As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, my husband and I decided to take some time this summer to travel with the kids while we still have a chance. Tempus fugits faster every month. Before we know it, the youngest will be out the door and we’ll be on to life’s next stage, one where we won’t buy three gallons of milk every week and wonder about the source of various smells wafting from various kid rooms. But also where we can’t pack ‘em up and bond in exotic locales. Like, most recently, Montreal.
After a day or two’s worth of stuffing myself with crepes and poutine, I managed to get my act together and get sweaty. Along the way, I figured out how I go about putting a vacation run together.
1. Look for the runners.
While I bring running gear with me most of the time, I don’t always use it. Sometimes, that has to do with not finding a window of time that works. But sometimes I don’t run because I don’t see other runners out and about. Runners will do their best to run outdoor so if I don’t see any, I figure there’s a reason. Maybe it’s too hot in the morning or the traffic is too bad or the air smells of skunk. Who knows? Respect the local knowledge.
2. The internet is a wonderful thing.
a. It’s tricky to find a place in the developed world (and a good chunk of the developing world) where there isn’t at least one Map My Run, Strava, or FastZach route. Most places have dozens on dozens of them. This is both a curse and a blessing. I was overwhelmed by the number of possibilities in Montreal and had to find other ways to winnow it down.
b. When overwhelmed by all of the routes documented by local runners, I just resorted to a google search of “Montreal Running Routes.” The first three pages I pulled up all mentioned the Lachine Canal. When I looked at where the hotel was and where a canal access point was, I knew I had a winner.
2.5. Nothing, however, replaces human intel.
You can always ask someone if there is a someone available. If you’re staying in a hotel, ask the front desk or a concierge - and some resorts and chains, like Westin, make a point of having maps ready to go. You can call a local running store, if there is one. This isn’t always an option - but if it is, seize it.
3. Manage your expectations.
For me, running either longer than normal or faster than normal in an unfamiliar location is a non-starter. I don’t want to spend my quality trip time cranky because my legs are tired and I’m hungry. Also: it’s hard to focus on a tempo run when you also have to navigate and be aware of your surroundings. Give yourself permission to just enjoy it.
4. Choose your time wisely.
I am a morning runner so I shoot to be out the door by 6:30, maybe 7, for a vacation run. It’s early enough that I don’t have to worry about crowds of people in my way but not so early that I’ll be the only one out there. And that “not the only one out there” part is crucial. Go when it is likely that there will be other runners/cyclists/tourists out whenever you are. In a strange place, I don’t want to be the only one on a path because it makes me too easy to pull off of the path without anyone noticing. I want to be able to scream and have my voice reach a half-dozen other people. Those strangers can’t all wish me harm and one, most likely, will call the cops. It’s sad that this is a consideration but here we are.
5. Plan your route - and tell someone what it is.
I don’t have to tell you this if you’ve seen 127 Hours. For the rest of you: figure out in advance where you’ll go and tell someone, even if you have to text it to you BRF back home. Also (and I can’t stress this enough): ROAD ID (or sharpie pertinent info on your belly).
5.5. It’s even better if you can convince someone to run with you.
The buddy system exists for a reason, yo.
6. Take all of the pictures ever.
I’m not a huge buyer of souvenirs. But I am a huge taker of pictures, especially when running someplace new. With them, I can viscerally remember what it was like to be in that place and at that time moving my body through space. Just looking at my snaps from Montreal, I can feel the morning cool damp and the sound of the canal and how slippery one of the wooden bridges was. The lavender - or something very like lavender - was in bloom and made the morning smell divine as the sun warmed it up. I remember the dogs and their walkers I passed, who would tell me “bonjour” and I’d reflectively say “good morning” and we’d both be amused by the other. Those are the moments I want to keep and, with a picture, I can.
What would you add to my list, BAMRs?