I’ve become a runner this year, getting out on the roads and trails in Vancouver about 5 times a week. And now this new exercise habit has changed the way I’m looking at an upcoming trip to Europe. I’m still just as committed to wandering the streets of Paris in search of the city’s most delectable croissants, but now I’m wondering whether my days might also include a short 5K run around Père Lachaise Cemetery.
Of course, European cities are extremely walkable, and most visitors find themselves burning far more calories than they normally would by simply exploring the delights of the city by foot, bike and metro. I don’t feel I’ll get “out of shape” by taking a break from the regular exercise routine. But the idea of being one of a collection of early risers pounding the pavement seems like a great way to access the quieter aspects of daily life in the places we visit. Lining up at the Eiffel Tower, you’re surrounded by other tourists, but running around a Parisian park you're temporarily a part of the local scene.
How to pick a running route in an unfamiliar city? If you’re staying at a hotel, asking the concierge is one way to go about it. A recent trip to Columbia South Carolina saw me running alongside the Congaree River on the advice of the hotel staff. But if you enjoy planning these things ahead of time (like me), a quick internet search can yield some terrific suggestions. For example, Joggingroutes.org is a running blog maintained by a marathon runner and business traveler that offers detailed suggestions for interesting routes in all parts of the world.
If you’re concerned about your run taking away from your precious vacation time, bear in mind that it can be a part of your sightseeing! In London I plan to run along the banks of the Thames, criss-crossing bridges and seeing the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, the London Eye, the Tate Modern and more in less than 45 minutes. Pick a route that runs through neighbourhoods you’re interested in seeing, parks you’ve heard about, and landmarks you’ll want to return to later.
If my Asics shoes and minimal running gear can fit in my carry-on alongside the summer dresses and souvenirs, they’re definitely making the trip with me.