What’s your favorite thing to do when you travel? Try new foods? See new sites? Sleep in? Mine is to run in a new place. It’s something my husband Steve and I enjoy doing together! we like to get a feel for the city we’re visiting and get the lay of the land to figure out what’s worth going back to, and in the most efficient order. Some of my favorite stories Steve told me before we got married are his stories of running all over the world–over mountains in Croatia, watching out for rabid dogs in Africa, running all the way up to the top of Diamond Head in Honolulu, and meeting his future wife just a couple of days before running the Prague Marathon–that’s me!
So how do you make sure I don’t get lost? What do you do about safety? What about running in cold places? What about cobblestones in old cities? All these answers and more are coming your way! Here are some tips and things to think about when running abroad.
Your number one travel priority is safety. How can you enjoy yourself if you get injured or mugged? This doesn’t mean you should live in fear, it’s just a good idea to be aware of your surroundings, meaning people, potholes, cobblestones, crosswalks, etc. I have this thing called a Flip Belt, that goes around my waist and holds my phone, ID, cash, credit card, keys, and anything else I might need to take with me. It’s also reflective!
One thing I don’t recommend using when you run in a new city is headphones of any kind. You want to be able to hear what’s going on around you, without distractions. Also, trust your gut if you think someone might be following you. Step into a nearby hotel or other populated area and tell a security guard or manager that you think you are being followed. They can either call the police for you, or help you get back to your own accommodation safely, whether that means calling for a taxi (which is why cash and/or a credit card is a good thing to take with you on your run) or being escorted on foot.
One more note on safety: you may think, “I have all my information in my phone–name, phone number, contacts, GPS, etc.” But what if your phone gets stolen? Take your ID with you. If you don’t have or want to get a flip belt, put it in a pocket or hold it in your hand.
Watch Out for Rough Terrain
Sorry to break it to you, but, you will likely encounter less than perfect running conditions somewhere in the world! Not every place you go will have perfect trails, sidewalks, or even paved roads. Steve was running in Cinque Terre, Italy, a few years ago, and he tripped and fell into a ravine, narrowly escaping a rough fall into the Italian Riviera. It happens! When Steve and I met, he was preparing to run the Prague marathon on cobblestone streets–the unfriendliest of streets. When Steve and I ran together on Floreana Island in the Galapagos, there were literally no paved roads! Just gravel, dirt, and loose rocks–prime for tripping. We did make a friend, though:
So, what do you do about that? First of all, watch where you’re going! You do not want a sprained ankle or skinned knee during vacation, so watch out for things that could trip you up. Treat your path like an obstacle course for a high-intensity workout.
Also, ask around to see if there are any good running trails or long stretches of sidewalk. If there’s a river or other body of water nearby, there is probably a good, mostly flat place to run or walk close to it. Even in the tiny Nova Scotian town of Pictou, the owner of our accommodation told me about a beautiful boardwalk down by the shoreline. I never would have known about it otherwise!
Avoid Getting Lost
When running abroad, Steve and I both always keep a map with us. We like to carry a small hardcopy with us, but we also use the MapMyRun app. Steve has had a couple of GPS watches over the years, and none of them would sync up correctly out of the country.
There are several running apps out there with a map feature, so choose one you like! Look for one whose map will show you where you’ve been in real time. So if you’re like Steve and me in Oslo, Norway, and get a little bit lost, you can zoom in and out on the map as needed to see where you are and how to get back to where you need to be! The only downside is that if you don’t have an international phone plan that includes data, you’ll need to start the app when you’re within a Wi-Fi zone–like your hotel or a restaurant that provides free Wi-Fi. Also remember that you’ll have to save your workout when you’re reconnected to Wi-Fi!
Running in Extreme Temperatures and Remembering Etiquette
Running in hot weather: wear light clothes! Just make sure that wherever you go, you won’t be offending the locals. For instance, when Steve and went to Vietnam I didn’t take shorts or tank tops for running because it’s not appropriate for women there. Groan all you want about women’s rights, but I’d rather wear capri running pants and a t-shirt and avoid offending people in their homeland! Alternatively, when in Waco, Texas in the summer heat, I often for shorts and a moisture-wicking shirt to keep me cool! Also important in hot climates: try to run in the morning before the temperatures reach their peak.
Running in cold weather: Bring running pants! Or yoga pants. Long socks help, too, and don’t be afraid to double up on socks if it’s really cold! When we went running in Vaduz, Liechtenstein, it was worth using up extra space in my luggage to make sure I had running clothes that would keep me warm enough. A rule of thumb I follow is to dress about 20 degrees warmer than the actual temperature. So, for a 30-degree day, I dressed for what would help me be comfortable walking in 50-degree temps.
But I’m on Vacation! I Don’t Want to Run!
Well, there’s really no quick fix for this one. And it’s perfectly fine to take a break from running while you’re on vacation! You’ll likely be walking a lot in any new place you go, and that counts as exercise. I just feel more energized for my day after I run or workout, and it helps me make a plan for what’s around me and what may not be worth going back to if seeing it on the run is enough. But bear in mind that while you’re out and running about, you may stumble upon a delightful local treat. Like this super hydrating fresh coconut water in the Galapagos! That’s why I like to keep some cash on me.
Running in High Altitudes
Do not plan to run your first couple of days in a high-altitude city! For instance, Quito, Ecuador, is the world’s highest capitol city. Steve and I were there for just one day, and we didn’t bother running. That high altitude is no joke! Even just walking up a hill took the wind right out of us. Instead, focus on staying hydrated. Bring ibuprofen in case of headaches, and even take it easy on the walking if you’ve got hills to contend with. Your body will get used to it in a couple of days, but if you’re going over 10,000 feet up, plan to take it easy so you don’t wear yourself out or make yourself sick.
Thanks for reading! What’s your favorite city for a run?
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