How to Plan a Running Route

Running while traveling is one of my greatest pleasures. I love exploring new cities or towns or countrysides on foot. While I don’t always set out with a specific goal, I do take a few steps to plan a running route that will keep me from getting completely lost.

I know that for many runners this feels daunting.

Maybe a little scary to head out in an area that you don’t know.

Which of course leads to the first step of following the best safety tips for runners. With those in hand, you can head out feeling more confident and with a heart that’s ready to experience the world.

How to Plan a Running Route

There really is no better way to connect with a city than through a run. You get to see it wake up, smell the fresh bread from bakeries, find hidden street art and of course just experience it in ways you can’t from a car window!

First, I like to get in the right frame of mind.

These runs could be about getting in planned mileage, but they’re really about spicing up your training and bringing you back to the reason you so love lacing up!

What is runsploring?

Running + exploration = runsploring: the act of running new places to get to know a city better

Get your mind right and bring a little cash for worst case water and your phone for worst case Uber.

Now beyond this all the remaining tips will apply to even those runs you’re doing near home.

In order to successfully include runsploration on vacation it does require some pre-planning.

Start with Google Maps

Look at the city on your computer to get a feeling for how it’s laid out.

  • Is the city in a grid pattern, that will help you know hitting 20th street is moving North and 40th means you’re still heading South.
  • Or look for major landmarks that help you know which direction you’re heading – whether that’s the mountains or the Statue of Liberty.
  • Next identify a couple of major roads and where they intersect.

You don’t want to have to check your phone the whole time you’re running, so simply having some guides will allow you to know if you’re heading towards or away from where you started.

Ask the Locals

Why must we figure it all out on our own when other runners are so excited to help?!

  • Look for local running clubs as they often post weekly routes. These usually indicate safe places to run or might give you people to run with if that feels better.
  • Ask the hotel concierge about running paths. They may not always know exact paths, but do know the area and can help point you to what’s safe or what to avoid.
  • Finally it’s time to embrace social media again! Checkout hashtags for the city like #denverrunners or #runutah or look at location tags and you’ll often find places or people you can ask.

People on Instagram ask me so often about trails near Denver I created a post to help them!

Get a Pre-Planned Running Route

Not interested in figuring it out on your own. Good news, there are options already out there.

The other added benefit here is you can take the time to find a route that will be similar to any upcoming race. For example, knowing Chicago is extremely flat I took more time to plot out routes that would find the flat places in Colorado to work those muscles.

  • Strava, Run Keeper or MapMyRun almost always have local routes that can give you ideas
  • Garmin Fenix and other watches let you download the routes and then you can simply follow the guide on your watch to avoid getting lost.
  • MapMyRun also has a feature that allows you to plot out your own course. I do this with long runs when trying to figure out where I’ll end up and what the elevation might look like.

Luckily this is easier than ever now thanks to our smartphones. 10+ years ago I did a lot of guessing on my runs and honestly that was fun too!

Benefits of Exploring, No Preset Running Route

While some of you love knowing exactly where you’re going, I enjoy the run without a specific route. Using the tips above I have an orientation and then take off to see what I find.

  • No waiting at lights; just turn and keep running
  • No getting stuck on the same path as a garbage truck; just turn and keep running
  • More time seeing the neighborhoods { I love looking at houses }
  • Ability to run towards anything that looks fun or interesting! Hey is that a bear?! Main street? Carnival?
  • Bonus for finding an unexpected place for breakfast later

Wherever your miles take you it’s bound to give you a fresh take on training and breath some life back in to your why.

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How to Plan a Running Route

How to Plan a Running Route is written by amanda for

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