Crossing Borders and Finish Lines

When you’re building your race schedule for 2018, consider exploring a new place while trying a new race.


If you ask Denise Sauriol which of the 89 marathon finish lines she has crossed is her favorite, she wouldn’t hesitate to say Chicago; nothing beats the city where she lives and first ran 26.2 miles. She does have other favorite marathons however, including Antarctica, Iceland, South Africa, and they are a bit different than running through the Windy City.

Runners like Sauriol are combining their love of travel with a pair of laced up running shoes and redefining what it means to go on vacation.

“On your feet is one of the best ways to see a new city,” said Sauriol, whose first international marathons in Berlin and Dublin got her hooked on adventure travel. “I can’t stop. There are so many places I want to go.”

That desire to see the world on your own two feet is the premise of Marathon Tours, a company that organizes trips for runners on all seven continents.

Marathon Tours takes care of all the details, like ensuring your entry in major races like London or Tokyo, arranges travel and hotels, and introduces you to a group of other runners making the

“The first goal is we want to take all the stress out of the logistics,” says Jeff Adams, president of Marathon Tours. Then, the company hopes to wow its clients with the experience and group camaraderie.

“The run is a catalyst,” Adams adds. “It’s an extension of their healthy lifestyle. But our clients take it one step beyond. The idea of experiencing different cultures and seeing parts of the world you haven’t seen before, that’s true adventure travel.”

For example, the Antartica trip requires ten days on a boat from South America with 100 other runners from more than a dozen countries. In fact, Sauriol did that trip for her 40th birthday in 2008, and made friends she still keeps in touch with today.

“Running is a common language that connects strangers,” she explains. “Even if I don’t know anyone going in, I know I’ll make friends on the trip.”

Once the race is done, the adventure has just begun. Sauriol uses running as her starting point to explore places like London, Paris, and next year will add Queensland, New Zealand to her list. Other runners are focused on finishing a race in every state in the U.S., or one on each continent. Sauriol said she isn’t working toward one of those goals directly, but just wants to keep running and seeing the world.

“My goal is to have as many passport stamps as I can when I die,” she adds.

Chicagoan Ken Gasper hasn’t run is as many exotic locations, yet, but enjoys every new experience on and off the running path. In fact, he hasn’t taken a vacation in the last decade that didn’t include a race.

In 2013 his running took him to Vancouver for the half and full marathons; in 2015, he won an entry to the Berlin marathon through the lottery, but stopped in Amsterdam on his way and ran a disco-themed 8K through the city’s cobblestone streets.

“You get immersed in this different culture and step into a different world,” Gasper said. “We’re all still runners and being part of a race in a new location lets you experience the city as a local, not a tourist.”

He’s also enjoyed learning about different customs via race traditions that vary from city to city. During the Berlin marathon, race volunteers handed out cups of hot tea instead of water or Gatorade as is customary in America. While Chicago, Boston and New York are known for their rowdy cheering squads, Gasper found the London crowds to be more proper in their sideline support.

In addition to a workout session, the race experience in a new city can serve as a history lesson too. Sauriol said she learns more about a city while running than she ever would in a book. Gasper agreed.

“In Berlin, you literally run from West Berlin to East Berlin, it’s like you’re running through a century of history in 26.2 miles,” he adds.

Many races sell themselves on the other activities to do nearby besides just run, such as Disney’s series of running events through its theme parks, or the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon along the Vegas strip; the Great Wall Marathon leads runners up more than 5,000 steps on the Chinese architectural and historical wonder of the world; the Big Five Marathon in South Africa pulls together a race and a safari in one as runners see leopards, lions, rhinos, elephants, and buffalo throughout the Entabeni Safari Conservancy route. Who wouldn’t want to run across the London Bridge or past the Eiffel Tower with thousands of other enthusiastic athletes?

However, no matter where you cross the finish line, the feeling is familiar.

“Everybody shares common love of running. The end of the race is about achieving a lifelong goal, high fives and sweaty hugs with the people around you,” Gasper says. “It’s a whole new way to experience the world with friends you haven’t met yet.”

Want to plan your own race-cation? Visit to get some help planning.


  1. This is fantastic! I have been organizing destination race for my clients for years and just started making it an official part of my business, Spark Multisport. I also provide online coaching for anyone who signs up with us for the “runcation.” It is an amazing way to see the world!


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