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The Runner's Travel Bug: Is it the Race or the Place?

11/19/2013 12:08 EST | Updated 01/25/2014 04:01 EST

I discovered the joy of running six years ago. In an effort to lose my "baby bump" I started running around my country block -- a 5km bucolic flat route. Through rain or shine I woke daily to do the same run and after 3 months realized that while I was enjoyed running, I was bored. With my A-type personality I realized I needed to set my targets on something big to keep me motivated to "get up and go." I signed myself up to The County Marathon

Within a year of starting my training I completed my first ½ marathon and I was hooked! I've participated in the Toronto Waterfront Marathon, the Goodlife 1/2 Marathon and the Ottawa Race Weekend.

In 2011, my spouse and I started our own fun run that combines our passions of running, food and drink: the Terroir Run! Our 11km run along vineyard-lined roads past nine wineries and a lilac farm, ends with a 100 per cent locally-sourced lunch paired with wines, craft beer and cider from the region.

One of the reasons I love running is because it is such a portable way to exercise while travelling. In my role as the Executive Director of the Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance, I am constantly on the go, both in Ontario and internationally and take my running shoes whenever I travel.

Discovering a destination through running is such as great way to get a sense of place. Oddly, I have never participated in a race outside the borders of my home province but have met many runners along my travels and have always been keen to find out what inspires them. Is it the race or the place?

This December I'll be taking part in my first ½ marathon outside of Ontario AND making my inaugural visit to Jamaica to participate in the Reggae Marathon in Negril. Along for the running adventure is my friend and training partner Valerie Howes - this will be a first for both of us.

The Reggae Marathon's tag line "Come for the run. Stay for the fun" has enticed me to have my family join me in Jamaica for our annual December holiday where we'll spend two weeks discovering the west coast region of the country. So while it's the race that enticed me, it's my passion for discovering a destination through running, food and drink that will keep me in the place.

As I set my 2014 running goals, I've got my sights on some other interesting races that appeal to my taste of place and desire to incorporate running with my love of food and drink.

There's the Marathon du Medoc in the Medoc region of France (near Bordeaux) where runners dress in costumes fitting with the theme of the year: 2014 is "Countries of the world and their carnivals" and encourages runners to celebrate at wine and food stations along the route. Perhaps the Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati, Ohio in May where they celebrate everything you can imagine to do with pork. Bacon lovers look out!

How about the Ottawa Beer Run that stretches 13.5km and has runners' visit 5 craft breweries? Or maybe the Chocolate Race in St. Catherine's. Who doesn't love chocolate as a motivation for running?

I'd love to hear from runners who have the Runner's Travel Bug. What are your favourite run destinations and what drives you there. Is it the race or the place?

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