Whenever I go somewhere new, or on a little trip somewhere, I’ll try and fit in a small run in the local area. Whether I’m just there for a day trip or a longer holiday, I’ve been trying to carve out a little hour to just get out and run in the area.
I was really inspired by the Parkrun Alphabet challenge, one that I knew I’d never be able to complete very quickly as I work on a Saturday’s so can’t go too far away every single week. In this challenge people try to do a Parkrun that starts with every letter of the Alphabet. In this vain, I’ve so far done 15 Parkruns, and covered 4 letters of the Alphabet. Another issue for me with this challenge is that getting to different locations, even within the UK, can be pretty difficult. I rely solely on public transport, lifts from friends, and my bicycle, and as such can only get to local ones when I do have a Saturday off, without masses of planning.
I liked the idea though of doing a run somewhere different every once in a while, and thus this idea was born. Initially it was something to do as I waited for the right train to get into the station, so I could avoid sitting at a cold station for too long. But now I actively try to fit in the run. My most recent trip was during the summer when, I went to London for the second time in just over a year. It was only for the day, but instead of going off and shopping between the train getting in and the matinee performance of Waitress, I took myself off to Regent’s Park and did a relaxed 5km around the grounds.
The run itself was great, there was quite a lot of variety throughout this park. Lots of flower gardens but also pitches that people were playing football on, and at certain points you can see slightly into London Zoo. I never really factor in these away runs into training, so there’s never any goal for pacing. I do think that this is quite important, you’re already going away to relax (sometimes) so the pressure doesn’t need to be put back on by needed to hit a certain speed in an unfamiliar environment. They’re always gentle and relaxed, allowing myself time to take it in and appreciate the time I’m spending running. I ran this about an hour before the performance I was seeing, and I definitely loved having taken a spare change of clothes. I simply used the loos that I found in the park to change over from my sports gear into some fresh clothes that would be better to sit in a theatre in for the next 2-3 hours.
While Hyde Park was closer and more in the direction of travel, I had ran this on my previous trip to the Capital and so wanted to run in a different place. Letting me see a little more of the city than I usually would. Most of the time I’m so focused on getting to a certain place and doing this or that, that you don’t get to see places for what they can be. On a trip to Birmingham, I took myself off onto the canal path and truly found a really different atmosphere to what I would usually attribute to Birmingham. Seeing places in a new light can be refreshing. It does, however, mean that planning can be a little tricky. 1) You’re in a new/different city and so may not really know you’re way around. 2) You’ve never run in the area so don’t know what routes are great or not. 3) You may not have the time for even a small run. 4) You may have luggage with you that would make it inappropriate to run with.
I’ll be honest with you, I don’t have the answers to solving these all of these issues. I think the best thing to do is just to do your best, whether you simply change a taxi ride to the station for a little stroll, or manage to get in a long 15km run, if it helps take the edge off of travelling or helps you sightsee a little quicker that can only be a good thing. I tend to plan my routes using Strava, looking for areas that are packed with Strava Segments as often this means plenty of runner are running those routes and so should be pretty well maintained. With areas that aren’t very dense of Strava Segments, I tend to look for a cycle path or green spaces as I do prefer running away from roads and traffic, where it’s a little quieter. I have also done runs to test out the route to a venue, so I know the route I was planning on taking for a meeting or conference a little later is correct, and will actually get me to the venue.
In terms of creating the route, I also do a few searches to try and find any existing routes that people have used in that area, in areas like parks I try to find the most diverse range I can, for example in Regent’s Park, the suggested running route that is around 5km, just goes around the perimeter. However, I wanted to try and take in as much as I could, so devised a route to start around the perimeter but then cut in to go near the lake and then finish by going past the open air theatre (it was a theatre trip after all). I tend to travel lightly for a day trip (or at least try) and pack it all into one backpack. Yes at times this backpack can be heavy and so running with it can be uncomfortable in which case I just remind myself if I didn’t go for the run I would probably regret it. Overnight trips can be easier in this sense, store everything where you’re staying and head out for a late night/early morning run if you’re really pushed for time. These would be better during spring or summer when the UK isn’t as dark at these times as it is during the Winter.
Safety is also important during these types of adventures. It isn’t something we all thing about, but you can be quite vulnerable when you’re out running, especially in a new place. You might injure yourself on route and not know how to get yourself back or where to go for medical attention. I make sure that the route I’ve planned is on my phone and my GPS watch (now that I have one), and that I’ve got plenty of mobile data to allow me to download the maps of the area etc., if I did happen to get lost. If it’s a really long route you’re planning it may also be advisable to grab a paper version of the map incase there is no mobile service or your electronics lose power. Also try and let someone know where you’ll be running around what time, and check in with them to let them know you’re alright. Some watches or apps have a feature where you can ‘broadcast’ your activity to select people which would be perfect for this. I’ve had mixed success with using Garmin’s Live functionality, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t and I’ve no idea why and so tend not to even try these days.
I’d also advise you to either wear your run stuff to the event you’re attending, fairly easy for me to say as a dance teacher by trade, or pack the essential running kit with you on any trip you do. You never know when you might get opportunity to run. If you’re running before an event look up space where you’d be able to change or get ready, toilets aren’t the most glamorous of places but they get the job done, usually having cubicles so you can change and mirror for hair and makeup if you want/need.
If this has inspired you in any way, leave a comment down below and let me know! Whats been your most memorable ‘away’ run? You can also follow me on lots of other platforms; Strava, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. I also provide bespoke training plans and coaching to help you achieve your goals.