Running in a Foreign Country


By Harrison Livsey

As the holidays are now upon us, some of you are probably packing your bags for some far off land.  No, not Cincinnati. I’m talking about a place that’s really far off, a place where you’ll be sitting on a plane for at least 8 hours to get there.  Here are some tips to help your running experience abroad go as smoothly as possible. *For tips about running while traveling in general be sure to check out Amanda’s blog “Training While Traveling.”

Running in another country starts, as the rest of the trip does, at home.  Do your homework before you go.  Getting on the internet and checking what the weather is going to be at your destination will let you know what running clothes to bring.  In some cases people have already made suggestions for running in the city you are about to visit.

Once you are on your way, be sure to give your legs some time to work.  Embrace the layover.  I know for most of us layovers are frustrating hours spent at an airport and not at our destination.  For our legs however, they are a welcome chance to get some blood moving.  Skip the duty free store (the prices aren’t better anyway) and brisk-walk some laps around the terminal.
When on the plane be sure and get up every hour or two and walk around and do some stretching.  Do your stretching in between meal and drink services so the kitchen is empty.  Politely ask one of the flight attendants if you can use the space to stretch for a minute or two and most won’t have a problem with it.  Whatever you do don’t sit the entire time.  When you take your first step after sitting for nine hours you might just collapse into the aisle because your legs don’t quite work the same way as you remember, not that I’ve ever done that…

My favorite run of any given trip is usually my first run there.  I wake up a little early and head out into the city . I also find that waking up and going for a run the first morning really helps me get used to the time change.  The city is usually quiet in the morning and it gives me a good chance to orient myself and explore.   A spibelt can be a really handy way to carry your room key and a little map of the city if you want to bring one along.  Asking for directions can be a great conversation starter though!

If your holiday plans are taking you to somewhere in the Westernized world, you’ll probably be able to get your workout in without having to think too hard about it.  Running is very popular in many places and there are a lot of great places to run that are very accessible.  However, if your holiday travels are taking you more off the beaten path here are some things to consider:

  • Trying to minimize the attention you draw to yourself is helpful because, almost inevitably, some of the attention you draw to yourself will be attention you don’t want.  Again, doing your homework is key. If everyone on the street is dressed in darker clothing and you fly by in a neon track suit you are going to draw a lot of attention to yourself.   Also keep in mind that in many places running for fun is a very foreign idea.  In general people in these places only run if someone or something is chasing them, so just by being out there running you are drawing attention to yourself.  If you do bump into someone or accidentally knock over someone’s cart always stop and say you’re sorry.  Even though there may be a language barrier being apologetic and showing common courtesy will go a long way.
  • Ladies – if you are in a country where women typically dress very modestly consider covering up a little more than you usually would.   Not only does this show respect for the culture but it can save you from attracting a lot of negative attention.
  • Drivers in many parts of the world are not used to having runners around.  Drivers in a lot of places are crazy anyway. I’ve seen some drivers who think the sidewalk is another lane, and just because you have the right of way does not mean that they will give it to you.  Finding a park, river, or beach to run along is a good way to avoid having to deal with traffic.
  • Know where not to go.  Don’t think that just because you left your iPod in the hotel you can get away with going into shadier parts of town.  Thieves will steal anything on you, including your shoes.  Believe me, the middle of a strange city is not the place you want to see what this whole barefoot running thing is all about.  The desk clerk at the hotel is a good resource.  Even if they don’t have any great ideas about where to go on your run they will definitely be able to tell you where you shouldn’t go.

Running is always one of the things I look forward to most when traveling.  So have some fun putting in miles through the streets of Hong Kong, Paris, Timbuktu, or wherever you’ll be flying off to this holiday season.  They are bound to be miles you’ll never forget.

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