This month, as legions of local runners start training for Cincinnati’s Flying Pig marathon, Tina Dotterweich is looking for a race to run — in the south of France. Dotterweich, a nurse and avid Mount Washington runner who has completed both the Flying Pig and New York City marathons, will be visiting a friend in Nice in April, and she hopes to find a race to include in her trip.
“I’m trying to find any race to run while I’m there, even somewhere in the area, like Marseille,” she said. Dotterweich’s 2016 travel plans also include half marathons in Denver, Colorado, Washington, D.C., and Savannah, Ga.
Destination running has been around since the early 1980s, but its popularity has soared in recent years. Runners today can participate in races from Walt Disney World to Easter Island. According into data complied by Running USA, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the sport, five of the 10 most popular road races in 2014 took place outside the United States, including events in Sydney, Australia, Gothenburg, Sweden, Paris and Munich.
“It’s great to get to see a city and meet a whole different kind of person,” said Elizabeth Brown, an Avondale runner who was inducted in December into the National Black Marathoners Association Hall of Fame in Dallas. Brown, who caught the running bug in the early ’90s, finished two marathons in Blue Ash before running her first New York City Marathon in 1994 (she ran again in 1995). She has also run international races in Amsterdam, Quebec, Vienna, and through the wine country of Bordeaux in France.
“They call it the longest marathon,” said Brown. “You’re staggering between the chateaux because you can have a swallow of wine at the water stops.”
Brown particularly loved running the half marathon in Vienna. “The food was good, the beer was good and there is so much history,” said Brown, who turns 70 this year. “We were also able to visit places after the running. We took bus tours to Budapest and Prague.”
Cliff Jennings, who works at Bob Roncker’s Running Spot in Glendale, has run marathons in some of the most exotic locales on the globe, including the Great Wall of China and Easter Island, the small Chilean island 2,150 miles off the coast of South America.
So what’s it like to run on 63 square miles of land in the middle of the Pacific Ocean? “It’s lonely,” said Jennings. “You could run for two hours and not see another person.”
Before moving to Cincinnati in 2009, Jennings spent 15 years working for Marathon Tours & Travel, which started organizing running tours in 1979. In September, Jennings led a Marathon Tours trip to Berlin.
He noted that the company has recently started offering excursions to Havana, Cuba. With so many marathons to choose from, what’s the best race to run? “It’s all about where you want to go,” said Jennings.
Not all running tourism is centered on 26.2 miles. In 2014, Cincinnati ultrarunner Harvey Lewis launched RunQuest Travel, a running tourism company that organizes yearly trips to Portugal in June. Lewis, winner of the 2014 Badwater 135-mile ultramarathon in Death Valley, Calif., started the business with Portugese runner and 2013 Badwater winner Carlos Sá.
“Running is a great way to see an area,” said Lewis, who also teaches at Cincinnati’s School for Creative and Performing Arts. RunQuest Travel’s summer tour is to feature daily runs of 5-15K throughout Portugal, including the city of Sintra, a UNESCO world heritage site, and Peneda-Gerês National Park. “We spend two days in each region and experience life with people. We visit natural hot springs, see wild horses and visit amazing restaurants,” said Lewis. “It’s exhilarating.”
The 2015 Portugal trip sold out. Go here for 2016 tour details and registration.
Lewis, a member of the Clif Bar Pace Team traveled to Orlando earlier this month to participate in Walt Disney World’s Marathon Weekend, one of nine race weekends RunDisney is sponsoring at their parks in Florida, California and France in 2016. The Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend in Orlando, from Jan. 6-10, featured four events: a 5K, 10K, half marathon and full marathon. Runners can also enter the Dopey Challenge and compete in all four events.
While a Mickey Mouse medal is a nice perk, the best souvenir from a destination run is often bragging rights. Completing a marathon in Antarctica is definitely a conversation starter. In 2014, Dotterweich came home from the Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon Series’ half marathon in Nashville, Tenn., with a souvenir guitar — in the form of a tattoo on her foot.
Cliff Jennings brought back something even more special: his wife. Jennings met his spouse, Susan Fryman, in 2007 when she came on a running trip he led to Venice, Italy. In 2009 he proposed to her on a gondola at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas. The couple was married in 2010 during, naturally, the Las Vegas marathon. Said Jennings, “We only ran the half that year. Otherwise we wouldn’t have had time to finish.”