Costa Rica is no longer for the relaxers. In previous years, travelers to Costa Rica arrived in their swim trunks and Hawaiian-print shirts, ready for a hammock and an ice-cold margarita. These relaxation-vacation tourists still exist, but they’re far out-numbered by the adventure seekers. Now, more than ever, extreme athletes are arriving to Costa Rica. And they aren’t coming for their much-needed recovery time.
Extreme mountain climbers, surfers, and cave-explorers are pouring into Costa Rica, and with them come long-distance runners. These runners, typically looking for an uneven, dirt trail rather than a painted track, come to Costa Rica for their next painful adventure. If you’re looking to up your running game, come to Costa Rica. The runners are here waiting for you, time for you to join along.
Running Costa Rica
Costa Rica has a very active culture. This may be one of the reasons the country remains the healthiest nation in the entire region. People eat well, exercise daily, and generally take concern in their physical well-being. This value for physical health has mixed with Costa Rica’s naturally breath-taking scenery and has created a thrill-seeking subculture: extreme runners. Running distances is difficult regardless of where you are, but exploring a country that hosts almost 5% of the world’s biodiversity eases the pain. You’ll explore beaches, lowlands, volcanoes, rain forests, and cloudy mountains during your short trip in this small, tropical country, and you’ll do so all on foot.
Costa Rican teams of adventure runners have developed in the last couple years, and these teams dominate competitions around the world. Their success has created the need for more Costa Rica based competitions, which have quickly developed. Not only will you see runners from Costa Rica daily during your next vacation, you’ll start to see foreign runners coming to train on this interesting and dynamic terrain. Locals and foreigners alike will take to training, casual running, and formal, sweaty competitions.
Where to Go
Runners in Costa Rica will notice a lack of tracks or high school exercise fields, but that won’t bother anyone. You’ve come to run Costa Rica, and now you’ll be forced to explore the country. Those looking for paved roads will find major cities with large streets and well-maintained sidewalks. Many of these runners aim for San Jose, taking advantage of the suburban areas for street running. You’ll find college campuses, neighborhoods, and hilly, country roads to explore while getting in your daily miles.
The vast majority of runners coming to Costa Rica and specifically looking for trail runs. If this is your goal, you’re in luck. You have your choice of nearly any terrain imaginable. Start with some bare-foot beach runs. This will strengthen your calves and shin ligaments for the more difficult runs to come. Next, graduate to some incline runs. Find a nearby volcano, mountain, or steep hill to sprint. You’ll enjoy Costa Rica’s nature, well-maintained mountain paths, and build an endurance like you never have before.
Many runners to Costa Rica aim for the Manuel Antonio National Park. Here you’ll have beach, swamp, and volcanic inclines to run through. You’ll see exotic animals, tropical flowers, and build your heat resistance. This trail will be through ocean-level terrain and although you hike the volcano, the altitude won’t be enough to bother your oxygen consumption.
You’ve come to Costa Rica to run, but your entire trip will be ruined if you don’t remember to complete your recovery time as well. Take advantage of the fresh, healthy food and refreshing beverages. Post-run, you should find yourself beach-side, practicing recovery yoga or simply stretching your legs on a slow walk with your travel group. The rest of the day can be spent with your feet up, treating any blisters or scrapes. Eat well, keep hydrated, and make sure you have a comfortable bed ready for you at night.
If you’re serious about a real runner’s vacation in Costa Rica, you can do no better than signing up for an event. These events will be mostly on trails, rather than paved roads, and will be hot and sweaty. There will also be trail and distant options for runners of all experience levels. Sign up for an event, you’ll mingle with runners from all over the world with out-of-this-world running experiences. There’s no better way to compete nor to explore Costa Rica than joining in on a world-class trail run.
Ultra-Marathon Arenal (April 21)
The Ultra-Marathon will circle and climb the Arenal Volcano this year, and it absolutely can’t be missed. This is the best possible choice for your running travel group as it has options for everybody. You’ll be able to sign up for a 6k, 10k, 21k, or a grueling 51k or 80k. You’ll run difficult paths, different terrains, and find yourself in extremely hot weather. Make sure you’re well prepared for this race!
Correcaminos (July 8)
This race attracts very high participation numbers and is the best option for those looking for a road trail. Your entire trail will be on paved streets around the booming capital of San Jose, expertly blocked off and guided by the race managers. Sign up for a 10k, half marathon, or full marathon and join in the fun. You may not have been planning on visiting such a large city on your tropical getaway, but San Jose will show you another fun and exciting side of Costa Rica living.
Ultra Team Race Costa Rica (October 12)
Also based in San Jose, the Ultra Team Race will be totally on unpaved, natural trails. Here you only have two very different options: a 10k or a 100 kilometer survival trail. No doubt about it, those signing up for the survival trail will have a grueling challenge ahead of them. You need to be well-prepared to take on this challenge and have experience running in hot temperatures. The Ultra-Trail will be for relay runners on teams of 4 or 8, so start putting together your running team now.
The Coastal Challenge (February 9-16, 2019)
The Coastal Challenge is considered one of the best trail runs in the world, and it attracts participants from all around the globe. Again, this will not be an easy ride. You’ll have trained medics, maintained nature trails, and a 24-hour base camp available to you as you attempt the feat, but you’ll still need to be well-prepared. This multi-stage trail will take 6 days to complete while you explore virtually every type of trail Costa Rica has to offer. Don’t sign up for this challenge without a bit of fore-thought, many competitors are unable to finish. In the end, expect to run around 236 kilometers for the Expedition Run, or 155 kilometers for the Adventure Run.
These are the main large-scale events coming up this year, but each city hosts smaller runs and marathons, both on trails and paved roads. If you’re planning a trip to Costa Rica this summer, look into a local foot race, you’ll enjoy the challenge and leave Costa Rica as a champion.