Being in a new city, whether you’ve moved there or are just visiting, can be stressful. You don’t know where anything is, you aren’t used to the streets, and you have to use GPS to get home any time you venture out. But as runners, we have an advantage that not everyone else has — we have the capacity (and desire) to run for miles. So why not put that mileage to good use and explore your new digs?
Running around a new city is the best way to get lost. Take your phone with you of course — and fire up MapMyRun if you want to find a good route — but you’ll find places you might not have found otherwise like that hole-in-the-wall taqueria or the cute mom-and-pop shop nearby. You will find parks and open spaces you haven’t seen yet, since you typically just drive your route to work and back.
If you’re visiting a new place, there’s no reason you can’t get to know the area around your hotel. You might not need to find a grocery store, but you might find something the locals are familiar with, but tourists rarely see. Running takes us farther than we might go on the tourist track.
Here are some tips for exploring a new-to-you neighborhood on foot:
BE STREET SMART
Anytime you are exploring a place you aren’t familiar with, it’s important to take safety precautions. Check out the area ahead of time online, bring your phone, run during the daylight hours, and let someone know where you are going and when you’ll be back. If you want a solid plan ahead of time, check out local race courses or map it out on MapMyRun before you go.
FIND A RUNNING GROUP
If you don’t want to explore on your own, find a running group or sign up for a race. Many running stores have run clubs, and Meetup is a great way to find local running groups. This way, you can explore a town with people who are already familiar with the route, and find a new route to run the next time you venture out on your own.
CONSIDER A RACE
Signing up for a race ensures you won’t be out there alone, and can be a great option if you’re just in town for a short period of time or if you collect medals as souvenirs. Some people plan entire vacations around races, so it can be a great excuse to travel somewhere you’ve always wanted to go, like Greece for example. The race starts in the town of Marathon, follows the 1996 Olympic course to Athens, and finishes in the modern Olympic stadium. Climb the white marble stands to see the Parthenon in the distance, and spend the rest of your trip exploring the ancient city. If you don’t want to travel internationally, take a trip up the Pacific Coast Highway in California and run the San Francisco Marathon. It’s fun to drive over the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, but imagine running over it. You’ll hit all the major spots in the city and see famous neighborhoods like Haight-Ashbury. After getting a running tour of the city, you’ll know where you want to explore in depth the next day. Need more ideas? Check out our Marathon and Half-Marathon Cheat Sheets to find the best race for you.
Study after study has shown exercise reduces stress, and anyone who has traveled knows that flying, driving and just being in a place that isn’t home can be stressful. This means getting out for that morning run won’t just help you to find new places, but will also make you feel better and be more relaxed, which means you can enjoy your trip more (or your transition to living in a new city).
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It’s also important to carve out time for yourself when you’re traveling. All too often, vacations are about how much you can pack into the time you have, so getting up and out for a run before the day begins is a form of self-care.
When you get home, you’ll have a litany of new experiences to share and talk about with your friends and family. Whether you ran through the streets of ancient Greece, sprinted along the beaches of Costa Rica or found a really cool fountain in that park in Portland, you’ll have something extra special to remember about your trip.
GEAR UP FOR YOUR NEXT RUN