The Basics

The Case for Shorter Races When Vacationing

I have never run a half-marathon or shorter at an event where a marathon was offered. My reasoning always was – why do the half when I can add a new state/country to my marathon list? 🙂 I understand that it does not always work out for the best as far as training and performance. In fact, at this point in my running life, I would sign-up for the half-marathon instead of the full if the full was not my target race. After running the Thessaloniki Half Marathon, I was again reminded of the thorough enjoyment that can be had in running half-marathons. So, I thought it would help others to outline some of the reasons to aim for the shorter races when traveling.

The Case for Shorter Races When Vacationing

1) Shorter races work great with family vacations

Let’s face it – marathons are not exactly the most conducive activity for family vacations! Instead of the trip being about the time with family, for the runner, it becomes all about the marathon. Even after the marathon is completed, we are still living in the marathon – stories of the course and race, soreness, tiredness, etc. Shorter races work much better. A race like a half-marathon can be accomplished with a lot less focus and bodily resources. Not only that, but the family can actually stick around during the race to cheer you on and check out the local sites. For most marathoners, the time a family would have to wait during a marathon would be at least 4 hours. That is a long time for a family to wait!

Another part that works well with family vacations is the 5K/10Ks. If you are vacationing in a city that is hosting a 5K or 10K while you are there, it could be a great opportunity for the family to all get out together and run the event. If dad or mom are running for time, the other can run/walk with the rest of the family. This way, all the family can partake of the great abundance of food that awaits participants at the end of most 5Ks (and, in some cases, 10Ks).

2) The vacation can be enjoyed more with less pain

I have run enough marathons and ultras over the past few years that I can run a marathon and not have any significant soreness after (if I run it for fun and not for time). But there will still be some soreness that will exist – more than would be present if you ran a shorter race. Running a short race will give you the exhilarated feeling of competing and putting your body through a workout without the rest of your vacation being slowed down because of the toll of the marathon.

3) Shorter races can be run spur of the moment

No matter the marathon training program, you can easily fit a shorter race into the schedule when on vacation. For example, say you are vacationing some place and you are at a store and see a poster for a race that weekend. If it is a half-marathon, it should still work well with your training as 13 miles is going to be less than whatever your long run would have been. Throw your warm-up miles and cool-down miles in and you have a great long-run with company! For 5Ks and 10Ks, those can be run with even less notice. You can be out on your morning run and come upon a race that is about to start and decide then to sign-up. Remember, it is vacation! Just  take it easy and enjoy your time with the local runners – you may even surprise yourself and run a PR!

4) The vacation does not have to be about the marathon

This one is definitely to me :). I have run 2 marathons in Washington DC and did not do as well as I could have because of all the walking we did. Washington DC is definitely a walking city so to run a marathon after being in the city for 3 or 4 days is a rough task! Obviously, if it is a vacation, you don’t want to be resting up for the marathon like you would if you were home. By choosing to run a shorter race on a trip like that, the focus on the trip does not have to be about the race. It can just be a fun add-on that you do as part of the trip instead of the whole purpose of the trip.

Am I saying do not run marathons on vacation???

Absolutely not! I realize that many vacations are built around a marathon (and I have covered many of them here and will be covering more soon). I am just giving some reasons for you to consider for your next vacation so you do not miss the great shorter races that may exist in your vacation city. You can have a great time and still get a great workout! I have run in races from 1 mile to 24 hours and my favorite race is actually the half-marathon! It is a great distance to push yourself in and accomplish some serious miles but you do not feel trashed the next day. To be able to take a couple of hours to do that and get back to the rest of the activities is a great idea!

So, what are your thoughts about shorter races when vacationing? They can be a lot of fun and add to the vacation instead of becoming the vacation, do you agree?


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About the author


Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.


  • Timely question – I’m actually on a marathon vacation right now, having just run Dublin on Monday! (I’m no Maniac though, just run one marathon a year.)

    +1 on shorter races and half-marathons. The marathon eats up at least two days of vacation time IMO, because of travel to the expo and pasta restaurants beforehand – not always simple in an unfamiliar city! I find that international HMs are harder to research, though. (do you know of a HM equivalent of , that shows international races? )

    Nice blog!

    • Congrats on running Dublin! I was so close to popping up there to run it but we had family here and I am really trying to concentrate on training for Dubai right now (patience!). Great points on the marathon – especially finding places in an unfamiliar city. McDonalds needs to start having a pasta meal – it would simplify things! Though I have found Sbarros to work in a pinch (I used them for 3 of my last 5 marathons). I do know of some sites for HM and will dig up some more – good thought. I will have them up in another post soon. Thanks for reading!