Book Review “Running Science: optimizing training and performance” by John Brewer

Sports scientist and Running Fitness columnist, John Brewer is the consultant editor for this book which is written by Brewer along with ten other contributors, mostly professors, scientists, and lecturers. Brewer has reviewed hundreds of scientific studies so there are many references to scientific journal articles throughout the book. Brewer and his co-contributors attempt to demonstrate how science and running are intertwined. As a scientist and runner, I was intrigued by this book.

Although this book is touted for beginner runners as well as the seasoned runner, I feel that it is definitely for the beginner runner. I also felt like there was only a minimal amount of knowledge I gained from this book but perhaps part of that is because I’m not only a seasoned runner but an experienced scientist as well. Perhaps if a seasoned runner that wasn’t a scientist read this book, they would gain more from it than I did.

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The book is laid out in a simplistic way that reminded me of a picture book, which in and of itself isn’t a bad thing. There are 192 pages divided into eight chapters. For example, the first chapter, “The runner’s body,” explains VOmax, anaerobic and aerobic respiration, lactic acid, the aging runner, and the physical benefits of running. Other chapters in the book cover running form, carb loading and nutrition, running psychology, training and racing, equipment covering everything from shoes to sunglasses, stretching and core strength, and general questions like physical limits for the marathon and women’s record running times versus men’s.

There was very little in this book that I hadn’t read somewhere else before. However, I do think it’s important to get different perspectives  on running-related information since so much of the information on running is subjective, so I didn’t feel like it was a waste of my time to read this book.

A couple of things from the book stood out to me:  1) the author points out that ice baths are best saved for periods of intense competition and not during training. I know ice baths are a bit controversial, but some people swear by them. I’m not going to get into the science explained about ice baths here, but suffice to say this isn’t the first time I’ve read that ice baths aren’t necessarily a good thing for runners and 2) the authors show evidence that ultramarathon runners have much higher pain tolerance than non-ultramarathon runners. This makes sense given how much more intense training ultramarathon runners have but I had never read any scientific articles about this before.

In summary, if you’re just getting started with running, this would be a great book to read. If you’ve been running for many years and haven’t read much about the science related to running, it would be a good book to read. However, if you’ve been running for a while and have read scientific articles about running, this may not be the book for you. Then again, borrow it from your library and see what you think. You might learn a thing or two.

Amazon link here

Have any of you read this book? If so, what did you think?

Happy running!

Donna

 

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Update on Half Marathon Training Plan-Round Two

After my debacle of a half marathon at the Superhero Half Marathon in New Jersey in May 2017, I decided I needed to find a new training plan for my next races. I felt like my endurance had dropped so much that I would start off fine at races but then I couldn’t maintain the pace and by the end I was just defeated. However, for the race after the one in New Jersey, Marshall University Half Marathon in West Virginia last November, I stuck with the same plan but made other changes like my running shoes and different stretches and did much better in WV. Still, I felt like I could do better and I needed to make some major changes in my training plan.

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Post-race Marshall University Half Marathon

For many years I had been following a “run less, run harder” kind of plan where I would run three days a week. One day was a hill or tempo run, one was speedwork, and the other was a long run. There were no easy or recovery run days. On other days I would lift weights, do yoga, or ride my bike. I think it worked pretty well for me for the first several years but I probably got used to it and my body wasn’t challenged enough any more.

I discovered a half marathon training plan that seemed considerably tougher but not so hard that I didn’t think I’d be able to complete the runs. With this plan, there are five running days consisting of two relatively easy days with strides at the end, a tempo or fartlek run, a speedwork day, and a long run. I still do yoga once a week, do strength training at the gym, and ride my bike once a week when I feel like it won’t be too much for that week.

The first real test for this training plan came at the Famous Idaho Potato Half Marathon  this past May. If you didn’t read my post on the race, I’ll cut to the chase. I felt like I did much “better” than at my previous several races. I usually am more interested in my age group placement than my actual finish time. Although I really enjoyed the course at the Marshall University Half Marathon in West Virginia, I finished 11th of 66 in my age group. In comparison, at the Famous Idaho Potato Half Marathon, I finished 7th out of 59 in my age group. I would say both races are pretty comparable as far as difficulty with the race in Idaho being a bit hillier so it seems like a fair comparison and there were similar number of women in my age group at both races. I’ll take this as an indication that my current training plan is a good idea for me and I’m going to stick with it.

