It’s that time of the year when a lot of us take the chance to get away from it all, but does “all” have to include running? A few years ago running didn’t feature in my day-to-day plans let alone being part of my holiday plans however as my passion for running has grown, it has been harder to leave it behind.
An amazing 2 week European Road Trip was something I’d been looking forward to, a lot. Even though I wasn’t training for anything in particular, two weeks holiday without running was not an option. Stopping in 9 different hotels in 5 different countries whilst driving 1000 miles wasn’t an ideal itinerary for holiday running but at the same time it gave me a fresh challenge: 5 countries = 5 runs, plus a bonus 6th run pretending to be a Formula 1 car on the streets of the principality of Monaco.
As well as telling you a little about my holiday running adventure, I want to share some tips to make holiday running just a little bit easier.
Before you even head for the airport, there are a couple of tips that spring to mind. Not many of us like packing but it’s even more important if you want to enjoy your holiday runs.
On arriving on the continent I suddenly remembered that my plan to run in Monaco for my “French” run didn’t really cut the mustard as it’s a principality in it’s own right, so early on I realised that my 5 sets of undercrackers would have to be stretched to 6 runs; not a nice thought. In hindsight, when counting out my kit, I should have added “and one for luck”.
Holiday Running Top Tip #1: Pack enough kit for the runs you have planned and maybe some for the ones you haven’t. Unless you want to reuse those sweaty unmentionables a second time of course.
In all the excitement of going on holiday, you need to consider what to take. Even if you’ve got space, throwing every bit of running kit you have in a bag “just in case” is only going to weigh you down and risk those excess baggage charges. Think about the likely terrain you’ll be running on but especially consider the “normal” weather for the area you are going as well as checking local forecasts. It’s no good only having your running vest and short shorts if Mallorca is forecast to have a cold snap with torrential rain. That rain jacket is doing no good at home. Equally, a hat, sunglasses and other sun protection is vital if you find yourself in temperatures we can only dream of in the UK!
Holiday Running Top Tip #2: Pack the right kit for where you’re going. Remember, you’re not just heading out your front door into the British weather.
Holiday Running Mini Tip: Stuff your trainers with your running socks and stuff your running shorts and shirts in around them. It’s not going to matter that they’re crumpled after you’ve run a few miles, is it?
Holiday Run 1 – Munich, Germany (Day 2, 7.5km)
Flying into Germany was a breeze. Adjusting to the 20 degree temperature swing from chilly Heathrow to heatwave Munich was a touch trickier! We had two nights in town before picking up the car to start the road trip so the only option was to get up early on the morning of my birthday if I was to get Country #1 under my belt. As it turns out, 10am was not early enough! It was already in the high twenties on the way to hitting 35 degrees (that’s 95ºF for those of you who use old money) so along with the city traffic, it was tough going, especially as I ran a couple of kilometers more than I’d planned. Luckily my miCoach map helped me back!
Holiday Running Top Tip #3: Plan your route and take a map if necessary. Exploring a new place is part of the fun, but trying to locate a hotel in an unfamiliar place is like looking for a needle in a haystack.
Holiday Run 2 – Innsbruck, Austria (Day 4, 6.9km)
We arrived into Innsbruck after a few hours driving with just enough time to hot foot it up the Nordkettenbahnen – a combination of funicular railway and cable cars get you up the mountain – to enjoy a beer overlooking the town and river far below which meant running in Austria would have to wait until the morning.
It wasn’t quite as hot as Munich but it was still warmer than Blighty so it was another early start!
Holiday Running Top Tip #4: Work around the weather. You may be on holiday but if you want to avoid junk miles then run when the weather is suitable. If it means getting up earlier rather than risking heat stroke, set that alarm!
Holiday Run 3 – Montreux, Switzerland (Day 8, 8.4km)
Between my 2nd and 3rd runs we’d cover a few more hundred kilometres in the car, travelling first to Cellerina, near St Moritz, in Switzerland, and both Menaggio on Lake Como and Etroubles at the foot of the Grand St Bernard pass, in Italy. I had to pace myself – I could have easily run round the lake at St Moritz (not only because it was beautiful but also for the experience of running at 1822 metres above sea level) but I needed to look after my legs; a third run in 5 days on top of the tourist miles we were walking wouldn’t work. Also, I’d ran at Lake Como last year so I was saving my Italian run for something a little more special!
Holiday Running Top Tip #5: Don’t over do it. New and interesting scenery is a massive pull but remember, unless of course you’re in serious training for something, you’re on holiday so remember you’re supposed to be recharging too!
So my Switzerland run was along the shoreline of Lake Geneva, a flat (or so I thought!) and almost traffic free out and back, with Chateau de Chillon as the turning point. It was a beautiful run and it gave me an opportunity to do something other than an “easy” run.
