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Running in Foreign Lands

It’s easy to measure our running at home, on our regular routes. We push ourselves out the door in the sun, rain, dawn, and dusk, and try our best to knock a few seconds off our last time. We know the routes that avoid traffic lights, busy footpaths, and uneven terrain.

So, what happens when you go away?

It’s a romantic notion, “running abroad”. Realistically, a lot of people that go on holiday also have a holiday from their exercise routines – which is totally fair enough. But if you’re someone who’d like to counteract the extra calories, or not lose your fitness over the two weeks, or simply enjoy running alongside the sunrise, here are some tips for how to make the most out of a very unfamiliar setting.

1. Forget (or forgive) the watch

We’re not going to be as fast as we usually are, and this is okay. We have plenty of other things to focus on, like navigating through new streets, which side of the road and footpath the traffic travels on, and the cobble stones underfoot. Let alone the temperature and climate, the fact we might have put too many layers on, and that we might have had pastries for breakfast and not too much alcohol the night before. So, please, take the pressure off yourself and forget the watch (or try to forgive it). If you made it out the door into this foreign setting, simply putting in your best effort in is enough. If you are still want to time it, that’s fine! But don’t beat yourself up over a slower speed – the odds are literally against you.

 2. "Take the green man!”

This is a concept I adopted long ago and it works a treat whilst running too: try not to plan too much of a route. It’s good to have a general idea of where you are going, but if you have a strict pre-planned path you’ll probably end up stopping to check Google Maps a lot and ruining your stride. Instead, try taking the “green man” approach; if you get close to traffic lights that signal a green on the pedestrian crossing, cross now! If you are approaching lights and the pedestrian crossing is red, keep running and try the next one. Let the “green man” decide your route for you and you’ll be able to keep your pace more continuous. If you can roughly loop round and end near where you started, bonus, if not, you can stop your run when you’re ready, and use your Google maps to navigate home whilst cooling down, walking.

3. If there’s a photo opportunity, stop

This ties in with not taking your watch – forget the extra seconds (or minutes!) per kilometre, because if you see a sight that makes you slow your pace a bit, don’t be too focused to stop and take a photo! You’ll probably appreciate the selfie of your red, sweaty face in front of a brilliant orange sunrise when you get home and look back through all your holiday pics. Plus, if you’ve been taking all the “green mans”, you’ve earned yourself a wee stop to take it all in.

4. Safety first – more than you think

The obvious safe step is to tell someone where you are going – at least the direction you are heading in and how long you expect to be out for. This is easy if you’re travelling with people; if you’re travelling alone, check in (and out) with the receptionist of your accommodation. If you’re wearing headphones, make sure they aren’t noise-cancelling so you can hear the traffic and other people around you. Even if you’re just going for 30 minutes, it’s a good idea to take money with you because you never know if you’ll need to stop to buy some water or food or a taxi home after tripping up. I usually take a debit card, €10 note, keys and my driver’s license as well, so if an accident happens I can be identified straight away.

5. Evaluate your run anyway

Personally, I use the Nike run club app and label all my runs after they are completed, with names like “Valencia, evening, not keen & hungry” and “Weds am, Bedford river, fast 10km, woo!” to differentiate between the trainings. It’s not always a good run, but a run is better than no run, and a travelling run cannot be measured the same as a run at home. Understanding your body’s condition at the time goes a long way in being happy with your result. I also share these records with my running-mad family, for a bit of healthy competition but mainly for a bit of support. Even if it’s not your best time, you can still be happy with it!

6. Follow other runners on Instagram!

We are a community of people who love to push boundaries, and there are some fantastic running images out there. Whether or not you’re going to conquer mountains or countries or rivers, it’s inspiring to see pictures of other people doing it in foreign settings! My favourite accounts are @trailandkale (daily trail and mountain inspiration) @marie_runs_the_world (British girl running one country at a time) and of course @runthroughuk (running community and free club). My own Instagram @identityk is often fitness related, as well as everything travel, adventure, nomad-ness and balanced lifestyle.

So next time you’re heading overseas, and you’re wondering whether or not to pack your running shoes, take them! Whether you are away for the weekend, a few weeks, or a couple of months… running abroad will be an experience quite different to your usual familiar routes, and you will almost certainly inspire yourself. After all, how often do you regret a run?

“You don’t have to go fast, you just have to go”.

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