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Post-race potato bar at the Famous Idaho Potato Half Marathon!

I’ve been running through the heat and humidity for my next race, which is in Alaska, so hopefully the hot weather training will only help. I had forgotten just how much harder it is to run through the summer months. The last time I trained for summer races was in 2015 when I ran Spearfish Canyon Half Marathon in South Dakota in July and Dixville Half Marathon in New Hampshire in September so I was training throughout the summer. My fastest finish at any half marathon was at Spearfish Canyon and I finished second in my age group at Dixville, so I’d say my summer training paid off. We’ll see if that holds true in Alaska next month!

How about you guys- how many times do you use and re-use the same training plan for races?

Happy running!

Donna

 

Some Things I Wish My Non-Runner Friends and Family Could Understand About Me as a Runner and Other Tips and Advice

I’ve been a runner since I was in grade school when I ran the mile, 800 meter, and 400 meter relay on the school track team. The only time in my life when I wasn’t running was when I took some time off during college after developing shin splints. I feel like running is in my blood, as cheesy as that might sound. All of this also gives me insight into some of the bizarre things that runners do, which honestly seem perfectly normal if you’re a runner. What are some of these strange things that runners do, you ask? Well, I’ve compiled a list and included some other runner’s insights in the hopes to maybe enlighten non-runners. Feel free to share this list with some of your non-running friends and family!

1.  When I’m finishing a run, I’ll sometimes run past my house and run circles around the neighbors’ cul-du-sacs so I can reach a certain distance on my running watch. For example, if my running plan has me running for 4 miles but I’ve miscalculated and am only at 3.85 miles when I return home, I’ll keep running to get in that last 0.15 miles. 4 miles means 4 miles, not 3.85 miles.

2.  If I run by you and you wave or honk your car horn at me and I don’t respond, don’t think I’m being rude. I often get into a sort of zone when I’m running and I may not notice other people or cars around me. Either that or I’m so dead-tired I just don’t have the energy to lift my hand up to wave.

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3.  Get this in your heads people. A marathon is the same distance no matter where in the world it’s held and it’s always 26.2 miles, not 26 miles either, but 26.2. A half marathon is likewise always the same distance no matter where or when it’s held, that being 13.1 miles.

4.  A half marathon is still a very long way to run, even if it isn’t a marathon. Please don’t ever say to a runner, “I know you just ran a half marathon, but when are you going to run a real marathon.” True story, someone asked me that once.

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Long Beach Marathon, the only “real” marathon I ever ran

5.  Not everyone that runs is trying to lose weight. Believe it or not, many runners are fine with their weight (although they might wish that extra 5 or 10 extra pounds would go away) and they aren’t running just to try to lose weight.

6.  When I get home from a long run, I’m tired, often extremely tired. All I want to do is lie on the floor while I cool off, and have someone bring me ice water and what ever post-run fuel I’m currently in the mood for. If you have a runner in your house that’s just returned from a long run, please drop everything you’re doing and help this poor soul out for the love of all things sacred.

7.  Runners often obsessively check the weather before a run or especially before an upcoming race. Weather can quite simply make or break a run. If it’s going to be super-hot and humid, all of my finish time expectations go out the window for a race because I know that kind of weather will physically make it harder for me to run and I will inevitably be slower than if it was cooler. I can also try to dress more appropriately for a run or race, depending on the weather.

8.  Runners often get bruised toenails, which can then fall off, and sometimes we get blisters on toes and feet. It’s best if you just don’t look at my feet, especially if you’re a non-runner because I’m quite sure this is one thing you’re never going to understand. If you’re a runner, we can compare our bruised and blistered feet without blinking an eye and most importantly without passing judgement.

9.  Don’t ask a runner if they “won” a race. Often just finishing a race is more than enough of an accomplishment.

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Winning first in my age group was a huge win for me as far as I was concerned

10.  If you’re cheering on a runner friend or relative at a race, don’t tell other runners that the finish is “just around the corner” when they have another 10 miles to go. For that matter, don’t even mention the finish, just lie and tell them they look great.

