Are you the type that has to run when on holiday, at least every other day, or can you quite happily give it a miss for a week or two, choosing to lounge by the pool instead? In fact, while writing this, one half of the team is sitting by a pool in the Canaries while the other sits at a computer writing this (not jealous at all). From what I understand, there hasn’t been much running – not least because of injury and taking the opportunity to rest and recover. This did prompt this article though, and our endeavour to share our thoughts and advice about running on holiday.

A couple of summers ago, I packed up the car, booked a ferry and headed off to explore Spain for a few weeks with the kids. We were away in total for 5 weeks (handy when your office is your laptop). The issue was, 2 weeks after coming back, I was booked to run an ultra. How do you train for an ultra when you have a big holiday slap bang in the middle of your training cycle? Well, where there is a will, there is a way and the little matter of being thousands of miles from home in 30 degree heat did not hinder training. In fact, it was one of the best training experiences ever.

Don’t Leave Home Without Your Trainers

Even if you think you aren’t going to run, make sure you pack your road trainers. It’s doubtful you will need trail shoes on holiday when the conditions are likely to be hot and dry. You also need to pack the following:

  • Shorts, vest socks and the kit you normally wear in the summer
  • Garmin watch and charger – so you can show off your holiday runs
  • Bodyglide! Heat and sweat = chafing
  • Suncream, hat, visor and sunglasses for running
  • Hydration vest or collapsible cup – if you don’t want to wear a vest, there are lots of water taps along the seaside resort proms and a cup takes up less room in your luggage
  • Running belt for your phone, apartment keys, emergency money etc.

Safety First

As a woman, running on my own, I had to be careful of where I ran first and foremost. I had to make sure that I wasn’t off the beaten track (exploring trails was sadly out) and I had to be sure that I didn’t get lost. This involved a lot of planning. Thankfully, Strava was a massive help and helped me find and plan the most public routes that were easy to reach and were never too far away from where we were staying. There are some golden rules though:

  • Take a phone with you
  • Pack your hydration vest or a collapsible cup – you will be so grateful of water, even on a 5 mile run in that heat
  • Tell someone where you are going and your intended route
  • Do not go out without water or a card to buy water
  • Don’t explore areas you don’t know, especially on your own. “I wonder where that goes” is not a good strategy in unfamiliar territory.

Take Your Camera

I still love looking back at my photos from my summer runs. There’s a beautiful prom that goes from San Pedro de Alcantara to Marbella through Puerto Banus that is particularly quiet and beautiful at 7am in the morning. I have some amazing sunrise photos from those runs and the great thing is, the prom was 2 miles from my villa. Once I got to the prom, I would run a maximum of 8 miles in one direction and back again before heading back up the hill to the villa. Running along a Mediterranean prom means there are regular water taps too so you won’t run out of water. There are also several ‘Spar’ type shops where you can purchase a bottle of water.

Use Your Run to Find the Best Places to Eat, Drink and Explore

What you get from running on holiday is an insight into the area that you don’t get from a hire car or walking along with the kids (who are moaning that they don’t want to be walking). I lost count of the amount of hidden beach restaurants I found while running between the various towns/villages on my routes. I would go back and announce where we were eating that evening. It’s a great justification for running if the rest of the family think you are slightly nuts.

Create the Best Memories

Getting of the ferry in Santander and driving 2 hours to Burgos was what awaited us when we arrived in Spain that summer. That night we wondered out and got something to eat in the local square and as I sat there I wondered what it would look like at sunrise when it was quiet. I went home, plotted a safe route on Strava, got up the next morning while everyone was asleep and off I went. At 7.30am in the morning in Northern Spain it was 12 degrees so great temperatures for running. It was so quiet – there were a few early risers out walking, workers cleaning the streets, cafes opening up and getting ready for the day but a calmness that you don’t get at other times of the day. The sunrise was beautiful and the cathedral was something else. I can still remember how I felt on that run and it is still one of my favourite runs abroad. It was only 6 miles but it was definitely my favourite of that summer.

Bear in Mind the Temperatures

It’s a fact that the heat slows you down. If you are trying to stick to the volume of mileage and pace that you do at home, you might be disappointed. Slow it down and take it easier than you would at home. Run before it gets too hot. This is not always easy as the sun doesn’t rise as early in Spain for example as it does in the UK meaning that if you want to run at 5.30am, it’s still going to be dark. I had to wait for the sun to come up at 7.30ish before I could go out and make sure I was finished by 10am before the temps really started to rise. Also, make sure you take plenty of water with you and remember all the safety tips for running in the heat. I would also pop a 10/20 euro note in the back of my phone in case I had a meltdown and needed to get a cab back. I also used to stop at the shop at the bottom of the hill to buy a drink as, my water was never enough. The stop at the bottom of the two mile climb back up was a mixture of recovering before the climb and a delaying tactic! Great hilly ultra training though!

Hydrate & Recover

Hydrate before you run, hydrate during your run and hydrate when you get back from your run. You lose far more fluids and electrolytes when running on holiday than you do when you are at home. If you have the luxury of a pool, make sure you plan a day by the pool with a book after your long run! Highly recommended as the best recovery – pack a good book.

Work Off the Excess of the Night Before

Many of us go on holiday and eat too much, drink too much and come back convinced we have put on at least half a stone. Well, running on holiday is one way to burn off the excess of the night before (although if you drank too much Sangria, it’s probably not going to feel good). Keeping up the miles on holiday means you can enjoy the calories guilt free.

Don’t Feel Obliged to Run

A holiday is a holiday right? It’s a chance to get away from it all and switch off while you recharge your batteries. If you want to run then run however, if you are doing it because you feel obliged to or you want to give it a miss then do. Don’t feel bound to stick to the usual training schedule – interval training in 30 degree heat is not going to be fun! Enjoy the miles and enjoy running on holiday because you want to, not because you have to.