I am writing this in England on 22nd April 2020 and using guidelines that are current at the time of writing here. Please check with your own government if elsewhere in the world on your current guidance.
Covid-19 has changed the running landscape for the foreseeable future. No races. No running with clubs. No running with friends. No driving to our favourite places to run.
At first it can be tough to get your head around this and I know a few people who are struggling to find any motivation to get out and run with the uncertainty of when normality (whatever that will look like) will resume.
However, I think that this gives us new opportunities of exploring our local area and finding new routes from our doorstep that we may not have tried before if we are in ‘training mode’ or if we are restricted by club running routes. As long as we do not drive excessively to start our run, we can run for our normal daily time anywhere close by. I’d suggest not doing too much as we don’t want to damage our immune system at this point – see this other blog (How to Train in Uncertain Times) I wrote recently.
There are more daylight hours in the coming months, so this gives us the opportunity of running in areas without street lights for more hours (I love running over local fields and local towpaths first thing in the morning).
How do we find new routes?
Well for me personally, I just run. Instead of taking the turning I usually do, I’ll take the opposite turn and go a different way. I know most of the distances from my house in Leicester so I am quite lucky that I can gauge how long I’ll be running for. For those less experienced, you can do the same, just turn a different way, but always make sure you can find your way home again. Make sure you carry your phone so that Maps can come to your rescue if needed, as has happened to me a few times when on holiday and exploring (getting lost!!).
Another alternative to this is each day of the week, turn a different way as soon as you can (left one day, right the next, straight on the next, etc) and see where you end up.
There are also a number of apps and websites that you can use to help you explore as well. I’ll go through a few but there are many more available I’m sure:
City Strides – https://citystrides.com/
This is probably the one I would recommend the most at the moment. This website links with various running apps such as Strava and allows you to create a map of your local area and challenges you to run every street. You can challenge friends to see how many streets you can run in a week or a month, so it gives you a social challenge without actual interacting with people. It can also be interesting to run on local roads that you have never run on before and to notice things in your neighbourhood you would never usually notice when running with others (I find I run much more ‘open-eyed’ alone than with others). This is great for staying local.
Strava – www.strava.com
Most of us have our runs uploaded to Strava. After all, if it isn’t on Strava, it didn’t happen right?
Strava have updated their Explore function (unfortunately only part of their Summit membership) so that you can now find new routes around your area. If you allow your location to be used by Strava (I have it on only when using the app) then it finds routes around your area, and these can be refined by distance of run, elevation and surface. Once you’ve chosen a route you like the look of, you can then save that as one of your routes.
Once the route has been saved you can then edit the route on Strava in the My Routes section and use the route, following it on your phone, including audio cues if you don’t want to be looking down at your phone all the time. More information can be found in this blog post from Strava.
If you have more time and want to build your own routes, you can do this in Strava as well. It is a little like MapMyRun or Plot a Route and once the routes have been set up you can use these on your phone. Depending on your watch, (I’ve only ever used Garmin) you can export the file as a GPX file to be used by your watch.
If you prefer to do things directly from your phone, you can download an app called Garmin Connect IQ. In the app search for Strava Routes and install this add on. You can then send the routes created in Strava directly to your watch when you sync it.
You can also use the Explore function to find local Strava segments. These are part of a route, anything from 50 metres to miles, that someone has created and where there is now a leaderboard of the fastest runners. You can challenge yourself on a segment to get as high up the leaderboard as possible, which can also be broken down in to gender, age categories, year, day and more. You can also challenge people of a similar pace to you to see who can run the segments the fastest.
Finally, (keep this one quiet) if you want to be top of the leaderboard (Strava Crown) then you can set up your own segment on part of your route!
Garmin Connect – https://connect.garmin.com/
As I said earlier, I only have experience of using Garmin watches, so I will assume that other watch companies offer the same or similar functionality.
From the Garmin Connect website you can click on Training, Courses and then you can search for courses (routes) in your area, filtering by road, trail, distance and elevation. From here, you can also create your own course, which, on most newer Garmin watches, will automatically upload when you sync your watch. You can export the file manually to your watch as a GPX file if not. You can create courses via a manual ‘join the dots’ type experience or ‘round trip’ where you set the start point and it works a route for you. This is definitely worth a play with the create some new routes.
Below are screen shots from the app.
Crossroads or Compass Runs
Finally, for those of you who are a little nervous about venturing too far away from home in these times of uncertainty, there is the Crossroads or Compass run (pictured below).
You start at home, run so far in one direction, then back to home, then so far in another direction and then back home, and so on, until you have completed a crossroad. For example, if you ran one mile away from home, one mile back again and repeated, you would complete an 8 mile run whilst only ever being one mile away from home. This is especially good if you are coming back from an injury or illness and need an ‘escape route’ if things don’t feel right.
OS Maps (Ordnance Survey)
The app is the best version of OS Maps unless you like to carry a paper map. However, the app is paid for and good for randomly following way-markers across fields, but not worth it if you are staying fairly close to home. It is probably better saved for when we are able to run freely without restrictions.
A couple of things that I need to say from a professional point of view: always stick to suitable roads (no running down motorway hard shoulders please); be aware when running off road or in new areas (men and women) and stay safe. Sorry if that sounds scary, it is just the normal general safety advice I would give everyone as a coach.
I think that gives you enough to think about. These ideas work just as well if you are new to an area, on holiday (when we are able to do that in the future), or at the present time when you are thinking of new local running routes. You can also revisit this blog when we are allowed to travel further afield to run so that you can explore more new areas.
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