11.  All runners like to be cheered on at races. Runners appreciate all the cheesy signs you make, all of those cowbells you ring, and cheering them on. It’s like fuel to a runner and definitely helps.

12.  If a runner is injured and can’t run, know that this will be a very difficult time for them mentally and emotionally. For many of us, running is such a big part of our lives, if we can’t run, we don’t feel like ourselves. Every runner is different with different needs so ask, “What can I do for you? How can I help you?” Then actually do it (or don’t do it if they ask you to not do something). Most of all try to be patient and understanding with an injured runner.

What about all of my running friends out there? What are some things you wish you could share with your non-running friends and family to help them understand you as a runner? Other advice you’d like to share with non-runners?

Happy running!

Donna

 

How to Make the “Herd Mentality” Work for You Instead of Against You as a Runner

The herd mentality is certainly nothing new. Many of us grew up with our parents asking us, “If one of your friends jumped off a cliff, would you do the same?” Back then it was more commonly called peer pressure. What ever you choose to call it, peer pressure, herd mentality, mob mentality, or having pack mentality, it all boils down to the same thing, that we are influenced by the people around us.

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From The Horizon Tracker

Sometimes having herd mentality can be advantageous, if it drives you to do something positive that maybe you wouldn’t otherwise do on your own. Likewise, the herd mentality can be detrimental if it pushes you to do things that are unsafe or just not right for you at the moment. With the increase in social media platforms, the herd mentality has increased hugely in the last 5-10 years because we can now see what others are doing around the world, not just in our little corner of the world.

One way I deal with herd mentality as a runner is by realizing that everyone is different and what may work for one person may not work for me. Likewise, what may have worked at one point in my life may not always work for me. For example, I run half marathons and have had the goal of running a half marathon in all fifty states in the US for many years now.

If I let fomo (fear of missing out) get to me, I would sign up for more races than I currently do, based on what my fellow runners are doing. The SeaWheeze Half Marathon in Vancouver looks like an amazing race and I know several people who have run it. The website even claims: “SeaWheeze isn’t your average half marathon. In fact, it may just be the most breathtakingly beautiful and ridiculously fun half marathon in the world.” How could I possibly not run this race?!

Quite simply, my body (and my wallet) can only handle a few half marathons a year. Although I used to run four half marathons a year (one every season), I’m currently running three a year because I’ve run all of the southern states during the winter months and am not willing to run a half marathon in say Minnesota in February! If I were to run SeaWheeze, that’s one less state I can run in to make my goal. I’m up to 42 states so I feel like it’s critical to not get off-focus at this point.

Herd mentality can work to your advantage if you need a little nudge or push. For example, if you’re an evening runner and you’ve had a particularly rough day at work and are just not in the mood to run after work. You check Instagram and notice that someone you follow just ran 5 miles and had “one of the best runs ever” despite having a hard time getting out the door, and they were so glad they took that first step and went for a run. You may see this and think, “OK. If she can do it, so can I” and go on to have a good run, although maybe not “one of the best runs ever” but a good run is better than no run, right?

When taken to the extreme, though, herd mentality can be bad. Say you planned on running 4 miles because that’s what was in your training plan for that day, but you saw on Strava that your friend just ran 5.5 miles. You decide to run 5.5 miles as well and you feel great afterwards, so you think that was a good thing after all. Then the next day you’re supposed to take a rest day but your friend just ran 4 miles, and you decide to run 4 miles as well. You continue down this path for several days which turn into a couple of weeks and that’s when the wheels start to fall off. You’ve been pushing yourself too hard for too long and it all comes crashing down. You think maybe you just need to take a rest day, but even after a day off you develop a nagging pain in your foot. That nagging pain gets worse and before you know it you have a full-blown running injury and have to take some serious time off now.

On the flip side of herd mentality is our influence on others. Every post we put out there on social media is viewed by someone and sometimes many people. We may not even realize how much we influence other runners. Someone else may be on the receiving end of that post you put on Instagram about running 18 miles even though you had a fever and cold and “probably shouldn’t have gone for that run.”

