Travel and sports – take a challenge in a foreign land!

It’s been a great week for inspiration. As my eternal battle for fitness continues – today’s triumph, completing the Dubai Women’s Run 10k six minutes faster than last year – I have been really motivated by all the stories and pictures coming from the New York Marathon, and it’s got me to thinking about how I can combine my passion for travel with my new addiction for sports/fitness challenges. As if reading my mind, I received the latest blog post from Fit Chicks and Fast Women: Wonderful Races in Wonderful Places which I eagerly checked out, and whilst most of this is perhaps a little bit extreme for me at the moment (check out Tori’s full list here), I can highly recommend the Dubai Marathon in January (although I always stick with the 10k option) for an urban run, and the Wadi Bih relay (we do this in a team of five) in February for a great team run up and down the mountains of Oman and a fun day out. I’d also add in the Dubai Creek Striders Half Marathon, and not just because this is the next challenge for me (in only four weeks time!) but for the great scenery, winding around Dubai Creek, past the dhows being loaded and unloaded, through the old souk as the traders set up for the day, and all along the creek past bemused looking fishermen (they also put on a great breakfast at Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club afterwards!)

I had been thinking about raising the bar and training for a marathon next year (after all, I will have done at least two half marathon races by then and plenty of training!) If I am going to take on this challenge, it would be great to travel for it too, and give me the extra motivation. I did a little research on some of the places I want to go and a few caught my eye – the Great Wall of China Marathon (although this may be too much for my first, with all the climbing and steps and all!) and the Big Five Marathon in South Africa particularly (nothing like running through game reserves full of wild animals to keep you going faster!!) Although in looking at Tori’s list, I could be tempted with trying something closer to home in places I am already familiar with: in Istanbul (although potentially a little chilly in November and not the weather I’m used to training in), Kathmandu (if you read this blog regularly, you’ll know what a fan of Nepal I am, having visited twice, once for trekking and once for a wedding), Petra (I loved Jordan, but I remember how hilly Petra was and I’m not sure it would be a great first marathon for me!) or Beirut (this could be a great option, being so close, and a fantastic city to celebrate in after – and seeing as this takes place tomorrow at least I’d have a full year to train!) I’ve also seen the Muscat Marathon being advertised for the end of January and will be getting more information about this one, whether for a full or half marathon, and the same for the Oredoo Marathon in Doha in January (though this one is possibly a bit too close to all the Christmas/New Year festivities and naughtiness to be advisable!!)

There was a time when this kind of travel would have been my worst nightmare, but with a bit of work and determination, I’ve changed my mindset and approach (and fitness level) and even though I have a long way to go, I’ve realised how satisfying it is to achieve challenges like this. These runs often show you the best of a place and with an unparalleled atmosphere and surroundings – what better way to see a new country! I’ll post updates as I start to pull together a bucket list for 2014 of my confirmed challenges, but for now, I just hope this post inspires others the way Tori’s inspired me – and if anyone has any other recommendations, then please let me know!