Update: This post originally appeared in the summer of 2012, and has been updated for October 2018.
Whether you subconsciously do it or not, a lot of thought goes into planning a running route. People have preferences depending on training run, time of day, traffic, amount of people, and so on. I wanted to go into a little bit of detail about some of these options to help you (and myself!) plan the best running routes for your enjoyment and safety. Here are my tips for choosing a running route:
no matter where you are running, you can always take selfies while you workout!
1.) Type of run:
This will weigh heavily on some of the other things I mention so I thought I would bring it up first. A long run or an easy run may take you anywhere on any terrain at any time, but for a hill workout, for instance, you need well…a route with hills! So point being, take these suggestions with a grain of salt and adjust them according to the needs of your run for that day. Also, I get bored pretty quickly and would rather run a loop somewhere as opposed to up and down the same streets over and over. Example: My parents live in a big neighborhood with a clubhouse in the middle. When I visit, I park at the clubhouse and put water and fuel there, then run in one direction and back to my car, then the other direction and back to my car. This way I don’t get bored on the same streets!
This is way important, especially in light of things happening to people on running trails in the news over the past couple of years. Please don’t be one of those people who say “it will never happen to me”, because that thought alone makes you vulnerable. If you are running alone, you need to REALLY consider running:
-in an area with a lot of people.
-out in the open (not on a trail in the woods).
-carrying a taser, pepper spray,* your cell phone.
-when the sun is up and the area is well lit.
-with reflective gear on to make yourself visible.
-ALWAYS tell someone where you are going and when you expect to be back.
Bobby refuses to let me run out on the highway or on the trails by myself, and I totally understand why. Even if you live in a “safe area” bad things can happen. Being observant and not playing your music too loud so it drowns out approaching people or animals can be a hindrance. Wearing headphones that still allow ambient noise is something I would highly suggest if you must listen to music.
I run along the beach during the day when there is a lot of traffic and other people out on the path. I always carry my cell phone and wear my road ID.
The biggest weather concern where I live is the heat and humidity. A lot of thought goes into my weekend long runs due to the glaring sun and high temps. Running early in the morning or late in the evening is something I try to do (when Bobby is with me of course). We also try our best to find well-shaded areas, areas without a lot of traffic, and areas with water fountains, or a turn around point where we can pass by the car for extra fuel and water. Trails are a great option for the heat if they are shaded but you may need to bring along your own water bottle depending on the location.
these trees don’t provide much shade.
Running in the rain is ok (as long as it’s not lightning) but be careful running on roads, as they can be slippery and cars may not be able to brake as well. We don’t get a lot of cold weather, but when we do we bundle up and hit a sunny route to keep us warm and try to stay out of the wind as much as possible.
I will be the first to admit I get pretty bored on long runs. Having somewhere new to run can be a great change and make things more interesting. Depending on the distance you need to go, you can plan to run a loop (not as boring) or an out and back (way boring!). I prefer to run on a beach or Boardwalk, or where there are a lot of people so I have different things to look at. Also, to keep boredom away, try running your usual route backward. I have different places I run depending on how far I have to go. (3 mile loop, 6 mile loop, etc). Also, don’t count out the treadmill to mix things up! I have done 10 mile long runs, half outside and half on a treadmill when it gets too hot outside.
The lakefront in Louisiana is a beautiful place to run.
It may be a slight inconvenience to drive somewhere to run, but if it will help me run faster and be less bored, I am willing to drive a bit to get the job done.
beach running is fun (but so tough!)
The same goes for picking races. I try to choose ones in fun cities, or somewhere scenic. I ran an out and back race that went through this boring road with no houses one time and it was 13.1 miles of torture!
races along the beach are a lot of fun
So are races in Disney World!
Bottom line, with a little bit of planning and effort on your part, you can make running more fun and not as “boring”. If you are stuck in a training rut, try to make sure you are having the best experience based on the weather, times of day, your safety, scenery, and the type of run.
QOTD: Do you have any other tips for choosing a running route?
Related: 5 Tips for running when you travel
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