My feet splashed unfettered as my breath heaved in rhythm to the sound of the rolling surf. Children played cricket using boogie boards in place of wickets buried in the sand. A dog trailed its owner, tail wagging. A few swimmers splashed and screamed.
And I ran. No iPod, no shoes, no watch. Just me and the beach. The seemingly endless Australian beach.
Whether I’m on vacation, a business trip, attending a wedding or any of the other occasions I’ve had to travel, I always look forward to going for a run. Running on vacation promises new vistas and a break from your regular routine. Instead of sightseeing, it’s sightrunning, and it’s one of the best ways to take in a new locale.
I’ve found most hotel concierge or reception desks happy to give a map or directions to a good running route. Westin Hotels & Resorts even has a program called RunWESTIN that offers Runner’s World route maps and a running concierge who leads guests on guided jogs from participating hotels. Many Hyatt Hotels & Resorts in North America provide palm-size running guides created by Active-Minded Traveler. And The GEM Hotels in New York City loan guests complimentary iPods loaded with audio tours of nearby city neighborhoods through their GEMjogs and GEMwalks programs.
I often do I little investigating in advance as well to see if I’m in striking distance of a particularly good spot near a park or off-street path—like the lakefront in Milwaukee or the trails throughout San Francisco’s parks and coastline. Or I take to the streets to see the town.
On my latest trip to Australia and New Zealand, I was in luck. Australia proved to be a runner’s delight. From my hotel on Coogee Beach outside of Sydney I was steps from a 6K-cliff walk that connects Sydney’s southern beaches to Bondi Beach, possibly the most famous stretch of sand in Australia.
So instead of taking a cab or the bus to visit Bondi, I laced up my joggers (that’s Aussie for running shoes) and set out on a blisteringly hot and challenging run up a jagged coastline that dips and weaves like the best of roller coasters.
I wasn’t alone. My boyfriend joined me, with a pack on his back and a camera around his neck. Many walkers and plenty of runners shared the path, but not so many to prove a burden.
On the return trip—after relaxing on the beach, walking around town, and enjoying a fish and chips lunch—we headed home the way we came. But we couldn’t decide which direction was tougher. It was the classic uphill both ways. But both gave us a chance to experience Sydney’s dramatic coastline and the five beach communities along the way, all the while working up a sweat.
A few days later, I was on the Great Ocean Road four hours southwest of Melbourne. On this particular stretch of coastline, the beaches seem to go on forever. So on the pristine sands of Apollo Bay, I set out for another run—this one solo and barefoot. Beach running is wonderful in that respect—bare feet actually feel good, and if you need to cool off, a few strides into the shallow tide do the trick.
I started near one end of the beach, and what felt like 1.5 miles later, I still wasn’t even close to the other end. So I turned around and ran back. When I got home to the U.S., I checked the actual distance. The beach in Apollo Bay is over 3.5 miles long, and I had actually run 2 miles in one direction, for a 4-mile return trip.
Instead of my usual cool-down, I opted for a swim, which felt indulgent and luxurious as my heart rate calmed with the water’s cold touch. I wish I could end every run that way. But again, that’s what makes vacation runs so wonderful—being able to see and do things you can’t at home, like ending a jog by running straight into the ocean.
And that’s also what makes them so memorable. Do I remember any given jog at home from two years ago? No. But do I remember running through the streets of Pokhara in Nepal as locals stared with mouths agape? You bet. And that was nearly 10 years ago.
I hope to run the world one location at a time, running on vacation all the way. City runs. Beach runs. Rural runs. Mountain runs. Taking advantage of every trip, enjoying what each new place has to show me, and savoring every stride along the way.
Karla Bruning is host of On The Run, New York Road Runner’s web show about running. She has completed six marathons, two triathlons and trains with the New York Harriers. Follow Karla’s “Notes From a Running Nerd” at RunKarlaRun.com, Facebook and Twitter@KBruning.