Any parent knows that the amount of preparing and planning for a race is completely different when children are involved. Even your own local races can sometimes be logistically challenging — from getting your kids up early, to perhaps finding a sitter, to maybe even planning on your family spectating the race. There are only so many local races in your hometown to run though, and it’s always a good idea to mix things up by traveling to unique places to run races. With varying terrain, weather and crowds, different cities can benefit runners of all types. Plus, what better way to experience a new location than on foot? However, when planning a destination race with children in tow, it’s good to do a little extra prep work — from picking the right race to planning for the weather (not only for yourself but also for your family as spectators).
When we caught the running bug a while back, it was inevitable that we’d be traveling to races — something that can become a challenge with children. Here are a few tips for how to make a destination race fun for your loved ones (and for you to not feel so guilty about schlepping them all over a strange city).
Spectate like a champ.
Let your children be creative! They can design their own cheer station signs for you and other runners. With that, however, do your course research. Obviously as a registered runner, you look at the course to be prepared for the turns and elevation changes, but for your family who might spectate, it is always good to plan how they will get to a certain spot. You never know what may happen in a race. Have back-up locations in case your family’s expectation of seeing you at mile 8 at a specific pace time turns out to be much later or perhaps sooner than expected. Runner tracking certainly helps. Don’t forget to pack snacks and water for them too. Scope out coffee shops that might be near a spectating spot — obviously for coffee but also for bathroom breaks.
Spring for the VIP Experience.
This may sound funny, but spending a little bit of money for VIP may not be so bad when it comes to race day. Consider the situation — your loved ones have been spectating and cheering for you all morning, and you’ve just finished your race. Wouldn’t it be nice to recover and get settled without rushing away to the hotel? VIP would be an excellent solution. The perks — such as awesome pre- and post-race snacks, personal gear check and restrooms and even post race massages — would likely save time and keep everyone happy. You just finished a race and would love to talk to someone about it over a mimosa and hot food, so why not?
Plan family activities.
Do your homework. Research nearby places to visit. You might not have a car, so take this into consideration. You don’t want to be walking or hiking many miles before your race. Maybe there’s even a hands-on kids museum that the little ones would enjoy. Nearby parks are always great for you to enjoy recovering with a walk while letting the kids explore. If you want to save a little money, go on a picture-taking exploration. Look for interesting architecture, artwork and pretty botanicals, and snap a picture. Children would certainly enjoy searching and documenting key things from their trip. It adds to the memories already being made. Also, make sure to research kid-friendly restaurants. Reward your kids for tagging along. Spectating is hard work!
Register your children for KiDS ROCK.
Last but certainly not least, make your kids RUN with you! No, this isn’t punishment for whining about the long car ride or plane trip. What’s great about the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series is a program called KiDS ROCK. Certain cities offer a kids’ one-mile fun run where they get to experience a race just like you. They get medals, T-shirts and swag when they cross that important finish line. You can encourage them to embrace exercise and have fun.
Bringing your family along on a race can be an enjoyable and stress-free experience as long as you follow some simple tips, do a little bit of research and get everyone involved in the process. You’ll find that your family will love cheering and celebrating your accomplishment with you!