Why Race Training And Air Travel Don’t Quite Mix

Nothing intensifies my workout routine more than signing up for a new race. Seconds after purchasing my spot in the April 14 More Magazine/Fitness Magazine Half-Marathon, I mapped out every training day for my next two months. I am determined to improve my previous half-marathon time by five minutes and refuse to accept anything less.

Typical training plans require the runner to complete 12 consecutive miles one week prior to race day, where they rely on adrenaline and excitement to carry them through the last 1.1 miles. However, my schedule progressed to the big 1-2 three weeks too soon– and on the eve of my Spring Break trip that began with a 5-hour, red-eye flight. 

I’m not sure if my excitement for the upcoming week of vacation had anything to do with it, but I achieved my personal record with that double-loop run in Central Park. In all honesty, I was sure MapMyRun glitched in recording my split times. Fighting a queasy stomach, steep hills and freezing gusts of wind, I couldn’t believe that I had just completed the best run of my life. However, this empowering sense of pride provided little help as my journey began 12 hours later with aching legs and little-to-no rest.

Remaining in a seated position on the train ride to JFK Airport, at the terminal gate waiting to board my plane, and in the cramped aisle seat of row 21 on my flight did not do me any favors. Intense, throbbing pain filled every inch from my pelvis to my toes as the changing air pressure caused my legs to swell slightly. Barely managing two hours of sleep, I paced the skinny aisle a half dozen times against the flight attendant’s wishes and begged her for ibuprofen to ease the pain. I never thought I would be so happy to see a Caribbean tarmac for the sole reason of getting to stretch my legs.

It did not occur to me until two days ago that a long-distance training run could cause such travel trouble, but needless to say, I won’t be making that mistake again. Sometimes, adjusting your routine is necessary. Unless you’d like to experience a tale like this firsthand, live vicariously and take my advice: don’t be stubborn and let a change in plans reflect your dedication to your training. Otherwise, you might end up as that pathetic person on your next flight, shifting from one uncomfortable to position to the next and whimpering uncontrollably while everyone else dozes peacefully around you.

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