I always try to think before I post and use the rule of thumb that if it’s not something I wouldn’t want put on the front page of my local newspaper, I probably shouldn’t post it. Beyond that, though, I try to think how what I’m posting might be interpreted by others. Would I recommend that someone run 18 miles when they were sick with a fever? No, so I probably shouldn’t post something like that, let alone actually do that. There’s nothing badass about not making good decisions for your body and your health.

I’m not trying to be all preachy here. I was just thinking about this one day when I was running and how no one really talks about this subject. It seems like it’s gotten worse over the years because of Instagram and Facebook, or I guess it’s just more obvious.

What do you all think? Are you effected by the herd mentality because of social media or do you just stick to your own running schedule regardless of what you see others doing?

Happy running!

Donna

 

Book Review- Runner’s World Race Everything: How to Conquer Any Race at Any Distance in Any Environment and Have Fun Doing It by Bart Yasso

I’m a huge fan of Bart Yasso so when I saw this book was out, I put in a request through my library for an interlibrary loan immediately. To cut to the chase, I was not disappointed after reading it, either. The foreword by David Willey, editor in chief of Runner’s World is heartfelt and full of anecdotes and gives some good background information on Mr. Yasso.

For those of you who don’t already know, Bart Yasso started working at Runner’s World in 1987 until he retired at the end of 2017. Over the years, Yasso ran pretty much every distance race you can think of and traveled over the world. It’s this huge amass of experiences that allowed him to write this book.

This book was a quick read for me; it’s 203 pages with the index and is divided into 10 chapters. Yasso begins with the reasons to race, goes to his training principles, and has chapters on 5ks, 10ks, half marathons, marathons, ultramarathons, unconventional events, and finishes with relays and multiple race events. Finally, the last chapter is on building longevity for long runs.

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For each chapter on the various race distances, he talks about his favorite race for that distance. The Philadelphia Distance Run (now the Rock ‘N” Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon) is his favorite half marathon, for example. I was fortunate enough to run this race when it was still the Philadelphia Distance Run, and it was a fun one, but I wouldn’t say it was my favorite. Speaking from experience, Yasso gives valuable tips and advice for the races he’s personally run and some fun history. There are also beginner and seasoned runner training plans for each distance along with key workouts including why and when you should do them.

Yasso 800s are also mentioned in the book. Back in 1981, Yasso was training for a 2:50 marathon to qualify for Boston. He noticed that the average time it took to run 10 x 800 meters corresponded to his marathon finish times. For example, if it took him 2 minutes, 40 seconds to run each 800-meter interval of a 10 x 800 workout, with a 400-meter recovery jog in between, his marathon time would be about 2 hours and 40 minutes. In 1993 he shared this knowledge with Amby Burfoot, the editor at the time of Runner’s World, who then put the workout in the October 1994 issue of the magazine and called them Yasso 800s.

One thing that happened to Yasso that profoundly effected his health and running is he contracted Lyme disease in 1990. He was misdiagnosed early on and went years before he was appropriately treated. He says his health was stable until a second bout of Lyme disease in 1997 and a third bout in 2002. For anyone not familiar with Lyme disease, the tick borne illness can cause debilitating arthritis in the joints, swelling, fatigue, headaches, nerve problems, heart problems, just to name a few. Yasso has continued to run through Lyme disease but he’s said his races have been a lot less and slower than previously.

In the final chapter, Yasso says he’s run more than 1,200 races over the last 40 years and he has some advice on how others might continue running and racing as they age. In typical Bart Yasso fashion, he does so in a way that’s not pushy or preachy. He simply says what works for him:  30 minutes of strength training twice a week, dynamic warmup before running, cross-training twice a week, and a whole-foods-based diet (he’s vegetarian).

I think the final few pages sum up Bart Yasso’s life as a whole. The section “Embracing the Community” is about being part of the running community where you live. It’s about volunteering at races, encouraging people to start running, and to “inspire others to find health, joy, and meaning in running.” If only we could all be such wonderful running ambassadors as Bart Yasso has been and continues to do so!