Holiday Run 4 – Annecy, France (Day 9, 5.7km)
To ensure a couple of non-running days in Nice at the end of the holiday, I needed to run twice in two days to tick my French run off the list. With our longest day of driving the next day, I opted for an evening run in Annecy.
We’d already had a wander around and having found both the lake and the castle I knew immediately that I could combine a few hill reps after a nice warm up along the flat lakeside path. What this meant was not only negotiating a series of road crossings but also the throngs of tourists heading out for their evening meal! Patience was required at the road crossings (most of Europe seemed to very strictly obey pedestrian crossing signals and I didn’t want to risk being told off, or hit by a zipping moped) and nimble toes were needed in the pedestrian areas to weave around the meanderers and indecisive.
Holiday Running Top Tip #6: Watch out for traffic, both with wheels and on foot. The rules of the road may well be different from what you are used to, the temperament of the people most certainly will be so be more cautious than you would normally be; that glance over your shoulder might just be in the wrong direction. There’s no glory in putting an EHIC card to the test!
Holiday Run 5 – Turin, Italy (Day 11, 5.0km) 09:45
Now, I don’t want to come across as a geek but I think there is no escaping it. Geek alert number 1: a visit to Turin would not be complete without checking out at least some of the Italian Job locations, especially the massive Fiat factory with the test track on the roof. Part of this mighty factory now houses a hotel. Convenient, I hear you say. Absolutely, is my retort. And here is geek alert number 2: if one discovers that the said hotel, in the the said factory has exclusive access to the said roof test track, now solely used for running, what is one to do? The search for accommodation in Turin was over!
It appeared that the old Fiat high brass had the foresight that future generations would enjoy running on top of their factory and made it perfectly flat and exactly 1 kilometre per lap. Very handy for doing some interval work!
Holiday Running Top Tip #7: You can still put a session in. You might be on holiday but there’s no point bringing your kit if you’re just going to clock up junk miles – find routes that will allow you to do a hill session or some intervals. You don’t have to go hell for leather (what does that even mean!), you’re on holiday!
Holiday Running Mini Tip: Don’t get overawed by your location and forget to start your GPS! Yes, I was so excited to try out the “banking” that I forgot to start my GPS. Luckily for me, I soon worked out a lap was 1km so it didn’t really matter. And no, I didn’t make it far up the banking. And yes, I did have “On Days Like These” and “The Self Preservation Society” running through my head at the time!
Holiday Run 6 – Monaco (Day 13, 9.8km)
The final run of my 1000 mile European Road Trip was the one I was most looking forward to. Having grown up in Britain’s “Motorsport Valley” and with family working in the industry, I was always going to grow up to be a Formula 1 fan. So being just a handful of kilometres away from the world’s most extraordinary motor racing circuit, come High Street, it would have been rude for me not to have a run round the circuit. And 3 laps is almost bang on 10k – it was written in the stars!
We were staying in Nice (in order to catch the Tour de France the day after) so it was a short train ride to get to Monaco which was no bother but we had a leisurely wake up which meant I was going to be running in the late morning heat. I’d factored that in, and it was more about the experience than the time. It was easier than I thought to navigate the streets in their civilian clothes and the traffic was lighter than I’d expected, although much more expensive than any of the other streets I’ve run in!
I’d agreed that doing a 10k run at the start of a sightseeing day was better than trying to do it afterwards but this did mean having to have a make shift “dry shower” in a public toilet cubicle with “wet wipes”. Classy, I know; the Monegasques and Monacans (and there is a difference) would be equally impressed I’m sure!
Holiday Running Top Tip #8: Plan where you’ll freshen up. If you’re not going to end up back at your hotel, think about what else you may need to take with you.
My wife and I had arranged a meeting point with an approximate rendezvous in 60 minutes; while she went for a wander with her camera, I took to the streets. Bizarrely we both returned to the spot at exactly the same time! My lovely wife dashed to the supermarket and returned with a large bottle of cold water to top me back up, and boy, did I need it!
Holiday Running Top Tip #9: Don’t forget hydration. If you don’t want to run with a bottle take a small amount of money so you can grab a drink from a local shop – most supermarkets seem to sell a variety of bottled drinks for less than 2 Euros.
Holiday Running Mini Tip: Having an understanding travel companion makes holiday running much easier, just remember it’s their holiday too!
Now I’ve been purposefully contradictory in some of my statements regarding whether to take it easy or not. I wanted to demonstrate that holiday running isn’t just one type of running and hopefully will encourage some more of you to give it a go in the future. The important thing is that you enjoy it. Holidays aren’t that frequent so it would be a shame to spoil it by ending up with an injury or torturing yourself with early mornings or hard session. Equally, there’s no value in just running for the sake of it. I guess what I’d say is get the balance right which leads me nicely to my 10th and final tip:
Holiday Running Top Tip #10: Remember to enjoy it!
Have you got any holiday running tips of your own? Have you got any holiday running questions? Let me know.