This article first appeared in OutdoorsNW, an adventure, travel, and recreational magazine for outdoorsy types in the beautiful Northwest.
When my old marathon coach sent me a text with an opportunity to write for OutdoorsNW magazine, I felt a familiar butterfly flit around in my stomach just like the one that visits me at the starting line of a race.
That tingle signals fresh anticipation of the journey to come and the nervous excitement of an impending challenge. And when the gun goes off — BANG — I’m off on a new adventure!
Running and writing can transport me to new places, so it seems fitting that my first article is for the travel issue. Whether I’m headed out on a family vacation, business trip, or just an overnight to visit friends, I usually plan to squeeze in a run.
And that’s the key: planning. As a type-A mom of two kids, planning, scheduling and over-packing are in my DNA. As a runner, these traits have served me well.
Here are a few planning tips to help you fit in a run when you travel.
Pack your running gear first
Packing everything from hat to shoes first will ensure you don’t forget anything as well as set your intention to make the run a priority. I pack a separate gear bag. That way I can grab it and suit up without digging through my suitcase.
Think about safety and unexpected weather. Include clothes with a pocket for your phone and a few dollars. Take your watch or GPS, safety vest and an extra layer. Throw in a plastic bag to haul stinky clothes home. If you forget, your hotel room’s shoeshine bag or ice bucket liner works perfectly.
The next time you’re getting ready for a trip, make a checklist of what you’re taking, so prepping will be easier and faster next time.
Get your friends and family on board
Including your run in the trip itinerary means it’s less likely to get sidelined. I learned when my kids were young that scheduling my run before we left home made vacation days go smoother. I like to sneak out early on Saturday morning while my husband snuggles with the kids. Sunday is his morning while I’m on kid duty.
When traveling on business, let your colleagues know an early run is part of your routine, so getting to bed at a reasonable hour is part of the plan.
If you’re visiting friends or heading to an event, put feelers out for running mates. While renting a house for a family reunion, I discovered that my cousin made a perfect beach run partner.
Find your people and your places
I’ve never met a runner who wasn’t thrilled to share her favorite spots with a visitor. Call or swing by a specialty running store to grab the scoop from a local or join a group run.
With a little online prep, you’ll have a route in mind before you go. Search for race course maps and trailheads near your destination or download one of Strava’s running guides in cities across the globe.
Your hotel concierge has probably fielded runners’ questions, so ask at check-in for a point in the right direction. Bonus: They might have the area’s street map featuring post-run coffee shops!
Adopt a vacation mindset
If you’re a freewheeler who’d rather not follow a pre-planned route, don your vacation vibe and head out. Explore city streets before the tourists are up. Note what time the museum opens or peek at menus posted in restaurant windows. You just might find that perfect spot for dinner.
I love a mid-run stretch session at sunrise, running through a dew-covered park, or along an empty boardwalk. Meandering lets me see a new place in a more intimate way.
Train while you travel
When you’re in the middle of training season, a bit more planning will keep you on track. Split your long runs into back-to-backs, do a shorter run in the morning then opt for the longer or steeper hike during the day’s activities. Skip the hotel elevator and take the stairs or hit their gym. It all adds up.
If it just won’t work to run long during your sister’s wedding weekend, shuffle your training schedule and try to do it before the trip. You’ll get to relax and enjoy the festivities that much more knowing your hard work is in the bag.
While I love running through puddle-strewn trails out the backdoor of my home in Eugene, travel runs have taken me to mountaintops with snow-capped views, through winding streets of European villages and have introduced me to many running friends along the way. I am glad we’ve met and to be traveling with you on this new adventure with OutdoorsNW.
We welcome Laura McClain as our new On the Run columnist. Laura is a Eugene-based freelance writer, runner, coach, and virtual trail guide for running mommas everywhere. Follow her adventures at RunMommaRun.com, @RunMommaRunNews and facebook.com/RunMommaRunPage.
Got any travel running tips? I’d love to add to this list, so please share below in the comments and thanks!