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A vacation on the run
graphic November 2, 2001: 2:55 p.m. ET

More runners are planning vacations around a big marathon like New York.
By Joseph Lee
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  • Marathon Tour and Travel
    NEW YORK (CNNmoney) - The New York City Marathon, like many races around the world, is a "destination marathon" where runners travel to compete - and spend their vacations.

    While some people prefer to run on familiar turf, an increasing number of marathoners are planning vacations around a race, whether it's in London, Paris, or Big Sur in California.

    "It makes the run an event for me," said Adam Kline, 29, of New York, who vacationed in Washington, D.C. after finishing the city's Marine Corps Marathon Oct. 28. "It's my reward for the long intensive training, and it keeps me focused during those times."

    Adam Kline at the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C.
    New York's 26.2-mile challenge on Sunday draws a crowd of about 30,000 runners. About one third come from outside the tri-state area and another one-third from 100 other countries. Many runners bring family and friends, and then spend time visiting the Statue of Liberty, the Museum of Modern Art, or shopping along Fifth Avenue.

    The event is so popular that organizers have to turn down half of all of the people who try to get in through its lottery system. The Marine Corps Marathon and the London Marathon are other popular destination races that fill up fast.

    But the huge growth in marathoning in recent years into a billion-dollar business has given runners many options.

    For example, De Wittmann, a 34-year-old manager at Tiffany & Co. in New York, recently ran the Wineglass Marathon in Corning, N.Y. on Oct. 7. After she completed the 26.2-miles test, she visited the vineyards along the Finger Lakes. She also toured Corning Glass.

    "Running in a different city gives you the opportunity to meet new people, whether it's near or far, " Wittmann said.

    Runners who compete in destination marathons have a sense of adventure and a love of travel, she said.

    "It's in a beautiful part of the country, near the Finger Lakes," said Wittmann. "There are vineyards there, which is always fun after a race."

    The Wineglass Marathon, in Corning, N.Y., allows runners to compete and then visit the wineries in the nearby Finger Lakes.
    Allan Steinfeld, race director for the marathon, said New York is one of the most popular destination marathons, because there's no city like New York.

    Steinfeld said the restaurants, hotels and theaters of Broadway are aware of it, too. "We've heard from bars and restaurants along First Avenue; it's one of their biggest days of the year," he said.

    While the threat of terrorism has put a chill on the airline industry and made some people think twice about travel, it's too soon to say whether those fears will affect destination marathons. New York City Marathon organizers said they haven't heard about any cancellations.

    Thom Gilligan, founder of Marathon Tours and Travel, said most runners who compete in destination marathons are Type A personalities, independent and well-traveled.

    "Runners enjoy the camaraderie of meeting other runners during a trip," Gilligan said.

    Kline, the runner who competed at the Marine Corps race, said his key for a successful race is to distract himself. There is no better way to do that than in a different scenery.

    He also pointed out that most marathon organizers provide detailed listings of hotels and events to marathon participants.

    Runners at the Rock 'N Roll Marathon in San Diego.
    "They would provide a list of hotels in the area that provide discount rates to runners," said Kline. "They will also let you know which hotels will provide shuttles to the race expo."

    Kline spent 600 on airfare, food and hotels for three days, two nights in D.C. this year, and he said he had tried several times to enter the race in New York, but he could not get in through the lottery.

    Gilligan said people who buy marathon package deals can sometimes get a guaranteed entry into a popular race.

    "Many events have limits to the number of participants, but our contacts have a special block of entries with less restrictive deadlines," Gilligan said. For example, if runners book his package for the Medoc Marathon in France, they are guaranteed a bid.

    If you decide on a destination marathon, Gilligan has a few tips:

    • Always pack your running gear in your carry-on luggage.
    • For overnight flights, buy an inflatable pillow and book a window seat. You can build a nice little nest for yourself, even in coach class.
    • Don't buy foreign currency in the United States. You can get it at a much better rate in the country of origin at a bank or ATM which are very common in most countries now.
    • Always keep your passport current and be sure that it expires at least three months after your return date. Make a copy and put it in your wallet or toiletries kit in case you should lose the original.
    • Bring a small bottle of Woolite to use for washing your running gear in cold water in a bathroom sink.
    • Get an electric current adapter and conversion kit.
    • Always ask for an electronic airline ticket. If you lose it, there is no replacement fee. If you lose a printed ticket, it will cost as much as $100 for a replacement.
    For those budget-free marathoners, Gilligan said some tour organizers, like his travel group, can handle everything from flights, hotels to a welcome reception dinner, depending on the location of the race.

    He said the prices can range from $329 for a two-night stay with flights in Las Vegas to $5,500 for the cabin suite on the Antarctica trip.

    "Drink water instead of alcohol to stay hydrated," he said. After all, you are there for a race, not for a party." graphic


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