The Key to Short and Sweet (and Inexpensive!) Runcations

With winter coming, a long weekend running somewhere warm with a beach would make a great option!
With winter coming, let’s take a runcation somewhere with a warm beach!

Here is my logic: If you are a woman who loves to run and travel and you have lady friends who also love to run and travel, why not make a short and sweet trip out of it? A run-cation!

A runcation is a short vacation centered around running. It usually involves a race, but need not. The best runcation will be easy to get to and affordable. In 2015 I went on two perfect runcations that I want to tell you about today!

My criteria for the perfect runcation:

  • Must have a half marathon
  • Within driving distance (maximum six hours) from my home (in my case Columbus, Ohio).
  • Since my friends and I are still in the “entry level” stages of our careers, we require a destination that offers a balance of cheapness with comfort.

In April I packed up my yoga mat and headed south with a girlfriend to Nashville, host of the St. Jude Country Music Marathon. Then in July, I did the same thing with another buddy, this time heading west to Chicago for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago Half Marathon. Both trips were a blast.

Here are the details:

St. Jude Country Music Nashville Half Marathon

Race entry: free

Katie and I chose to run as St. Jude’s heroes, and together we raised over $1000 for St. Jude and got free race entries! Darn good deal if you ask me! St. Jude Heroes also gave a ticket to a Martina McBride concert Saturday night. Holla!

Distance from home: 377 miles (5 hours 40 mins driving time)

Travel costs: It just so happens that Katie drives a Prius, so gas mileage was super cheap. If I’m not mistaken, we filled up three times for $20 each. That’s just $30 per person, and we did a lot of driving around the city!

tiny house
Our beloved Tiny House!

Lodging: This is possibly the most fun part! We stayed in a tiny house, an architecturally minimalist house seated in a Nashville resident’s backyard. We arrived Friday afternoon and left Sunday morning.

Pro: this was a really cheap option. We paid $65 per person per night!

Con: we weren’t all that close to the starting line. BUT we adored the tiny house! And parking within the city was very reasonable, less than $10 per person the whole weekend!

nashville breakfast
A delectable Nashville breakfast.

Food: This, my friends, is where we splurged. It was every runner’s dream. Before the race we snacked lightly on veggie-based meals and ate our own pretzels and almonds that we packed for ourselves from home. But after those beastly hills, we feasted on ice cream from a cute shop on Broadway with Coca Cola in glass bottles.

We had exquisite hipster cuisine in a small artsy coffee shop. We had extravagant burgers and milkshakes from The Pharmacy in Greenwood. We made the trip to Nashville’s Loveless Café, where we had fried chicken and famous Loveless biscuits with peach jam. This was quality food, and we totally planned our trip around what we would eat. It was glorious, and I don’t want to count the dollars or the calories. 😉 BECAUSE IT WAS ALL WORTH IT.

Grand total: $245 per person.


Humana Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago Half Marathon

Race entry: $99 – I had a discount code from Rock ‘n’ Roll. Basically the discount canceled out the tax.

Distance from home: 359 miles (5 hours 30 mins driving time)

Travel costs: Very similar to the Nashville travel costs. We each filled up once at $25 each.

chi race
The Windy City provided some cool race views!

Lodging: Pro: our hotel was less than a mile from the start/finish line – SCORE!

Con: It was a little expensive. Parking was also a beast. But hey, it’s the Windy City. It was still around $300 total!

Food: We were not there too long, but we had a nice pasta dinner at an Italian kitchen across from our hotel the night before. It was very affordable. Post-race we had a swanky French brunch in our hotel restaurant. I had showered, but I totally went in my Spandex and a band t-shirt. I didn’t think they were going to serve us at first! Heehee. The food cost us less than $40!

chi race bling
The notorious post-race spandex!

Grand total: $324 each.


Run-cation Tips:

Running for charity. Not only do you save pocket change to spend in the charming destination city, but you raise money for organizations that rely on volunteer support! I’m always game for a free race entry, but especially if I’m given the opportunity to help someone else. Plus there are usually finish line or post-race perks!

Going with a girlfriend. is the MOST FUN part and costs are split into two! Two is a good number because it’s easier to make decisions with two people versus a whole group of people. When you’re going somewhere to race, you want it to be stress-free. A one-on-one trip makes that so easy.

Driving distance . Keeping it under 400 miles keeps the driving time and costs manageable. That’s the perfect distance for a weekend road trip. Especially if the race (like Nashville) is on Saturday. That means you have to get to the expo on Friday (oh darn, you’ll have to take off work!) race on Saturday morning and have the rest of the weekend to explore!

Racing distance. Keeping the race at a half marathon or shorter keeps the recovery time manageable, especially considering the drive home!

Consider the hidden costs. Like PARKING. Ugh what a little bugger. More importantly remember that you’ll want to do other fun activities. In Nash, we went to the Johnny Cash museum before we left on Sunday. It was also a very cheap activity but must be taken into account!

Focus on one area of the trip. If you wanna skimp on the food scene to stay in a swanky hotel, be my guest. Hotel beds are the bomb. If you’d rather fork out an expensive entry fee for a great race experience and then conserve in the transport costs, go for it! I learned from my Nashville trip, which was more organized, cheaper, and longer than my other trip, that if you focus on really enjoying one thing (i.e. food), you should try to cut costs in something else (i.e. free entry, cheap transportation).


Have you ever gone on a runcation? Tell us all about it!

I'm a student of law and life. A Jill of all trades, master of none. But I'm hoping to master something, sometime. ;) Preferably a sub-23 5k and a sub-4 marathon!

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  1. Love this breakdown! I guess I never really tallied up what some of my racecations cost. I have done quite a few with friends though. Save money by using hotel points, airline vouchers, sharing hotel rooms, etc. Like you said, it also is good to pick what you wanna splurge on (hotel vs food etc.).

    Some fun racecations my friends and I have done: California International Marathon, Virginia Beach, NYC Marathon (spectating), and quite a few others.

    One of the cheapest (but also fun!) was this past summer. My family has a cottage in the 1000 Islands (3 hour drive). So my and 2 friends drove up there one weekend (shared gas money), stayed at the cabin (free), went to dinner one night and made food the other, and Sunday did a small town 10k race in the middle of our long run (maybe $25 for the race). It was so much fun, and very low key and no stress. We ran all weekend, drank beer, ate good food, swam, kayaked, and got the heck out of dodge for a few days!

  2. So many runcations. I feel a bit bad for my husband but so long as I combine them with professional sports, he’s quite happy about the situation. Next year- Flying Pig + Reds game.

    We live in Iowa, so the standard runcations are to the Twin Cities, Duluth, Lincoln, Chicago, KC or Madison/Milwaukee. The goal is a connecting state for easy weekend trips. I also enjoy planning races when I go visit my in-laws (multi-tasking! Breathing room!).

    I definitely believe that if you do a runcation, the race should be front loaded and the sight-seeing should come after. This avoids the problematic conflict between being good pre-race and wanting to indulge for vacation.

  3. We use races and orienteering events to decide our family vacations. We have made it to NYC, Prague and Vancouver so I could do half marathons and then enjoy family time. We also all participated in this year’s Canadian Orienteering Championships which took us to New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and PEI (perhaps one of the coolest things we have ever done – orienteering on the ocean floor at low tide at the beautiful Hopewell Rocks). These obviously weren’t weekend racecations but they created so many great family memories. I’m grateful that our sports have given the opportunity to see such amazing places together. I can’t really imagine now just going on vacation for the sake of vacation… we all feel it has to tie into some kind of race or event!