Discovering new places (© Mark Clinton Johnson)
Remember the days when we could jet off at a moment’s notice to some far-away place, without worrying about social distancing, quarantine or self-isolation?
Those days of travelling freely feel like a previous universe now. But, as with many things we have had to forego during this pandemic, travelling may be something that we will all really appreciate, value, and look forward to when it fully returns. Of course, the reduction in travel world-wide has had some positive effects too – less air pollution, fewer carbon emissions which cause climate change, and less noise.
One of the things I absolutely love about travelling is combining it with running. Whether it’s for a race or training, running in a new environment and discovering unfamiliar places is a special treat. Taking in all the sounds, sights and smells of an unknown place as you run is just magical and always throws up a few surprises!
But to enjoy this unique pleasure, it’s worth taking a few simple steps to ensure you can do it safely and without any mishaps. Over the years, I’ve always run on trips away, and from these experiences I’ve distilled what I’ve learned into these five tips.
1. Plan ahead
Spending just a few minutes learning about your destination online in advance and finding some suitable run routes is always worth it (eg on Google Maps or Google Earth). You can locate any nearby parks and green spaces, or must-see landmarks and elevated viewpoints. Rivers too are worth seeking out as they are ideal for out-and-back routes if you’re not confident about finding your way on a loop course. A little planning ahead avoids having to scrabble around for information after you arrive.
2. Rise and shine!
Early mornings are my favourite time to run when travelling. Soft morning light, birdsong, the quiet before the bustle of the day, cleaner air, cooler temperatures, less traffic – it’s a wonderful time of the day to run. And you can be showered and ready for a day’s work or sight-seeing in good time.
I spent a few autumn days in Kyoto after one of my big races, and made sure I ran early each morning. Seeing the city’s famous temples and shrines when the streets were empty created memories that will stay with me forever!
3. Safety first
I’m always conscious of unknown unknowns when I run in an unfamiliar place – there may be hazards or dangers out there that I am unaware of, so I always leave notice of where I am going with the front desk or a travelling companion before setting off for a run; take note of the weather and local customs and dress accordingly; and carry with me some money and a note of my name, accommodation address and emergency contact number.
4. Exercise en route
Sitting down for long periods is known to be bad for us. Stiffness, back ache, and even deep vein thrombosis can strike. So I always try to exercise regularly, within reason, wherever I am. I have walked up and down the drop-off pavement at an airport terminal, done stretching in the galley area of a jumbo jet, got up frequently from my seat on trains and buses to stretch my legs… any small amount of movement to break up long periods of sitting always makes me finish a journey feeling better.
5. Prepare for jetlag on long haul
It’s tempting to think that jetlag won’t affect you or that you’ll just deal with it when it strikes. But in my experience, I can’t think beyond getting into bed when it hits me. So I plan ahead: drink plenty and eat light food little and often during the journey; go for a walk in daylight as soon as I can on arrival; prepare my sleep environment to ensure the best sleep possible for the first night in my new destination; and stay up until at least 9pm in the local time zone before going to bed.
Travel is now returning in small steps as the world adjusts to the new normal of living with coronavirus. Let’s hope that we can gradually, and safely, resume the wonder and excitement of travel in the months ahead. I’m not sure when it will be, but the thought of spending an early morning running around a new unfamiliar place is keeping my spirits up for now!
Mara Yamauchi for World Athletics