Running on Vacation: Why You Should Do It
One of the many things my dad has taught me over the years is that there’s no better way to explore a new place than with your feet. Running on vacation may sound counterintuitive and your first instinct may be, “Hell no!” The whole point of a vacation is to, well, be on vacation. I get that. But, give me the rest of this blog post to convince you that carving out time to run can be one of the best things you can do for your vacation experience.
For a Moment, You're a Local
Let’s be clear, I’m not always the best at looking like I’m a local when I’m running. Even with my GPS guiding me, when I’m running on vacation in a new place, I spend a lot of time looking confused on street corners. In those moments when I have my act together though, you better believe I’m waving to passing runners as if I own the place.
Not only is my “local” façade great for my ego, it also gives me admission to places I wouldn’t have thought to explore. I’m a huge fan of running through residential neighborhoods when I visit a new place. Doing so gives me a sense of real life in that place without the pretense of showy tourism and marketing. I’d do away with flashy monuments in favor of an old man sitting on his porch drinking a cup of coffee any day.
When I’m in “tourist” mode, I’m less likely to stumble upon the things that make a place normal. Yes, I want to see the monuments eventually, but I also want to see the porch sitters. Running does that.
It Sheds Light on the Little Things
In the same vein as the point above, running has a way of alerting us to the things we’d otherwise take for granted. There have been times I’ve been running in a new place and needed to take a pit stop on a bench to tie my shoes or pop into a coffee shop to grab a tissue and found myself appreciating the resources and accommodations a city provides. Even the amount of attention and maintenance that goes into crosswalk signals can be a huge factor while running and can positively influence my opinion of a place.
Infrastructure aside, I often notice things when I’m running that I don’t usually notice in other moments of the day. I look at flowers, cracks in the sidewalk, dogs that lunge for my ankles, baby strollers, cars, and even pigeons. While you may be thinking this is just a very abbreviated list of the things that could land me face first in a pothole while running, it’s also a list of things that are far more interesting than I normally realize.
When you think about it, we generally experience the world at two speeds: fast or slow. When I’m driving, I’m often moving too fast to notice every small detail. When I’m walking, I’m usually secure enough with my abilities to not fall in a pothole that I’m engaged in conversation or thinking about something else. For some reason, seeing the world at the speed of running makes me hyperaware of my surroundings. The clouds, streets, trees, and passing people are somehow more vibrant. While pigeons aren’t always interesting, at least I’m noticing them. It’s these small things that I appreciate while I’m running in a new place that truly makes a vacation special.
It Makes the Exotic More Familiar
Running on vacation is a reminder that, no matter where we are in the world and how extravagant it may be, it all comes back to putting one foot in front of the other. In such a big world in which two different cultures can seem like polar opposites, it’s nice to go for a run and realize there are certain things we will always have in common as a human species.
When I was living in El Salvador, running became a way to connect with a reality so different from my own. In a culture that felt so foreign to me, there was something comforting about waving to a local Salvadoran as we passed each other on the roads. No matter how different our lives may have been, in that moment, our realities were synced. There’s a lot about the world that I’ll never have the chance to experience and understand firsthand, but if running can connect me to another culture in even a small way, I’ll take it.
I don’t know about you, but there are times when my regular running routine gets stale. While I love the familiarity of my neighborhood streets, it’s nice to switch it up. When runners say they are going to use their vacations as breaks from running, I see a huge missed opportunity to add some variety and excitement to one’s running life. Yes, breaks from running are necessary and important, but you can always take running breaks when you’re at home. Running on vacation is one of the rare opportunities you get to run a route that’s different from the one you know like the back of your hand.
When we get stuck in a regular running routine, it’s easy to forget how fun and spontaneous running can be. By switching up your environment, you may reconnect with your passion for the sport in a way that will continue to motivate you even when you return home. Have fun while you’re running on vacation. Doing so will be a good reminder of why you’re pursuing the sport in the first place.
Where's the best place you've run on vacation? Let us know in the comments below!