When you move to a new city, there are certain small things that can help you feel less like a visitor: finding a great cup of coffee, knowing how to order it in the local language, navigating the public transport system like a pro (bonus points for not buying a day ticket). But nothing will connect you to your new landscape quite like running.
I’ve recently moved permanently to Berlin, and running through and around my adopted city, I’ve found streets I’d like my future children to play in. I’ve discovered (and avoided) where the drugs are bought. I’ve learned the lay of the land, a lot of German road names – all without using the maps on my phone. In the process, I’ve fallen more in love with my new home every day.
But running in a new city can also be daunting. You’ve got the fear of getting lost, or accidentally stumbling through a less-than-safe area. So, whether it’s your new home or a temporary stop, here are my tips for running in a new city.
Forget your old routine
Your old town had rhythms – rush hours, daylight, temperatures – that your new city might not share. Pretend you’re running for the first time and try mornings, evenings or lunch breaks again to find when you prefer to run, or when it’s quietest.
Do your research
Local forums will give you a sense of where you should and shouldn’t go, and help plan attractive routes. Even better, ask a local where is good to run and where isn’t. Although I wish it wasn’t, this can be of particular importance if you’re a woman running alone.
Plan your route
I use Mapmyrun to build a route and get an idea of the distance I’ll be covering, but I’d be delighted to hear about any less clunky alternatives. Keep the route simple – a big loop rather than weaving up and down numerous unfamiliar streets: it might look simple online, but will confuse you in the real world. Start simple, and add a new section each time. Write key street names on your arm to check you’re on course.
Mix it up
Don’t just run around the nearest or biggest park. Run through tourist traps (if you can handle the crowds), residential neighbourhoods, key landmarks, canals and social spaces if you want a true sense of your new city. They may not be fast routes, but it’s a great way to build your mental map.
At least at first, forget about PBs, speed or running style. Switch off your training app and pay attention to your surroundings, preferably without music. The sounds of a new city can be as interesting as the sights.
Check the sunset
Night-time can creep up on you and it feels stranger running unfamiliar streets in the dark, even if they are perfectly safe. Likewise, check a weather app before you set off, for pollen count, humidity and temperature.
Trust your instinct
If a street you heard was safe feels dodgy, turn back. Despite low crime, my new city is a bit frugal on streetlights, so I often switch to a parallel road when my gut tells me to.
Take your phone
If you’re prone to getting lost, your phone is a must, if only to stop someone sending out a search party when you take longer then expected. It might also be wise to take a few coins, so you can bus it home if you really go off track.
Yes, this goes against everything I’ve just said, but once you feel comfortable, go off plan. You never know what you’ll find.
- What are your top tips for discovering a new city in your trainers?
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