One of the many wonders of running is that it can be done anywhere. But how should runners prepare for runs both short and long when training away from home?
1. Choose your path.
Running in unfamiliar territory can be stressful. You may have concerns about getting lost, or finding yourself in an unsafe neighborhood. Sites like www.mapmyrun.com provide a great resource for finding routes in your area, and are especially useful when you are training for a race and are looking for a running route of a specific distance.
If you are staying in a residential community, you may feel inclined to run on neighborhood streets. In my personal experience, unless you are running with someone who knows the area well, the risk of getting lost is extremely high. Also, you’ll have to dodge cars and pedestrians while running, which could really throw off your pace.
Asking friends for suggestions and running with someone more familiar with the area, are great options as well.
Personally, unless I am personally familiar with the neighborhood, I like to seek out a nearby jogging track or trail. Running in circles means there’s no chance of getting lost. You’ll know exactly how far you’re running by finding out the mileage of the trail online or on signs. There is no risk of being mowed down by cars — strollers, bicyclists and rollerbladers are the only ones on wheels.
For safety’s sake, I recommend running at peak times, in the before/after work hours and weekend mornings, when many other runners will be out. In the event that you get lost, exhausted, or injured, someone will be nearby to help.
When running outside your normal territory, you may find that you need to carry far more than you would on a regular training run.
Your supply should resemble your “long run” stash.
Come prepared with pockets, waist and wrist pouches, and plan accordingly. Some of the things that I would recommend bringing are: a fully charged cell phone, the address of where you are staying written on a business card, your driver’s license, a debit or credit card, twenty dollars in cash, keys, lip balm with SPF, and fuel.
I like to take my SPIbelt with me. When I am at home, it typically only comes out for long runs and races. But when planning to run while traveling, I always toss it in my carry on. It is the perfect size to carry all of the items that I listed above and hardly takes up any space at all in my luggage.
It goes without saying, but if you are driving, park near where you plan to end your run – and remember where you’ve parked!
If not, make sure that transportation options are readily available, should you “hit the wall,” get injured, or if you are running in the evening and want to be certain that you return to your home away from home before it gets too dark.
If you are running in an urban area, public transportation options and cabs will be plentiful. If you’re anywhere else, though, do your homework to find out what transportation options will be available on or near your course. Programming the number of a local cab company in to your cell phone might be a good idea.
4. Fuel and Refuel.
I can’t stress enough that you should carry more than you would if you are running at home.
You are running on unfamiliar territory and likely do not know where water fountains are located, or where you can pick up energy bars and a bottle of Gatorade during or after your run, the way that you would at home.
Here are some of the things that you should do to prepare for these realities before you set out for your run:
Pack for the long run. Whatever your fuel choice is (shot blocks, gels, energy bars), bring a larger supply than you ordinarily would. I recommend two more servings than you would typically consume for a run of that duration. It is possible that you will get lost, or alternatively, choose to extend your run once you feel comfortable on your path. You might even take a few breaks to enjoy the scenery and that could add a good bit of time to your run. Odds are that you won’t need it, but if you do it’s best to be prepared.
Hydrate. Bring a water bottle with you, and refill it any time you see a water fountain. This will ensure that you have enough on hand to keep you hydrated throughout your run. If you’re parched post run, stop for a bottle on the way back to where you are staying.
It goes without saying that when you are traveling, you simply do not have all of the “comforts of home”. Odds are that you didn’t get your Body Glide past the security checkpoint, and don’t have that bottle of aloe gel for post-run sunburns waiting for you back in your hotel room or your friend’s apartment. So be proative about protecting your body.
Wear a higher SPF than you ordinarily do. When running in a higher altitude or warmer climate, the sun will be stronger and your risk of a burn is greater. I like Coppertone Ultra Guard. 50 at home, 70 on the road.
Carry lip balm, even if it isn’t part of your usual routine. It is small enough to get past airport security, and provides moisture and protection for your lips during and after your run. But it has many other benefits, too. I like to keep it on hand to rub on high friction areas to avoid chafing.
Most importantly: be safe, have fun, fuel well, and stay on course. The run awaits.