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Running on holiday: tips for keeping your training on track

Running on holiday: tips for keeping your training on track

You may not have heard of him, but Ron Hill holds a fairly impressive unofficial world record – the longest running streak (i.e. running day after day with no break) for 52 years. When I read that myself, my first thought was – how did he keep that streak going whilst on holiday?

Despite being a keen runner myself (this is Jason, not Jenny, writing this post!) and completing eight marathons, I’ve always found it tricky to combine a relaxing family holiday with going out for a run. Being in the middle of a marathon training plan, whilst on a month long road-trip around France, can be a logistical and physical challenge.

Even if you’re not training for a specific event, running is an integral part of life for many of us, whether we’re at home or abroad. It can be a difficult balancing act between spending time with the family and running several times a week but it is possible, especially if you include the kids in your runs, perhaps helping with water stops, doing a couple of warm-down laps or helping you to plan your routes.

With that in mind, we’ve put together some top tips for running on holiday. It might not mean you reach Ron’s level of continuity, but every little helps!

man running and high fiving kids
Running the New Forest Marathon

Save packing space, use running gear for day-to-day use

One challenge of travel, particularly longer term trips, is fitting everything into your luggage; we’re light packers for our family travels! Luckily, most running trainers double-up nicely as everyday walking/hiking shoes and will be suitable for all but the most challenging hikes. No need to pack a separate pair, re-use your runners and save some space.

On the same note, if you’re visiting a hot country, your moisture-wicking t-shirts are ideal for everyday use and will dry quickly after washing. These were an absolute necessity for our Southeast Asia packing list.

Tweak your plans

If you are training for a specific event and have a training plan, spend some time before the trip to tweak the schedule to match your itinerary. Whereas you might do a long run on a Sunday at home, check if it’ll work better on a weekday when the little ones are at kids’ club.

If you are moving around during the trip from place to place, avoid scheduling a run on a travel day. Depending on your training plan, you might build in an easier week during your holiday and then ramp back up again when you get home. 

The most important thing to remember is that these aren’t normal weeks, so don’t expect everything to run like clockwork like it (sometimes) does at home.

Embrace the difference

The change of scenery will already give you a different perspective during your runs, but also take this opportunity to try something new on your runs. Maybe a speed session, or set yourself the challenge of visiting a new city landmark on each run. You might find the change of pace and scenery gives you a new lease of life in your running.

Use your local parkrun

parkrun is a free, weekly, timed 5km run which started in London but has blossomed into thousands of events worldwide. Wherever you find yourself in the world, you’re probably never too far from a parkrun and, if you’ve already registered, your parkrun ID can be used worldwide. Added bonus – if you carry your parkrun ID with you on all runs, it’ll also list your Emergency Contact and any medical conditions. You’ll find parkruns everywhere, including such cool destinations as France, Namibia, Malaysia, Finland and Australia (check out this list of parkrun countries).

running in front of Sydney Harbour Bridge
Running the Sydney Marathon

Plan your runs with Google Maps, Strava, and your phone

Google Maps is a brilliant resource for discovering new runs and Strava will also list routes nearby. With a little planning, you should be able to find a route in even the most remote of destinations. Remember to take your mobile with you at all times in case you get lost or need to get help.

Google Maps has a walking option and is increasingly good at finding walking/running routes between two places. You can often zoom into the route and see what the terrain and track are like.

Also, ask at your accommodation if they have any advice on local runs you can do; they are probably asked this question frequently and may even provide local maps and tips.

Book hotel accommodation with a gym

Depending where you are staying, your accommodation may have a gym which you can use to bash out some miles when the weather is too hot or cold, or there isn’t a suitable route nearby. You’ll often find free bottled water, air-conditioning and towels to make the session even more comfortable.

Combine running on holiday with sightseeing

Combined with running, sightseeing can be an incredible experience, allowing you to see famous cities and sights up close and personal. Plus, compared to walking, you’ll get to see more in less time. Many tourist cities are great to run around (Sydney, San Francisco, and London – check out for a list of tour organisations worldwide), but almost any town or city will have a park or botanical garden you can run around.

If you fancy something more extreme, there are several companies (such as Travelling Fit) which specialise in combining a holiday with a marathon in such places as Angkor Wat, Great Wall of China and New York, often with guaranteed entry.

Cool-down in the sea

Treat yourself after a run to a welcome cool down in the sea (or hotel pool, waterfall, river) after your run. There’s no better feeling than soaking in the water knowing you’ve (a) done a run, (b) aren’t at work, (c) have earned a drink!

running trainers on beach

Eat and drink well

If you are training a specific event, you may need to watch what you are eating and drinking whilst on holiday. It can be difficult to avoid beers, wine and burgers but it’s quite easy to find pasta, rice, vegetables and other running-friendly food in most countries, especially if eating at a restaurant. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you do have a naughty day or two with food, you are still on holiday remember.

One of my favourite parts of a holiday is relaxing with a cold beer in the evening. But rather than having an alcoholic one at night, I found that France and Spain produce some excellent non-alcoholic beers (San Miguel and Kronenburg were my favourites) which allowed me to chill out, guilt-free. Plus the lack of a hangover helped with the early starts.

Staying safe

  • Double-check your planned route (ideally with a knowledgeable local) to make sure it’s in a safe neighbourhood and ideally well-lit if you’re going out after dark. 
  • In some countries, there’s a problem with stray dogs who love chasing hapless runners across town. Learn how to deal with this and seek medical help if you’re bitten.
  • Keep in mind what is culturally appropriate clothing for the country you’re in; the fact that you’re exercising won’t always be considered as a justification for wearing revealing clothes.
  • Remember to wear sunscreen and a cap/visor if you’re running in a hot country and avoid the midday sun where possible.

Change your routine

At home, I usually go out for a run in the evening when the kids have gone to bed but, on holiday with later bedtimes and evening entertainment, this wasn’t always possible. Don’t be afraid to change your routine whilst you are away and go out for a run when it fits in better with family time. I enjoyed the early starts for a change and was usually back to the tent before anyone else was awake – perfect for ticking the runs off but still being fully involved in the holiday.

Final thoughts

For many of us, running is a key part of our lives, and there’s no reason being away from home has to stop us putting on the trainers and getting out for a run. With a more relaxed schedule, (sometimes) better weather, and new places to explore, running on holiday might just end up as the highlight of your trip. 

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