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Book reservations for all meals as far in advance as possible (Amanda Shapin)

Tips for a successful destination race

Destination races are a perfect way to explore a new city, run a totally new-to-you route and to bring a little exercise and challenge into a vacation. There are a bunch of stellar race options just a quick drive from Washington, D.C., like the Philadelphia Rock n Roll Half Marathon (2.5 hours from D.C.), the Ragnar Richmond, Va. (2 hours from D.C.), and the Eagleman Ironman 70.3 (1.5 hours from DC). Looking to go further? Check out the NYC Triathlon or epic NYC Marathon (4 hours from D.C.).

No matter what race distance you want to tackle, you can find it within a couple of hours of D.C. In order to make these weekend adventures a success, there are key prep points to think about. First things first, train for your race! Take the necessary steps to ensure you’ll get to the starting line healthy and ready to take on the distance. And while you’re doing all that swimming, biking and running, here’s what you need to do to ensure your trip is easy breezy.

As soon as you register for the race, find a hotel that is both near the starting line and in a desirable part of town: Come race morning, you’ll be very happy if you can walk to the starting line. Race morning logistics are difficult enough in a place you know, they are so much more stressful in an unknown location. Traffic, directions, and parking are all things you could do without come race morning. If there is a hotel or rental home available within walking distance, opt for that.

Book reservations for all meals as far in advance as possible: When big races come to town, restaurants fill up quickly--especially small towns that host big races. The last thing you want to be doing the night before a race is aimlessly driving around looking for a pasta joint. As much as you might want to do some culinary exploration while on your trip, keep your meals simple the day before your race. Save your indulgences for after the race is over. If you prefer to cook your pre-race meal, consider renting a house instead of staying in a hotel.

Be mindful of your pre- and post-race activities: Exploring a new city is great, but keep your explorations easy on the legs. You don’t want to tire yourself out before the race, and after you may be too sore to partake in strenuous activities. Completing a challenging race is the perfect excuse to book a treatment at a local spa.

Pack all the essentials: If there are certain items you like on race day, be on the safe side and pack it all. All those big important items like your sneakers and favorite race day tank are of course essential, but don’t forget the small stuff, like race nutrition, body glide, hair bands, headphones, safety pins, sunscreen, band aids (this goes on, racing does not equal light packing!). Race day weather could be a surprise, so pack multiple options. If you’re in a big enough city, it’s likely you could find anything you might have forgotten, but it’s not how you’ll want to spend your prime relaxation time.

Set up a post-race plan: In an unfamiliar city, make sure you know where your friends and family can find you. It’s sometimes safest to get a little distance away from the finish line to avoid crowds and find your people. You’ll be happy to put some distance between you and the hectic finish line. And who doesn’t love a post-race indulgent brunch? Brunch wait times near the finish tend to get crazy, so opt for a place a few blocks away for a calmer scene.

Destination races may add a bit of stress to race day, but it’s worth it for the experience of exploring a new city via hard earned miles.