Monday, September 17, 2007

Running While Traveling

Trying to find a place to run while traveling all over the country (or world) is not as bad as you'd think, and researching for said "place to run" at your new destination can be a lot of fun, with a little help.

First and foremost, there's a lot of information about running on the web. Sorting through all of that can be a pain. My favorite way to look for running groups, trails, or safe areas to run in other cities is to find the local running clubs, first.

The Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) is a good place to start. Their page with "member clubs" link you up with running clubs' web sites in many cities throughout the U.S. From these web sites, you can find potential club group runs, and hook up with other runners. Sometimes maps of the group running routes are posted, so that if you're there on a day that they aren't running, you can still find a good running route.

Run the Planet dot com is another great resource. On this site, you can find personal favorite running routes, trails and parks to run in, in almost any city in the world. There are also comments by local runners about local running areas. Keep in mind that this information may not be updated frequently, if at all.

USA Track and Field (USATF), has a site called "America's Running Routes," with mapped and measured GPS-produced running routes submitted by local runners. This searchable database is pretty cool, but it's "information overload." It has so many people's GPS information from running actual races, etcetera, that it's not worth a lot for finding a safe running route for a "normal" training run. I find that all other GPS-based sites are similarly flawed, with too many routes and not enough pertinent information for an out-of-towner to quickly find a safe and fun training run.

There is still no substitute for finding a club or group to run with, when you're out of town. Yep, actually reaching out for human contact or informational exchange works best. If you can't find a club or running group through the RRCA or other means, a good ol' Google search can work wonders, if you know how to seach. For instance, if I were to search for a running group in the Kansas City area, I would input "kansas city+running group" to do a simple search. This search netted me over 2 million hits, but on the first page, I got these primary hits: the Kansas City Track Club, the Running Network's "Club List" of Kansas Running Clubs, my "Trail Nerds" site, Kansas City Express women's running Club, Cool Running's Regional list, and many others.

For many smaller towns that don't have RRCA member clubs, you may always have to resort to a Google search. Remember to try a Google "blog search" or a "Yahoo group site" search, with the same information. This can yield quick results and can get you contacts within a local running group, immediately.

For my last trip to Spokane, Washington, I looked at the Bloomsday Roadrunner's Club schedule, to find a group run. The Saturday run was a wash...nobody was there (because of another event going on), but for my Sunday long run, I showed up at the "normal place" at Spokane Falls Community College and met two nice guys that showed up, also. They were even willing to run on off-pavement trails with me. It made the miles fly by, and it was a lot more fun. I also learned a few things about the local "goings-on" that I wouldn't have, if I'd just run on my own.
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Driving into Spokane from the West. I love this first glimpse of the city.

When I'm out of the country or in a really interesting U.S. city for sightseeing, or sometimes just for fun, I like to do something completely different, though. I'll get up really early, and venture out by running in my immediate hotel neighborhood, and check out the "feel" of my new surroundings. I also do this in towns that don't have a running club or group. It's kind of cool, because you get to see things that many of the locals don't even see, or they just overlook or take for granted.

For instance, when I'm in Spokane, I run on unpaved trails within the city that are rarely used by the locals. (This was true when I lived there, too). This Summer, I ran on some awesome routes, and met some interesting folks, while I was out and about.
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Urban Trails in Spokane.

If you're stuck in a "scary" part of a strange big city, and still want to run outside, I've got a solution. If it's the weekend, keep in mind that all of the "nasty business" goes on during certain hours. Yes, crime has a timeclock! Magically, from 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m., city streets will be devoid of all "thug-types" (or any troublemakers), as they sleep-off their night of depravity. The only folks you'll see at that time in the morning are normal, honest "working stiffs," city workers, cops, and restaurant delivery folks. You'll have the proverbial "keys to the city" for your run.


You should still have an idea of where you're at, and carry a cell phone. It's always a good idea to carry your driver's license, your medical insurance card, and $40 in cash, also. The cash can get you out of trouble; (it's not just good for potential cab fare). If you are ever held-up in a mugging, forty bucks can save your life. I've been told by folks experienced with this bit of nastiness, that it's just about the perfect amount to have if some goon, (read: drug addict), wants to hold you at gunpoint to fund their next fix. Less money than that or carrying just a credit card, might get you killed. More money than that can be bad, too. Good things to know.

Enough of worrying about scary stuff. When you travel, go exploring. Meet some interesting people and enjoy your surroundings to the fullest. It's what makes running such a fun sport when traveling; it's accessibilty to the interesting "non-car" places, the scenery, action, and smells, and you can either be a daring loner or a social butterfly.

Happy trails,
Bad Ben

More recent travel photos:
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Driving into Seattle's downtown from the airport (from the south) on 509/99. This cityscape view is so much more dramatic than the I-5 view. Take the road less traveled!

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Seattle Running Company, on Capitol Hill in Seattle. Notice the Trail Nerds sticker on the pole. Now, who could have stuck that there??? A bunch of Savages in this town!

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Capitol Hill area "Gomi Chic" in Seattle.

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My Favorite coffee cafe in Seattle, Caffe Vita. "It's the best, Jerry...the best."

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Having a beer at my buddys' place, Elysian Brewing on Capitol Hill in Seattle. REALLY GOOD BREWS and decent food!

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A cute Barista at Pioneer Coffee Roasting Company, Cle Elum, Washington.
I may be old and married, but I ain't dead.

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Manito Park, Spokane.

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Running through the Manito Park Rose Garden, Spokane.

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Dolly's Cafe, Spokane. This Greasy Spoon has been around a while.

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Saturday's coffee stop...Spokane.


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The Spokane Mayor and his cronies discuss political plans at coffee.

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This guy scares me. (Frank's Diner).

7 comments:

Spokane Al said...

I am glad to hear that you enjoyed the hospitality of Spokane's runners and routes. They are well kept secrets in the running world.

Travis said...

you drove into Seattle behind a Subaru.....what are the chances? :) The Pacific North West is my favorite place to have to travel for work.

Ben, aka BadBen said...

Travis,
You know your Northwest cars!
The thing many folks probably don’t know about the Pacific Northwest is that if you're a really bad driver and visiting the Northwest, the probability of getting into a wreck with a Subaru is lower than not getting into a wreck with one.

Katie said...

Lovely pictures of my hometown, Seattle! I also love your comments on duct tape in your sidebar...I've taped up my bleeding feet so many times over the years and it works just great. People sometimes think I'm a nut when I tell them they can usually go on running as long as they tape well--it's my frustrated Ultra-runner being that loves learning about things like this from the ultra sites.
Katie from Seattle

Anonymous said...

If you're up for having a few beers after a shorter run, you might consider looking online for the local Hash House Harriers in cities you visit. They refer to themselves as "a drinking club with a running problem," and are always a nice way to meet a cast of local characters.

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