As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, this weekend was my first time to California. I managed to squeeze in two long(ish) runs while in San Francisco and Napa Valley – two locations I had never been to before. Running in a new city is a fun, exciting way to see so many sites that you may not otherwise be able to see. Several people emailed or commented and asked me for some tips on how I find routes in new towns/cities so I figured I’d share them on here.
Just because you are in a new location for a few days does not mean that you are stuck to running on the treadmill. If you take some precautions and do a bit of planning, you can set yourself up to have a wonderful run.
– Reach out to active friends/acquaintances who live in the area. Nobody will have better information for you than someone who lives where you are going – and better yet, someone who is active and knows the roads. I had looked at a map of the town I was staying in while in Napa and found what I thought was a good road to run on – however, one of my IG friends cautioned me about the road (tractor trailer trucks and a 55 mph speed limit) and so I found a different road to complete my 10 miles.
– Do a recon. I almost always do this as I’m coming into a new town (especially if I intend to run on that road). When we drove to the welcome party on Friday night in Napa, I was subconsciously looking at the roads and shoulders on the ~1 mile drive. Based on what I saw, I decided to use that road as my primary route for Saturday morning. I try to pay special attention to things like (especially as close to the time of day I hope to run):
- Sidewalks and/or shoulders: are they there? Are they crowded with pedestrians?
- Posted Speed Limits
- Neighborhood: Busy, built up, desolate?
- Traffic on streets
– Have a general plan for your route. I don’t have an exact route when I run but more of a general idea of where I want to go and how I think I could get there. I base this off of either word of mouth or google maps. Things I look for in a good running route:
- Enough traffic where it’s not totally desolate
- Either sidewalks or shoulders to run (I prefer running in the street, against traffic, as opposed to sidewalks because I feel like cars can’t see you all the time if you are on the sidewalk).
- Other runners/walkers/bikers
- Good lighting (if I am going to be running when it’s dark – which I don’t recommend doing in a new location)
- Minimal traffic lights
– Be flexible. Roads often look much different on a map on your phone than they do in person. There may be construction or a road closure. The shoulder may disappear for a stretch. Be willing to change your plan. Don’t let that disrupt your entire run.
– Familiarize yourself with the streets surrounding your hotel. This is helpful for me on my return trip.
– Minimize the turns. I try to make as few turns as possible to avoid getting lost or disoriented. Like I said earlier, my goal is always to find one main road to run on. Then I try to find the easiest way to get to that main road.
– Stick to out and back or one big loop. This also helps me avoid getting lost.
– Run with your phone. This is non-negotiable for me when I am alone and in a new place. Safety always comes first. You never know what could happen. I also keep a google maps tab open with the hotel already programmed in – just in case I get lost and need some directions back.
– Carry money and credit card with you. I feel safer when I have this in case of the rare instance where I may need water or something to eat OR if I twist my ankle or pull something and can’t run home. Always better to be prepared.
– Share your route. I always tell my husband my general route in case of an emergency (on Friday, I told him I was running to the bay and then heading north to the GG Bridge). If you are traveling with other people, let them know how far you are planning to run and when they should expect you back.
– Trust your instincts. If you are headed into an area and your gut is telling you it’s too dangerous or maybe too deserted, don’t second guess yourself. There’s no reason you should run scared when you are in a new area, so just turn around and head back to your hotel. My plan on Saturday was to run out and back 10 miles (so 5 miles one way). Just as I was about to hit 4 miles, I made the decision to turn around. There was a pretty steep curved decline that I was approaching and the shoulder went from being about 5 feet wide to less than 18 inches. Cars were flying around the curve and were a bit too close to the shoulder for my liking, so I stopped and did the extra two miles by doing an out and back loop closer to the hotel (on one of the side streets).
Any other tips you use when you are in a new city?
What is your favorite city/town to run in (not including your home)?