This Friday, November 4th, I will line up at the Kullamannen 100-miler, a race in the southwest coastal area of Sweden.
This will be my first ultramarathon in Europe, which means that after this weekend I will have run anultramarathon on five of the seven continents! I am so excited to be running another race in a country that is new to me, as I often tell people that I believe running to be the best way to get to know a country.
So, as I sit in Amsterdam on a layover before reaching my final destination in Gothenburg, I couldn’t help but reflect on the most challenging aspects of running an international race. Below is the short list of things that I believe make racing overseas so much harder than racing on home soil. Spoiler alert: it’s not all bad!
1.Long travel days and time zone adjustments
I left for this journey at 8am on Monday morning and won’t arrive at my Airbnb until 8pm on Tuesday night! Three flights and over 24 hours of travel time is a lot of stress on the body and mind. Thankfully, I will have a few days to get acclimated before the race begins, but it’s certainly an obstacle to be overcome.
The tradeoff? Experiencing what the culture of running is like in a new place and making lifelong friends throughout the journey!
2. Navigating new terrain
Running in a new country means running on different terrain than what you are typically accustomed to. This can be both difficult and hard to replicate before your arrival.
The tradeoff? You get the joy of running on trails you’ve never experienced before! Running on new lands and soaking up the beauty of a different country fills me with so much joy and gratitude.
3.Nutrition and gear
It can be very challenging to pack for an international race. It’s hard to travel with everything that you want, but at the same time, you don’t want to be stuck without something important. And if you happen to forget a piece of kit or nutrition, it’s often hard to find those things in foreign countries.
The tradeoff? Racing in another country might offer a chance to sample a product or gear you’ve never used before, so occasionally I will stumble upon something unique that works really well for me. When in Rome Sweden!
For all these reasons and more, running a race in a foreign country is an additionally challenging process on top of the already challenging race itself. But just like anything in life, when one person sees something as an obstacle, another sees it as an opportunity!