Thursday, May 9, 2013

Discovering running routes when traveling

My work and leisure often cause me to travel. As my wife will lament, I get irritable if I miss too many days of running. In addition to where to stay and what to eat or see, I research running routes. I look for paths that get me away from road crossings. While millions of people obviously do not share my dislike of big cities, no runner than I know likes the stopping and starting that comes with randomly encountering lights or dealing with drivers who do not feel that you should be on the shoulder of their road.

I give a lot of weight to proximity. I do not like to travel more than 15 minutes to a run when traveling. My time on vacation or work is precious and I do not want to spent too much of it traveling to my run. This means I will take a boring bike path over a state park with nice dirt single-track trails – especially if it the route starts from where I am staying. It also means that when I choose a hotel, proximity to running paths can be a tie-breaker.

I have a multi-pronged research approach. Web research is an obvious starting point. Most cities will have great websites set up that describe trails or routes. Some of the better ones even use Google Maps to show their routes.

Simple web research worked great for a recent trip to San Francisco. While traveling to the beautiful trails north of the Golden Gate Bridge was not logistically feasible, I found (with some prompting from my wife who recognized my running twitch) that many sites had Escondido Drive as a popular place to go. One mentioned this was a great run for people staying downtown – which we were.  This busy road did not naturally occur to me as a place to run. But the websites were right – it was a great run. Because it was along the bay, it had almost no roads crossing it and it had great views of the bay bridge and the Golden Gate.

For cities that do not have websites set up by running clubs or rural places that do not have a large running community I like It seems fairly complete for finding paved running / walking / biking paths. I have not found it as useful for finding single-track or hiking trails (as it is for bike paths). What I really like about this site though is how they show a map highlighting the trails and showing parking areas. I like the bike paths one finds here for times when I have to run early in the morning or late at night. Most of these paths are well maintained and safe to run on even with low light.

Google Earth / Maps is also a great tool for finding running trails. One advantage that Google Earth has over is that it often shows many dirt and single-track trails. You can also plot your location or other key locations and see their proximity to your trails. When I travel I often start with plotting where I will be staying. I then look for rivers or the large parks / forests. If the forest or park has a name that shows up on the map I will then Google it to see if there are any online trail maps. I am also finding that many towns nowadays have riverwalks and I will zoom into any rivers that go through the town or are nearby and I often find trails.

As a last resort, I do try to book hotels that have workout rooms. While I have never been a fan of treadmill running, sometimes my work forces me to run before it is light out – especially in the winter. It’s not perfect, but it is far better than not running and will tide me over to when I can get back to my home trails and paths.

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