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Bart Yasso with A Fast Paced Life blogger

Link to buy book on Amazon here.

Have any of you read this book? I know some of you follow his philosophy of running all the races you can and inspiring others to run- tell me about your experiences!

Happy running!

Donna

Beautiful Boise- There’s so Much More to Boise, Idaho Than Just Potatoes!

My first glimpse of Idaho was when I drove through Coeur d’Alene, Idaho from Spokane, Washington several years ago on my way to Missoula, Montana and parts of Canada. I was in awe of the natural beauty of that part of Idaho and I couldn’t wait to go back and actually spend some time in Idaho. I’m running a half marathon in all 50 states in the United States, and for my race in Idaho, I chose to run in Boise based on some race reviews of Boise by other runners. If you’d like to read about my half marathon, The Famous Idaho Potato Half Marathon, just click here for the link.

When I arrived in Boise, I immediately thought of Missoula. Boise and Missoula are both in valleys surrounded by beautiful mountains. I loved Missoula so of course I also loved Boise right away. The first thing I did when I reached my Airbnb house was go for a run. I always love running in new places because I really get a feel for the area and it helps me get my bearings quickly.

The next day we went to the Idaho Botanical Garden and this is probably one of the best botanical gardens I’ve been to anywhere. At first glance, my daughter was a little disappointed, so when you drive up to the garden, don’t be put off by first impressions. When you get further into the garden, the beauty of it unfolds before you, so just keep walking.

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Idaho Botanical Garden

As is the case with most botanical gardens, the Idaho Botanical Garden is divided into several sections, like the English Garden, the Herb Garden, Firewise Garden, and Meditation Garden, just to name a few. Words really can’t describe this place, though. You really have to see it for yourself. We spent a little over an hour and a half here but you could bring a picnic lunch and spend a few hours here easily. There are plenty of seating areas, restrooms, and a gift shop. Pets are not permitted. Admission is $7 for adults and $5 for kids ages 5 to 12.

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Idaho Botanical Garden

Boise is an outdoor lover’s paradise. There are trails and greenways everywhere for walking, running, and cycling, or hiking up mountainsides. During our time in Boise, we went hiking several days and each time the scenery just kept getting better. One of my favorite places to hike in the Boise area is Hulls Gulch. Hulls Gulch has several trails and you can spend days on end here if you hiked all of the trails. We chose a couple of trails here, including Red Cliffs Trail and were rewarded with these views.

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Hulls Gulch Hiking Area

Another place we went hiking that was incredible is Bogus Basin, where we hiked the Around the Mountain trail, or at least a portion of it. This is a ski resort during the winter months but they have trails for horseback riding, mountain biking, and hiking during warmer months. There are some other summer activities like a toboggan ride and the lifts are open for quick access to the top of the mountain. We were there a few days before they opened for the summer season, so the cafe, lifts, and everything else was closed, but that just meant we pretty much had the trail to ourselves except for a few mountain bikers we passed.

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Bogus Basin

My absolute favorite hiking place in the Boise area is Lucky Peak State Park. The park was the start for the Famous Idaho Potato Half Marathon, where we wound through the canyon for the first few miles and I ran my 44th half marathon in my 42nd state. A few days after my race, my family and I drove to the park and hiked up Cervidae Peak, which is 4.4 miles out and back, 1883 foot elevation gain, with views of two rivers and the marina directly below. This is a hard trail, pretty much straight up and straight back down but it is worth it for the incredible views.

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Lucky Peak State Park

If you’re not into hiking, downtown Boise is also a cool place with many great restaurants and shops. We discovered Freak Alley and all of the murals there and took a ton of photos while we walked around and admired the art work. We also popped into some of the unique shops and a small bookstore. Boise Art Museum looks like a great place, but we chose to hike instead of go there so I can’t speak from experience. Another cool place you can tour is the Old Idaho Penitentiary with its 19th-century prison cells and gallows, plus historic military weaponry.

