Running while traveling is a great way to shake out jet-lagged legs, explore your new surroundings and maintain a routine while on the road. There really isn’t a more perfect time to travel than that in-between-jobs moment when you have no lingering responsibilities, deadlines or terrifying emails when your phone unexpectedly connects to WIFI. I recently had such a two-week window and set off to Spain, with time in Barcelona and the medieval city of Girona, before heading to the Costa Brava: the rugged coast line running north of Barcelona to the French border.
I had never been to Spain, and with the promise of sunshine, good food, and my friend to pop over for a quick visit from Paris, it was an easy decision. A priority for me was to get a few good long runs in, in preparation for my upcoming trail marathon. I had read about the Camino de Ronda, a trail that meanders 200 kms along the Costa Brava that wasn’t so remote that I might feel uneasy exploring it solo. Let the googling begin.
Whenever I travel, I always make sure to pack my running shoes. To date, I’ve had running adventures in Tanzania (where I always ended up with a pack of giggling kids and dogs nipping at my heels), Hong Kong, Ushuaia (the southernmost City in the world at the tip of Argentina), France, Portugal, Venice Beach and Vancouver.
If you’d like to take advantage of the benefits of running on your next holiday, here are a few tips to keep in mind before heading out:
1. Plan your Route
Not so important if you just want to run a few blocks around your hotel or AirBNB, but you should at least have a general sense of the area and know how to get back, since it is easy to get sidetracked and disoriented when exploring a new area. Make a mental note as a point of reference (in Barcelona, my street had a flashy yellow casino sign at the bottom of my street) and keep your address handy in case you need directions or a ride back to your accommodation. Since I was doing an out-and-back on the Camino de Ronda, I made sure not to veer too far off the main trail, and gave myself lots of time to get back to town before dark.
2. Be Prepared and do your research
Before setting off, I found an e-book written by a traveler who had recently done a through- hike of the trail, and also a runner on Instagram who had recently run a retreat there. It was helpful to have an idea of the terrain, distance between towns and the best places to stop for views along the way. Having the right gear makes all the difference and also means less excuses. If traveling to warmer temperatures, you might want a long sleeve with UV protection if your skin hasn’t seen the light of day in months (I’m looking at you, fellow Canadians), or for cooler or rainier climates, a lightweight rain jacket to keep dry and warm. Also, know social customs before you go. In some countries it’s not acceptable to show lots of skin and run around in your sports bra even if it’s a million degrees. Respect and be aware of cultural norms.
3. Know where you can refuel
If you are planning a longer run, you should definitely bring your own supplies and know where you can get potable water. Even if you are just going a shorter distance, heat, humidity, jet lag and elevation will all effect your body and your fueling needs. While running the coastal trail, I knew that I’d be running through a touristy town where I could refill my hydration pack, and grab a bite to eat (2 smoothies, and a sugar crepe!) With the heat, I went through much more water than I would have at home and was happy to have my hydration pack versus a handheld. I always carry my VISA with me, but it is also a good idea to stash sufficient cash just in case the local stores don’t accept cards.
4. You don’t have to go it alone
If you don’t feel comfortable running alone, there are a ton of great resources to meet new running friends, like Meetup and local run clubs. If you happen to find a great running store, it’s likely they’ve got groups going out and if there is one thing that is universal, it’s that runners everywhere love to talk about running. I found a full moon run in Spain while I was there on Meetup, and sadly missed it by a day, but otherwise would have been an amazing way to see a different side of Barcelona.
5. Don’t Overdo It
It can be tempting to stick to your training plan, but if you only have a few days away, save your hill repeats and intervals for home, and plan your run to see the sights and explore a park or neighborhood you might not otherwise get to see. Slow it down and enjoy the change of scenery!