Explore the World on Two Feet

A journal entry by Rea Kolbl
I just returned from my vacation in Europe, and after over two weeks of a break -my fitness is at the same level as when I left. It’s because I never stopped running. In fact, I might be even a bit more in-shape from all the hikes we’ve done to explore.
That’s the beauty of running – you can do it (almost) anywhere, and all you need is a pair of shoes (and maybe a GPS watch that prevents you from getting lost). But the real reason I run through every vacation isn’t fitness; I love seeing the world on foot. You can explore places you otherwise wouldn’t see, and views from summits are better if you get there self-propelled.

My Daily Running Habits Formed on Our Honeymoon

I first started running daily during our honeymoon in Alaska in 2014. Before that I would work out every day, but some days I’d spend time in the gym; others I’d run outside. In Alaska, where there are more bears than people, access to a gym was out of the question. I never knew whether or not Bunsak would want to take it easy during the day while I still wanted to see places; so I put on my shoes, turned on my headlamp, and headed for the roads and trails before the sunrise. I was terrified of bears and scared being out there alone, but every day after my run was over I was full of joy – happy for all the summit views, places I saw that otherwise I would never knew existed, people I met when I wasn’t completely alone out there (and not being eaten by bears for breakfast). I lost some fear of the wilderness and gained the appreciation of running in the unknown. Our trip eventually came to an end but I never stopped running in the mornings – it’s one of my most cherished habits I accidentally acquired on a vacation.

Why You Should Always Travel with Running Shoes

There really isn’t any better way to experience the local culture than on your own two feet. If you run early before the rest of your party wakes up to tackle the day, you get to see the city you’re visiting just as it’s waking up. It’s interesting observing the habits of locals as the sun rises, notice those on trails running early before their work. It’s also how I form connections – chatting with people on trails and summits is a great way to make new friends, and almost invariably they end up helping me with recommendations for running routes for the rest of the trip.

How to Figure Out Good Routes

The hard part of traveling is figuring out where to run in the first place. First and foremost, make sure the area is safe – this was easier in Europe where most of the streets and woods are runner friendly, but there are places where safety might be more questionable. I always make sure to research the area we’re staying in, use Google Earth to get a sense of the neighborhoods and check trail reviews looking for comments that might tell me more about safety in that area. I also use segment explorer on Strava – there I can see which are the popular routes among locals and if those trails were ran recently. There are trail apps that work better in the US than the rest of the world, but Google maps works well everywhere – I usually look for bike paths (dark green lines when you enable the bicycle option), parks, and other green areas to then research further for possible running routes.

It Takes Time, But It’s Worth It

When you’re in a new place it takes time to research places to run. I often spend over an hour every evening plotting my runventures: looking for green areas, staring at topographical maps to find which peaks have trails leading to the top, talking to people, going to info centers, and doing my own research on running blogs and similar sites. But without fail, it’s always worth it! When we were in Salzburg this winter I found a peak just outside the city center, and after an hour of climbing (in which I only made it 3 miles, albeit managed to rise over 3000 feet above the city below) I stepped out of the forest onto the summit plateau, with views of the Alps in all directions, overlooking the city with its castle below. The sun was just rising, illuminating the peaks around me with the pink and orange light that in a few minutes turned to gold. It was breathtaking. Something I would never see had I not traveled around the world with my Mudgear socks and a pair of running shoes.


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