If you run enough, sooner or later chances are pretty good you’ll grow tired of running past the same places over and over again. Getting stuck in a running rut can suck the joy out of running if you don’t do something to mix up your running routes, or at least it can for me. Last year I was struggling with this and I was in serious need of some new running routes. I felt like I was running the same paths and/or streets every week and I desperately needed some new places to run.
The funny thing is for years I would run my long run on the same exact path every single Saturday. I would tell my fellow runner co-workers how great this converted railway trail was and how much I liked running there. Fast-forward to present day and I would never choose to run there. I find it terribly boring and monotonous with pretty much the same scenery for miles on end.
Sure, this path is scenic to the newcomer, with trees on both sides and the occasional bridge over a small creek. There’s crushed gravel in parts, asphalt in parts, and packed dirt in other parts. What it’s lacking in is a change of scenery, though, since it was once a railway line and goes in a straight path through the woods. There are no turns, no curves even, just miles and miles of one straight path.
I am somewhat a creature of habit, however, and I run all of my long runs on the same trail now, but there’s a ton of variety along this path. This is a greenway, so it’s asphalt for the most part, but there are large sections of wood (boardwalks, for lack of a better term) that go over wetlands and other water sections like creeks. There are also many twists and turns along the way, with one tunnel, and some hills to mix things up. The greenway goes along and through many different neighborhoods so you may see a wide variety of trees, flowers, ponds, houses, and the occasional road to cross (but not too many). In short, I never get bored of the scenery here plus there are often adorable dogs being walked along the way to brighten my run.
As I said earlier, though, I began to grow bored of the running routes I was running during the week and I started Exploring While Running and Fighting Boredom. I discovered entire neighborhoods that I previously never even knew existed, just by deciding to run somewhere and see what was there. Instead of running the neighborhoods around where I lived, I would change into my running clothes on my way out of work, stop at a place along the way home, and just park my car and start running. Sometimes this worked out, sometimes it didn’t but I learned a few things along the way.
One big thing I started doing that was really simple but I had never thought to do it before is open up Google maps, choose a neighborhood, search for greenways or trails, and figure out where they are in relation to the neighborhood. I’m lucky that we have miles and miles of greenways and other running/walking/cycling paths in the 20 mile radius between and around my home and work places, although unless you live in a particular neighborhood you may never even know that greenway exists unless you look it up like I did.
I also do a Google search for running paths and include the city and state I want to run in. Inevitably what will come up includes greenways, routes from mapmyrun.com, traillink.com, and alltrails.com. Yelp also comes up, with links to greenways and parks. You do have to register with traillink but it’s free, with the option to upgrade for $29.99/year. You also have to register with alltrails.com if you do anything other than just a simple search, but again, it’s free for the basic plan and $29.99/year for pro. I don’t use either enough to warrant paying for the upgraded plans but the basic plans are really basic.
You can also search local running stores online whether you’ll be running in your area and want new places to run or will be running while on vacation. Sometimes if they do group runs, the routes and days/times will be on their calendar, but if not you can always give them a call and ask where they recommend for safe places to run. Another option is to try meetup.com where you can search for running groups. Click their sports & fitness box and go from there.
Sometimes you have to just think differently about your runs if you want to mix things up. Instead of running straight out your door and heading down the same way you always run, just make little changes like going right instead of left or straight instead of turning like you usually do. You can make as many or few of these changes along the route as you feel like that day. Just pay attention when you make changes so you don’t get lost!
You can also try running near your work place if you drive to work but don’t normally run near where you work. If you’re lucky enough to have showers at your work place, you have multiple options of when to run- before work, during your lunch break, or after work but before you drive home. If you don’t have showers at work, you’ll have to either make due with body wipes and deodorant (which you can possibly get by with during cool to cold months if you don’t sweat a lot) or run after work but before you drive home. Just be sure to bring a towel for your car seat (and another small one to dry off with before you get in your car).
If you have school-age children who are in after-school activities, you can even run near their school. Be sure to allow yourself plenty of time to drive there, run, and have a bit of a buffer before you pick them up. I’ve run during my daughter’s soccer and swim practices many times. This helps break up the monotony of not running in the same areas all the time plus gives you something productive to do rather than just blowing that time sitting around on your phone while they’re at practice.
What about you guys? Do you prefer to run the same routes every week or do you like to mix things up? If you do mix things up, what do you do to choose new running routes?