No matter where you find yourself, one of the best things about running is you can create a great workout nearly anywhere. Not only is small-town running completely doable, but it is also a great way to connect with your surroundings. You will definitely look at the roads and trails differently once you run on them and explore the area by foot.
“Don’t let your location deter you from getting out the door,” urges Alicia Vargo, a member of Team Run Flagstaff Pro and coach at Alicia Shay Coaching & Nutrition. “Living in certain areas might mean that you need to take different precautions, but that doesn’t mean that running needs to be less enjoyable.”
If you aren’t in a big city, here are some tips to make sure you stay safe, find your tribe and become a member of the local running community.
MAKE SAFETY A PRIORITY
Running in remote areas may seem more dangerous than running in heavily-populated cities, but with the right preparations, you can ensure all goes smoothly. You just have to make sure to take the right precautions.
“If you are in areas with very few other runners or people around, I would recommend that you always let someone else know your route and run with a GPS tracker so that someone can easily find your location if you need help for any reason,” suggests Vargo. “It’s always good — especially in rural or backcountry areas — to have a extra water, light jacket, snacks and a cell phone just in case you get lost or have an injury that lengthens the time you expect to be on the trail or road.”
Using an app like MapMyRun is a simple way to not only track your own metrics, but allow others to track your runs, too. MVP members have access to the live-tracking feature so that your contacts can watch your run in real-time and keep an eye on you as you run your entire route.
READ MORE > RUNNING SAFETY TIPS FROM A SELF-DEFENSE PRO
Vargo also notes that when you are creating your route, you should make sure it is well within your capabilities so you don’t find yourself stranded in a remote area mid-run. Though you want to keep making progress and pushing yourself, make sure increasing your distance doesn’t take you too far out into the middle of nowhere.
CONSIDER A RUNNING GROUP
Small towns may not have the largest populations, let alone a plethora of runners, but you only need a few like-minded souls. Finding other runners to train with can make the miles fly by and is a great way to stay motivated. An app like MapMyRun can be a great way to find runners in your area. Also, you can find your crew by regularly running races in your area and keeping an eye out for familiar faces.
“I live in Flagstaff, Arizona, and over 10 years ago a few runners started meeting at a bagel shop for an early weekday run,” shares Vargo. “Now the ‘Bagel Run’ can have up to 50 people on a given Thursday morning, so running with a group doesn’t have to be anything formal with a coach or workout, but rather just a set time and day and an open invitation. It can always evolve and become more formal from there.”
READ MORE > WHY RUNNERS SHOULD JOIN A RUN CREW
Want to try it yourself? Meet at a coffee shop so that when you return you can all sit down and get to know each other over a post-run cup of joe. Another idea? Find parents at your children’s school who are interested in running. After morning drop-off, hit the track while your kids are in first period.
VARY YOUR TERRAIN
If you aren’t yet aware, switching up where you run can actually be good for your feet and legs. Not only can it help break up monotony that can set in during a training season, but you will also be using different muscles as you vary surfaces to make sure you are a well-rounded runner.
“I think many runners think that they have to run on the road, but in more rural areas dirt roads or forest service roads are a great option,” notes Vargo. “The softer surface is much easier on the body than pavement or concrete. Dirt roads tend to have have less traffic, be more peaceful and are likely a much safer option.”
Vargo also notes that dirt roads aren’t the only option; you can try running on grassy fields, stadium stairs and even cattle paths. It may require a bit of creativity, but don’t limit yourself when it comes to places you can run.
KEEP IT LOCAL
Though runners usually put big city races on their bucket list first, running small, local races not only supports your economy but also gives you a chance to meet other runners in your area. The number of races continues to grow. According to Running USA’s 2016 State of the Sport, the number of races increased by 2,300 from 2014 to 2015 and there are now more than 30,000 options for runners across the country.
“Running small, local races is a great way to get connected with a tight-knit running community in your area,” adds Vargo. “Big city races may have more competition, but they don’t allow you to personally connect with other runners from the area like local races do. Runners are a unique breed and it is always great to meet others that share your same passion.”