Endurance: Destination running

The dos-and-dont's of destination running

November, 27, 2013
Now is the time runners are beginning to plan their calendars for 2014, and so-called "destination races" get plenty of consideration. Globetrotting to a race seems so romantic. Just imagine the Facebook posts, and the possibilities.

I did, and days later I was toeing the line at a boutique half-marathon, the Llao Llao 21K in Bariloche, Argentina, a small adventure-oriented city in the foothills of the Southern Andes. Llao Llao is part of the four-race National Parks Marathon Series. For more information, go to www.runargentina.com.

Known for its chocolate industry, Bariloche is surrounded by the kinds of places travel writers keep to themselves. It's smack-dab in the middle Patagonia, where broad rivers lumber by snow-capped pyramids, spilling into ocean-like lakes, and December means the start of summer, not winter. An escape from winter alone could justify the trip.

The Llao Llao hotel, which is the race's base of operations and start/finish, couild also make it worth the trip. A "World’s Best" resort and spa, it has the riddle of refinement solved: it's five-star and unpretentious. Running shoes are welcome and Vibram-soled trekkers a norm.

And it's all about the environment. The Llao Llao occupies a peninsula hilltop in Nahuel Huapi National Park, which is comprised of nearly two million acres of calving glaciers, "monkey puzzle" trees, and an alpine trail system (complete with huts, or refugios) that's ripe for running.

Race day was is warm and breezy. Idyllic and spring-like at the 11:00 a.m. start. Local heavies from rival provinces Rio Negro and Chubut front one big wave of runners, and the celebratory mood at the back borders on a dance party. Sleep deprivation adds to the euphoria.

We're off, and a while later the finish-line banner seems to be held taut by some sort of dream. I was a winner that day, because it was the single-best running experience of my life.

However, it takes more than dumb luck and a wad of pesos to guarantee a great destination-race experience. Here's what I learned in Argentina, essential tips for destination runners no matter where they're headed:

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