Ancient cedar trees tower above the wide temple steps. Cordis Hall, from Boulder, Colorado, wanders through the tall red gate of Hida-Sannogu Hie Shrine in Takayama, Japan. Abby Mitchell, Hall’s fiancé, snaps a photo as they explore during a run-and-culture-fueled vacation in Japan.
The duo, both members of the adidas TERREX trail-running team, ran a race in Chichibu, several hours away, then stayed an extra week to explore the Takayama area by foot, including the temple. An easy way they work running into their trips? Errands. “In Japan, we had to pick up batteries, gear and food,” Mitchell said. “We grabbed a pack, phone and credit card, and made the purpose of our run transportation rather than pace. It’s a whole different type of adventure.”
Whether they’re traveling in the Canary Islands or Hong Kong for running races, they've become experts at weaving runs into their day. “If I don’t put running on my calendar and allot that time beforehand, it’s hard to organically go,” Hall said. “Sometimes, I have to wake up early, so I plan ahead and go to bed early.”
When they travel, the couple starts by seeking out running and outdoor stores for local beta on the best routes. If that doesn’t yield results, Google Maps shows green spaces, which often harbor trails. They use Trail Run Project, Strava and CalTopo to plan their run, including several backup routes, especially if they’re traversing remote trails or high mountains. GPS watches mean they can find their way even if they can’t read the country’s signage.
Packing smart goes a long way toward a successful run in places far from home, said Nikki Sakelliou, vice president of marketing for lifestyle performance brand Vuori. She suggests bringing clothes that work for both exercise and leisure, can be worn for multiple days, wick moisture, dry quickly, are antimicrobial and pack easily. “Set your intentions that you’re going to be active outdoors. Even if you move your body for 20 minutes first thing in the morning, you’re doing something great,” she said.
Fortunately, running gear doesn’t occupy much luggage space. “If we’re traveling for less than two weeks, we bring one set of running clothes. We wash with them on, using soap, and hang them in the shower to dry for the next day,” Mitchell said.
Aside from running shoes, remember to pack a pair of closed-toe footwear for restaurants or museums with dress codes. If space allows, bring a foam roller or massage balls for recovery.
Sometimes it’s just easier to let the experts lead the way. Last year, Janji, a run apparel brand that supports clean water projects and local artists in countries around the globe, launched Nomadic Runs, group running trips that visit places like Bolivia, Mexico and Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, because they recognized running is a powerful way to see a new place.
“You’re not limited by four wheels and traffic,” said company co-founder Dave Spandorfer. “You can take that turn into a picturesque side street. You touch and smell the city. Those in-between moments are what life is about. In five miles, you can cover a traveler’s full-day itinerary in a city.”