Training for a race is hard enough when my routine goes undisrupted. Throw in a few weddings and holidays and cue the panic. WHEN WILL I BE ABLE TO RUN 7-9 MILES? WHERE WILL I BE ABLE TO DO THIS CAR-FREE? WILL I BE ABLE TO EAT ALL THE FOOD POST-RUN? These are actual problems I faced last month while training for the New Orleans Jazz Half (yes I know, I have a real tough life).
If you don't run races, then you probably think I'm overreacting. But here's the thing -- if you don't stick to your training plan, come race day, a number of things can happen. 1. You won't be able to finish the race that you paid for and possibly traveled for, ending in utter defeat and embarrassment; 2. You'll almost certainly get injured; and (most importantly) 3. You won't be able to work off that 2,000-calorie plate of pasta you inhaled the night before. So yeah, training plans are pretty fucking important.
My first challenge was running 7 miles in Simsbury, CT. Where is Simsbury, you ask? It's what some might call the middle of nowhere. More specifically, its a suburb of Hartford. Since this was the first long training run of my plan, I was pretty set on completing it. Once I found 2 hours to block out (including stretching and eating afterward!) I started looking for a route. I wasn't sure where to begin, so I just typed "Simsbury, CT running routes" into Google. I was doubtful I'd find anything worthwhile and was preparing myself for an hour-plus of treadmill misery when I came across the best thing ever: the East Coast Greenway -- 2,500 miles of pathway (30% CAR-FREE!) from Maine to Key West, FL.
It was an unexpected and incredibly beautiful run filled with lakes, historical landmarks, and bridges.
Though pretty, the path was fairly secluded, and I was alone for a lot of the run, so there were times that I was scared I'd be either mauled by a bear or an unsavory person. The only thing that kept me calm was knowing I was in a suburb of the insurance capital of the world.
I got lucky in Connecticut. The greenway happened to be in the backyard of the hotel, just steps away. The following weekend, I had the pleasure of attending an amazing wedding in the Adirondacks. Unfortunately, I'm not much of a trail runner, so I had to pass on my training run and make it up that Monday. A few of my more dedicated friends did run there and found routes by asking the camp director.
Thankfully, when a greenway and camp director are nowhere to be found, there are other ways to find suitable running routes. One of my favorite ways is by searching Runkeeper. Although I use a Garmin watch now (I guess that makes me a running snob or something), I used to use Runkeeper to record my runs. It's a great way to keep track of your routes and be extra competitive with your friends by tracking their activities and constantly comparing yourself. Or you know, be supportive of something. Anyway, you can also use Runkeeper (or similar app MapMyRun) to find routes other users have ran. You can search by area and distance to find just the right course. It'll also show you elevation changes so you can prepare your hams for nasty hills or shins for stretches of flats. Maybe most importantly, it can show you where your route will end so that you can Yelp a nearby brunch place for your post-run snack.
Though I didn't leave town last weekend, I wanted to change up my routine and find a new 9-10 miler, so I turned to Runkeeper. Unfortunately, it didn't yield any routes that interested me, so I went back to the drawing board (a.k.a. Google). I typed in "running routes nyc" and a bunch of running blogs popped up with suggested routes. The best part of checking out running blogs is that they generally have pictures and brief descriptions of the runs so that you have more info to work with (like the best time to run the route, what the pros and cons are of the course, etc.). I came across Glitter Runner (tagline: "Because its not sweat, it's sparkle") and immediately knew she'd have a route I'd want to run. After adding in the Williamsburg Bridge, her lower Manhattan route was perfect. I love exploring parts of the city I've never seen before, especially by foot.
I had silly dreams of running in Paris and Barcelona during our trip last year, but of course there's rarely time for even a 5k when you're packing in activities from 7 a.m. to midnight. I did do a bit of planning though before the trip (surprise, surprise) and found a bunch of great routes through running blogs and even running tours!
Bottom line, if you want to run (outside at least), you'll find a way. There are a million great resources for finding routes outside of your usual ones. Plus, after your run, you'll get to feel superior to all those fools around you who slept in.
P.S. Don't forget to donate to my NOLA Half Marathon fundraiser!