Through work I get sent to the most amazing places in the world, and I can count myself very lucky for that! That said, these trips usually have a couple of things in common: I am usually travelling alone, sometimes in less touristy areas, and with limited free time available. I’ve found that exploring the area by going for runs is my ideal way of sightseeing! From experience over the last couple of years I have collated my top tips, sometimes from lessons learnt the hard way…
1: Carry for self-sufficiency
Since you are alone, in a place you don’t know, carrying the appropriate supplies with you is really important.
- For a quick 5k when I am in a city I would wear a flipbelt and only carry my phone, room key and money. Make sure to offline-download a map of the area you are running in so you can always find your way back to the hotel.
- For runs in more rural areas I would carry a running backpack with water, food, phone (again with maps downloaded so you can access offline), money (card and cash), a paper map if possible, compass, mini first aid kit, survival blanket and raincoat. Depending on the country and climate, I would also take sunscreen, pen knife, purification tablets, waterproof trousers, hat, gloves, more spare layers, electrolyte tablets and anything specific to the country / area I am running in (midge spray, snake bandage, etc).
It might sound like a lot of stuff, but I usually find my backpack is not very heavy or full even with all these things. In any case, make sure you can be fully self-reliant, even in the event of an injury.
2: Plan your route
This is where the fun starts! I have found a number of sources that work well for planning runs whilst abroad. Whilst on my home territory I aim to find lesser-known trods, abroad I am happy to stick with the more popular trails. Safety comes in numbers, and these trails are usually popular for a good reason!
- Find out where others run by using the ‘heatmap’ function of Strava Routebuilder.
- Download trails of the area offline with for example the (free version) of the Viewranger app. Every country has their own best apps for trails, I just found this one is good for most countries I travelled to.
- Google hiking and walking trails for the area you are going to. Usually someone has written a blog on their hike – and if it makes a great hike, it normally also makes a good run!
- For a city run, I simply use Google maps and I like finding parks (car-free) and canals (easy for navigating) to run.
3: Share your plan
Even though your friends and family are not in the same country, it does not mean they can’t look out for you. Leave them a message with the route you think you are taking, what time you are setting off and what time you will be back. To avoid confusion in different time zones, I usually send something like: “Setting off now on [name trail], and I expect to be back in four hours“. Make sure you leave enough room in your time-plan to account for unexpected picnics and waterfall swims! This way someone knows where you are going and will miss you in case you do not return.
4: Forget about pace
After all the necessary precautions, make sure you do not forget to enjoy your run! Since this type of running for me is somewhere in between a workout and sightseeing, I try not to look at my watch and worry about the pace. I run without headphones, so I can listen out for wildlife and stop when I hear leaves rustling. This type of running is not going to get me any course records on Strava, but it did allow me to see that little bird dance and to be amazed by beautiful waterfalls. And as a bonus, I get to explore a large area in a short amount of time!