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CHOOSING YOUR RUNNING ROUTES

One of the most common reasons why runners fall out of love with the sport is because they get bored. And they often get bored because they are running the same old routes. Variety is the spice of life and this is nowhere more applicable than in running. If you don't get a good selection of options sorted from day one then boredom is around the corner. Even if you have to get in the car, then do it.
IT'S AT THE HEART OF YOUR RUNNING

Where you run absolutely affects your enjoyment of your running and will impact on how successful you are in achieving your running goal if you have one. If you are training for a half marathon for example you're going to be running at least three times a week for potentially sixteen weeks, so you need to make sure you enjoy where you're running. Boredom will be your biggest enemy and while the same route might be fine for the first two or three weeks it definitely won't be for the whole period. You need to have options and you need to have routes that are adaptable and that are safe. They also need to replicate the type of gradients that your event will present to you on race day. No point in training in an area with no hills if your event is full of them.


Exploring new areas is always good. You need to keep looking forward to your runs and this is more likely to happen if you're going to new places, rather than the same old route every other day. However, an element of pre-planning is very important



SHOULD YOU PLAN A RUNNING ROUTE IN ADVANCE?

There are two ways to find a new running route. One is to 'stumble upon it' and the other is to plan it in advance. There are pros and cons with each and there are occasions when one approach is better than another.


If you are following a training plan, whether it's for weight loss, for a specific distance goal, or for an event the plan will include an amount of 'time on feet', or mileage each week, split into a number of days, with those days increasing as the plan progresses. It's very specific and you need to have a running route that matches those requirements planned out in advance. It adds an element of risk and uncertainty to your plan if you make up the route as you go along. You might well get it wrong and end up going too far or not far enough.


If you aren't working towards a specific target and you're purely running as part of a general fitness programme, or just occasionally for fun then the 'make it up as you go along' approach is ok, but does of course still have some risks. It won't impact on the success or otherwise of a training plan, because you aren't following one, but it still comes with the risks. The upside of this approach is the joy that running in totally new places brings and the positive feelings that come from finding new places to run, especially if they are on your doorstep. Being on holidays and exploring new running routes can be a great experience and it can set up your trip. The potential downsides of this approach include the possibility of getting lost, of getting into unsafe areas, and of going too far and causing an injury.


There are so many ways of planning running routes now that leaving it to chance if you're training for a specific goal is not an option.



HOW TO SELECT A ROUTE

The world of technology has revolutionised pretty much every aspect of our lives and running is no different. It's now possible to put together a whole series of running routes without leaving your home. A bit of time online planning your options will make such a difference to how much you enjoy your running. Remember that you don't always need to start your route from home. To open up many other possibilities consider driving a few miles. and starting a bit further away from home.


  • Google Maps


Using a desktop or laptop computer is the best way of building routes on Google Maps, rather than on your phone. You can send it to your phone once you're done. It's very easy and won't take too long.

  1. On your computer, open Google Maps.

  2. Select your starting point and right click on it. A pop up will appear with 'directions from here' an option. Click on that.

  3. On the left, below the starting point that you selected, click the final destination and Google Maps will give you some options.

  4. If you prefer to build your own route, just click 'add' and build it from there. You can add up to nine stops.

  5. Below this section is an area called 'options' where you can select miles or kms and categories to avoid.

  6. Under this is the section where you can send the route to your phone.

  7. Click on a route to get the directions.

  8. At the bottom of the left hand panel you can see the gradient which is an important part of your route planning.


A route saved on Google Maps.The panel on the left hand side of the map where you build the route.


  •  Apps


There are so many apps these days that there really isn't any excuse for not planning your running routes properly. The options are endless. We have reviews and guides to all of the main ones, but here we have focused on Runkeeper to show how you can build a route.


We have separate posts on each of the main apps and wearables and go into detail on how they work, including generation of routes.


With Runkeeper it's a case of plotting the route on the website version and saving it to your account. You can then go to the app and when you're ready for your next run you can select it as an option from the start screen. You can also select routes from other runners and run one of those. Again you'll need to do this on the website and save the ones you're keen on to your account. This is a great way of using someone else's experiences and it will save you a lot of time and effort. The only issue with someone else's routes is that you don't know what criteria they used to plot it, so be cautious. We'll cover these criteria next.



A route planned on Runkeeper



WHAT SHOULD YOU CONSIDER WHEN PLANING A ROUTE?


So we know why we need a running route, why we should plan them and what you need to use to plan one, but what factors should we take into account when actually planning them?


  • Safety


This is the absolute number one priority. Whatever you're planning a route, put this first. Be really cautious when planning a route through a city where you've never been and the same applies when using a route that someone else has shared in a place where you've never been. This applies both to men and women, although the risks in some areas can of course be greater for women. Running after dark always comes with an element of risk for women, and even more so if you don't know the area or know where you're running. When plotting a route in a new place, research it carefully and find out where the safest parts of it are and stick to them.


Another safety consideration is traffic. Keep away from really busy areas within cities and from narrow country lanes in quieter parts of the world. Does the route selected have designated areas for runners or walkers, or will be on the road. Sometimes and in some areas you have to be on the road, but if this after dark the safety issues become a real concern.


Safety concerns concerning animals might sound far fetched, but there are many parts of the world where this is a reality. If you're new in a country where wildlife might be very different to yours then again research this carefully. There have been many occasions when an encounter with local wildlife has seriously impacted on what might otherwise have been a great run.


  • Suitability


Think about the suitability of the route for your ultimate goal. If you're planning to run an event on a really hilly course you must train in areas with hills regularly. Don't keep plotting routes on flat courses if that's the case and vice versa. You also need to make sure the route is the right level for you at any given time in your development. Don't make it too tough if you're starting out and of course make sure it's the right surface. Don't start adding different terrains or sections with steps until you're at the right stage of your training.


No need to include off road routes if you're training for a half marathon on roads


  • Flexibility


Can the routes that your plotting be extended or shortened to fit in with your plan? The distance you run will keep changing so you need either a range of routes for all distances, which is ideal, or a smaller number of routes that you use as the core of the plan and make changes to them to suit your needs. Can you add a loop or take off a small section to fit the distance you need for that day. The long run is the key to the success of any plan and finding routes for these is always a challenge. Can you add a mile or so every week to the initial route you chose, or do you need multiple options?


  • Motivational


If you don't enjoy running you won't stick with it for long. Putting together a range of running routes that you actually enjoy and look forward to running is absolutely vital. If you don't start a run with a degree of excitement then it will be much, much harder than it should be. Plotting a route that is interesting, both in terms of the landscape and variety is really important. Before you get bored with it make sure you have others available.



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