One of my favorite parts of traveling in a foreign country is to go for a run while we are there. It’s a great way to combine getting some exercise with doing a bit of sightseeing. But not every location is conducive to a safe run and even those that are, requires some thought before hand. Culture, location, and distance all need to be considered before heading out on a run. Obviously, I’m assuming you already packed appropriate items for running and just need to figure out how and where. When we went to Ireland, I was not able to run much because the roads near where we were had no shoulders and no sidewalks. In New Zealand, I could have run easily in Rotorua and Auckland had a bike/run path right in city centre. In Australia, I was able to run around Nelson Bay on a lovely walking and biking path that was heavily used and when I ran in Sydney, everyone and their brother was out for a run around the Opera House. So, knowing the areas played a big role in figuring out my routes.
- Always carry identification and money. Ideally, also carry a phone that works in that country so you can call or use a map if you get lost.
- Map out your run ahead of time – if you can’t drive around the area first, at least use Google street view to see if there are sidewalks or at least wide shoulders. Check out resources like Map My Run and Strava to see other running routes that runners use. Also I’ve had good luck in bigger cities googling “safe running routes”. Or ask a concierge at your hotel or another local establishment.
- Run during daylight in populated areas. This is not the time for that early morning run in the dark, unless you are completely familiar with the area or have local connections that have told you where it is safe to run.
- Accept that you might have to run a shorter distance or repeat the same route more than once to stay in a safe area. Sometimes there just isn’t enough safe road to get in more than a couple of miles. I once ran a 1 mile route over and over in a small town in Ireland because it was the only safe place to run.
- Know the local traffic rules – being aware of what all the signs mean and which car has the right of way will definitely play a role in crossing streets. Belgium has some weird laws about right of way that always made me nervous in a car, so I imagine that would affect running as well. Thankfully, other than the whole driving on the left thing, Ireland, New Zealand, and Australia were pretty similar to the US.
When all else fails, sign up for a race – you know that the route will be at least mostly safe and you are unlikely to be by yourself. It’s always interesting to see how race organizations work in different countries.
Have you run in a foreign country? What did you learn from it? We likely won’t be traveling overseas for a few years now, but a lot of these tips apply to running anywhere you aren’t familiar with.