a holiday that includes our runs. It is not a holiday from running. Runners’ scope out the locations and opportunities for runs, even before their bags are packed. We put out running feelers on Facebook, on RMA, through running clubs and other forums to determine the best places to traverse and to identify potential running buddies. Often vacations are tacked onto the end or just before a major running event. You may think this is a co-incidence but let me assure you, it is not! Our runs take priority and holiday spots that cannot or do not accommodate them will be quickly discarded.
Relaxation for a runner means adhering to our usual high sleep, eating and activity needs. Most people view holidays as an opportunity to: have a couple of drinks; head out; dress up; enjoy a nice meal and then sleep away the following morning (or day) to recover. It’s a holiday after all so well, why not? If you are a runner, there is little chance of this happening on most (if any) nights. Our running is our relaxation so we won’t do things that will compromise this. Expect that a runner will maintain their 5am rise and their early- to-bed routine. They will not drink to excess or party the night away unless, it happens to be a rest day the next day or it’s after an event. Even then, they may struggle to keep their eyes open after 9pm because they have just completed a heavy session that morning. Don’t be surprised if they retreat for a nap during the day either. Often, this is within half an hour of the other people in the house rising and beginning their day.
When it comes to food, they will want to eat early and abundantly. The first sitting at restaurants with families and kids is ideal and large portion sizes are a must. Carb, protein, fruit, vegetables, you name it we will be eating it and eating it every hour. The sheer volume of food and liquids that runners consume can be quite incredible. Smoothies, snacks, gels, water and electrolyte drinks supplement a runner’s main meals. For more serious runners or runners that have multiple sessions in a day, breakfast, lunch and dinner has to be eaten within a precise window to allow for digestion, to optimize recovery, or to refuel for the next session. This means that lazy lunches with prolonged sittings are unlikely. It also means that a relaxed approach to meals will be met with resistance. Just like their runs, meals need to be timed appropriately and planned.
Moreover, appropriate access to coffee or caffeine is mandatory. Indeed, many runners will take plungers or coffee machines away with them to ensure that they are able to get their daily dose. An early opening café with great coffee is a runner’s heaven. Without it, or a viable coffee alternative, the atmosphere around a coffee deprived runner can quickly deteriorate. Hunger, lethargy and decaffeination, can lead a runner to become ‘Hangry’. In this way, its advisable for the sanity of all concerned, that access to caffeine be made a priority.
Expect to allocate extra boot space or luggage to a runner. You’re probably thinking: runners don’t go out so what would be the purpose of this extra allowance? Well, after you factor in:
- the 5 or more pairs of sneakers (i.e. spikes, trail shoes, running flats, heavies and a spare in case of inclement weather);
- training singlets, shorts, tights, tracksuits, jackets and additional underwear/ socks;
- gels, hydration packs, protein powders, bottles, vitamins, supplements; and
- foam rollers, rolling sticks and balls;
there is little room left in their bags for anything else!
There is a certain aroma that comes with travelling with a runner. Sweat, moisture, sand, dirt and everything in between, is a toxic combination and it can mean that everything reeks of their activity. Accordingly, access to laundry facilities or maintaining a radius of 10m at all times is essential to preserve your sense of smell. Similarly, hot water and shower availability is essential for a runner, as they may need to bath multiple times during the day. Once again, the absence of this will most likely impact the non-runners in the group more than the runners themselves.
So if you’re invited away with a running friend and just want a traditional break away, one that is free from routine, smell, regimented sleep, eating and drinking activity then perhaps politely decline the invitation. If all of this sounds like paradise to you, the only thing I can say is… you must be a runner!
By Anna Fitzgerald RMA ambassador, distance runner & mother of two.