My Training Secret: Destination Races  
By Susan S. Paul, MS; TSF Training Program Director

Like the Lady Track Shack 5k, I am also celebrating 40 years of running this year!  I graduated from college in 1977 with a degree in Special Education and started teaching school in southern Appalachia.  It was a tough assignment, as you might imagine, and very stressful.  But, stress can sometimes be a good thing because it caused me to begin running regularly and learn how to deal with stress in a positive manner. 

Today, people often ask me how I stay motivated to keep running and racing after "all these years" (like I'm old or something, right?!!).  First, I love running, so truth be told, it's really pretty easy. But, my super-secret training strategy is this: Destination Races!  Pick a destination, meaning somewhere you have always wanted to go, and then find a race in that area and voila, you have a destination race!

A destination race is a great way to inspire motivation and get you out on the road. For one, you have a race on the calendar so you had better train!  And two, you are going someplace you have always wanted to go, so the trip is also a reward for all of your hard training.  Now, that said, a destination race trip is different than other race trips because the trip is about the destination as much as it is about the race, if not more so! 

Keep in mind that destination races are not likely to be fast or easy courses. I  pick destinations that are wild, remote, and beautiful, so the races in those areas tend to be challenging, hence not a Personal Record race. Also, you will want to do as much sightseeing as you can to experience the area, so no sitting around in your hotel room with your feet up!   Get out there and explore!  

My favorite destination race is the Harvest Half Marathon in Cherokee, North Carolina. Several years ago we chose the Harvest Half as our Fall destination race and we all fell in love with the event and the area, so it was elevated to Annual Destination Race Trip status.  In addition to running the race, we also hike, trail run, whitewater raft, zip line, and enjoy the beauty of this magnificent area. 

 This year, twenty MarathonFest runners were game to tackle this destination race with me.  We did several hikes, including part of the Noland Divide Trail and a small section of the AT from Newfound Gap to Charlie's Bunion for some incredible views. We ran on trails in Deep Creek and on the Oconoluftee River Trail in Cherokee. We also went whitewater rafting down the Nantahala River and did some sightseeing in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park

Race day brought perfect running weather and everyone enjoyed running through Cherokee, hills and all! The post-race celebration is a spectacular feast provided by the Harrah's Casino chefs, need I say more?  After the race, we enjoyed an afternoon of socializing, playing Corn Hole, eating pizza, making a bonfire, and roasting lots of s'mores!  I'm already looking forward to this race next year and another year of running.........

If you would like to join in on all the fun, check out our Training Programs


ZERO TO FIT - Zero to Fit is for adults interested in beginning a running or a run/walking program to improve their overall fitness and health in a social, group coached environment.  Many participants will be able to cover 3 miles by the end of the 10 week program. Classes offered in Orlando and Lake Mary.

FIVE AND DIME - Are you already doing some running and want to improve your speed? Our Five and Dime program targets the 5k/10k distance and focuses on getting you faster!  This programs offers serious group coaching in a very social atmosphere. This class is offered in Orlando. 

MARATHONFEST: The Winter/Spring SessionMarathonFest’s Winter/Spring Session is an ADVANCED 3 day-a-week training program for the Half and Full Marathon distance. The Winter/Spring session follows an advanced and aggressive training schedule as we prepare our runners for challenging spring races. This session is NOT recommended for novice runners. Those interested in joining this session must have completed a Full or Half Marathon within the last three months. This program is offered in the Orlando/Winter Park area. 

Starting dates can be found on the Event Calendar or on line at www.TrackShack.com

What is your favorite destination race? Please share below with the community!

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