It's always worth it

Seeing the world for "runcations" can be a once in a lifetime travel and fitness experience

Jovan Abernathy is the owner Houston Tourism Gym. To claim your Brewery and Mural Tour, Message her at info@tourismgymhtx.com

My name is Jovan and I’m a chronic marathoner with an addiction to “runcations.” 

You might be wondering what a “runcation” is. It is a vacation that is taken specifically to run a 5K, 10K, Half, full, or ultra marathon. Then there’s the vacation part. Once you cross the finish line, you are on vacation!

I personally have run half and full marathons on the rolling hills of San Francisco, the Diamondhead of Honolulu, from Asia to Europe on the Bosphorus bridge, on the Great Wall of China, and with the Big 5 in Zimbabwe. I fit into a small tribe of people who run these races. I know this because when I talk about it, most people are still amazed and want to know what it must take to complete one of these races. I get questions like: How did you chose that race? What did you learn? And was it worth it?

And there is a demand. If I asked 10 people to make a bucket list, running a half or a full marathon would be on seven of them. I’m here to tell you, you should take a runcation, what to look out for, and no matter what happens along the way, why it is always worth it. I've made a guide for you in hopes to turn you on to this somewhat new, highly farfetched, but very attainable goal. I’ve listed all my runcations with three takeaways: the thing that hooked me, the thing that got me, and what makes it worth it every single time!

Let’s get this out of the way. Unless you know someone or have a lot of reward points built up, these trips are expensive. Expect to spend $2000-$10000. Even more amazing is I did this on a waiters salary. Thanks Houston!

San Francisco Half Marathon

The thing that hooked me: I needed to run a half marathon before I ran the Houston full marathon and I had never taken a vacation as an adult. Who wouldn’t want that?

The thing that got me: Watch out for that Golden Gate Bridge. It is the hardest kind of hill to climb. It is a very slow rise. You have to put in this effort that never ends.

Thing that made it worth it: Napa Valley. The Golden Gate Bridge will kick your ass, but it is the gateway to wine heaven. Being a part of the restaurant industry, I was able to score a stay at Franciscan Winery.

Honolulu Full Marathon

Hook: Its Hawaii, hello.

Got me: At the pre race luau, I got food poisoning on some chicken. I had diarrhea until the night before the race. This should have taught me to watch what I put in my mouth before the race.

Worth: You mean besides getting to island hop in Hawaii? Oh that’s right. I totally met this pro golfer on the plane and we hung out the entire time we were in Honolulu. He was there competing in a tournament in Maui. It was not like that, but don’t tell my mother.

Istanbul, Turkey

The hook: I got to run from Asia to Europe on the Bosphorus Bridge. What are you kidding me? Not a lot of people can say that.

Got me: This race was hard from the genesis of training to the plane ride home.

  1. So, I should have learned back in Hawaii not to just put anything in my mouth, but I didn’t. Two days before the race, we went to dinner and enjoyed this delicious cucumber, tomato, and dangerous microbe salad. We threw up all night long. We didn’t have time to fully recover for the race, so we pretended to be well just long enough to finish the race. I still finished in 5:35.. To this day, Imodium AD is the first thing in my suitcase.

  2. Choose your travel companions carefully. They can be a blessing and a curse. Don't get me wrong, it was a once in a lifetime chance to run from Asia to Europe in one of the oldest cities in the world whose history goes back to Apostle Paul’s day. But traveling with an immature woman who apparently did not care that Navy Seals killed Osama Bin Laden a couple hundred miles away and that we were far from Discovery Green blew my mind and made for a wasted $10,000 trip.

  3. Only because I’m so resourceful, I decided to make this trip count. The island of Crete was my last stop before heading back. Yeah, I know, who goes to Crete? I made my flight by only six minutes. When I got to the resort I was staying, I had dinner and drinks plus one more then retired to the beach beds with my iPod. It was me, the stars, and the Adriatic Sea. Really, I was the only person out there. So what do you think I did? The only thing I could do: I cranked up my music and danced dirty on my beach bed for 2 hours non-stop. You know like that housekeeper on Billy Idol’s Rock the Cradle of Love video? No one saw and if they did, then good for them. Pleeease don’t tell my mom.

Now that we are close. (I’ve shared some pretty personal things with you.) After that last Marathon, I took some time to recover. A few things happened. I ran the Austin half. It was weird to say the least. The Texans almost won the Super Bowl (OK, not really), and my favorite Beastie Boy died. After all that, I needed to run the race to end all races.

Great Wall Half Marathon

The Hook: I do mean a half marathon on the Great Wall of China! This was it. I knew something special was going to happen. If you are a runner, go run that! Besides, isn’t Thailand on that side of the world?

Got me: It’s full of challenges. Straight out of the gate, you literally have to run up a mountain to get to the Wall. The Wall is made up of stairs and walkways. It is the most intense stair climbing workout I’ve ever had.

Worth it:

  1. During the race, the whole town comes out to see you. The children are wearing China’s colors. They come for candy and to take pictures with you.

  2. There is a celebratory banquet at the end in Beijing with any type of food you could want.

  3. I could not wait to go to Thailand. Bangkok was amazing. The food was amazing. I would have green curry for breakfast, yellow curry for lunch, pad woon sen for dinner, and pad Thai in between…...There was this place called Lumpini Park that has 4 foot Monitor lizards walking around it….. I got to take care of an elephant for a day….. I got onto a cage full of tigers...and I came back alive.

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

Hook: AFRICA, say no more. You run with the Big 5 game.  On this half marathon course, rangers with guns go before the runners because, you guessed it,  the animals are not in cages.

Got me: This trip was by far the best runcation I’ve ever run. If I could possibly complain about anything, it might be the length of the flight and that some of the African music at dinner seemed inauthentic. I was in Africa for crying out loud.

Worth it: Where do I begin? Oh I know. When I arrived at my hotel. I was given the bad news that they had run out of rooms and the only one they had left was the honeymoon suite. I said “I do!”  As I entered the two-story suite, put my bags down, went upstairs and took a nap.

I woke up just in time to see a family of elephants coming to drink water.

There were baboons at the start line checking the humans out.

On our celebratory Zambezi River Cruise, seven hippos tried to take our boat down. As if.

Don’t even let me tell you about Mama Africa, one of the local restaurants in Vic Falls. If benjy’s in the village circa 2006 were in Africa, that’s Mama Africa.

The last 100 yards to the finish line was in an elementary school yard. Each finisher was handed a popsicle and their medal.

I met two really cool guys from South Africa who confirmed that the African music at dinner was, in fact, inauthentic. I knew it.

So, four years later, I’m about to take my  next runcation to Reykjavik, Iceland., twenty miles from the Arctic. Aurora Borealis. Whale watching. Icebergs, and the Blue Lagoon….of course, buried shark. I already have the Imodium AD packed. I’ll let you know how this one goes when I get back.