The spring before last, I headed to France and to a series of hotels that didn't have usable gyms. So though I have a love hate relationship with running---sometimes I love it, more often it gives me hives, quite literally, on my darn legs (Why IS that?)--I hit the pavement.
All went fine in Nice, a city I know well, but on my second outing in Aix en Provence, I came back to one of the roundabouts on my route and took a wrong turn.
Soon I was no longer running but simply walking into every open business I could find, and asking, in my mangled French, how to get back to the hotel. I didn't have a phone or a euro on my person. And I got several wrong pieces of advice before a bus driver finally pointed me in the right direction.
It was my longest hour this year. I'm supposedly a "travel expert" and I do gad about a heckuva lot, but I'll admit it, I panicked. I knew I had just 2.5 hours before I had to get on a train to Paris. And as I walked in circles, getting more and more discouraged, fighting back tears, trying to concoct the right phrases in French, well, it felt like a crisis.
All this could have been avoided had I simply mapped out the route in advance and kept it with me. But I didn't know then what I know now: that there are two terrific websites created specifically to help runners plan the best routes. They are www.mapmyrun.com and http://www.usatf.org/routes/ for runs in the United States only.
The first of the two sites is more helpful, though it does require registration. Once registered, however, you're given the choice of choosing pre-tested runs that other joggers in your destination have put together; or creating a sensible plan of your own. With the US Track and Field website, runners are asked to choose whether they're shooting for a "Gold", Silver" of Bronze" as well as how far they hope to run. Then they're given access to maps that fit their specifications, created by other runners.
Looking at the routes in my home city were an eye-opener. The few times I've run in New York City (I usually head to the gym instead), I've made the same tired circle of Washington Square Park. And gotten quite bored. But with the routes suggested online, maybe I could have a touch more fun as I tramped along.
Take a look at the two sites above. If you're a runner--or a would be runner like me--you'll find them quite interesting.