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Freak Alley Gallery

Idaho has to be one of the most under-rated states in the United States in my opinion, especially by east coasters, many of whom don’t even know for sure where Idaho is and all they relate it to is potatoes. It is one of the most beautiful states I’ve been to, and is full of outdoor activities year-round. Most importantly, everyone we talked to, whether while hiking or in town was friendly and helpful. I’ve often said I tend to judge a city by how runner-friendly it is, and not only is Boise runner-friendly, it’s also outdoor-enthusiast-friendly with all of the options available. That’s my kind of town! 

Have any of you been to Idaho? If so, where did you go and did you love it as much as I did?

Happy travels!

Donna

 

 

Running While on Vacation

Over the years, I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to 42 states in the United States where I’ve run a half marathon in each state. I’ve also traveled throughout the Caribbean, Mexico, Canada, several countries in Europe, Chile, and New Zealand for vacations. Since I’ve often been training for a half marathon while on vacation, I’ve tried to squeeze in a run whenever I can. This hasn’t always been easy to do, especially if you don’t speak the language fluently and don’t know the area well.

I’ve tried many different approaches to running while on vacation, some have worked over and over again and others not so much. I’d like to share some of what has and hasn’t worked for me here and would love for you to share some things that have worked for you when running on vacation.

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Running in the Canary Islands was great once I figured out where to run!

Probably one of the biggest things that ensures I’ll actually run while on vacation is to make it a priority to follow my training plan. For example, if I’m supposed to run for 4 miles on Tuesday while I’m on vacation according to my training plan, it almost always works best if I go out first thing in the morning to run. I’m not a morning person but I can manage to get up and out the door around 7 am even on vacation (later if it’s not going to be a hot day). That way my run is out of the way and it’s not looming over my head for the rest of the day until I run.

I always run with my phone when I’m on vacation as well. If I get lost or a sudden thunderstorm comes on for example, it gives me peace of mind to know I can call my husband to come and pick me up. I’ve never actually had to do this, thankfully, but it is better to be safe just in case.

I’ll look for running routes on Strava and MapMyRun. Heck, I’ve even looked on Google Maps to find running routes using the street view. I’ll also check local running stores and local running communities to see if they have running routes posted online. In the past I’ve asked the concierge or people at the front desk of hotels for running routes, but that’s been so unproductive I’ve stopped doing that. If the person you’re asking isn’t a runner, you’re wasting your time asking for running routes.

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Even though it’s usually hot and humid when we go the, I still have fun running in Charleston, SC and love all of these huge old trees!

I’m cognizant of what I eat before going for a run. Once when I was spending time with my husband’s family out of town, I ate bacon, eggs, and toast for breakfast and then went to go run about 45 minutes later. Big mistake. I’ve never done anything like that since then. If it’s a cooler day and I’m going to run around early evening, I know better than to have a big, rich dessert that won’t sit well in my stomach before a run (I’ll save that dessert for after I run!). I’ll pack snacks or buy some when I get to my destination that I know I can eat as soon as I wake up and eat before I go run. Speaking of snacks, I’ll also pack Honey Stinger bars to eat before or after I run and I always bring Nuun tablets to put in my water bottles during my runs. The point is, pack whatever it is you like to eat and/or drink before, during, and after you go for a run so you’ll have it with you on vacation.

Another big thing when running on vacation is to be flexible. I’ve mapped out runs before only to find out the street suddenly was closed due to construction so I’d have to make up my own detour. I’ve also been unable to find places to go for a long run based on what I’ve found on Strava or other places online because what was online was only short distances, so I’ve just gone out on my own and made it up as I went along. Sometimes the places haven’t been the most scenic but I’ve made it work.

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I ran in the bike lane here in Williamsburg, Virginia recently. At least it was shaded!

If you’re going to be in an area for more than a couple of days, look for possible running routes when you’re out driving around, especially if another person is driving. I did this when I was in the Canary Islands. The first day I went for a run, I ended up running along a fairly busy road and it was not ideal running conditions. Later that evening, I saw people walking along what looked like it might be a running path so the next time I went for a run, I ran in that direction and struck gold! It turned out to be a fabulous pedestrian path along the water that went for just the right distance for me.

Do any of you enjoy running on vacation or do you tend to just relax or spend your time with family or friends instead? What tips do you have for running while on vacation for those of you that do run on vacation?

Happy running!

Donna