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Planning a New Route

image showing a map covering built up areas and parkland

Finding new routes in your locality

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We need to "stay local" right now. We probably have some favourite routes that we enjoy running. But are we still so keen after weeks on end of the same pavements, roads or trails?

This is a great time to find new places to run. So let’s see how we can plan a route that’ll match our goals, but at the same time will be pleasurable and – above all - safe.

Maps are your first stop

There are quite a number of free online mapping services which let you zoom in to your locality. Many of them let you plot a route. Ideally, try to use a service which lets you see the terrain, such as hills. Bear in mind that not every track shown on a map is open to the public.

One good idea is to pick out "way points" on your proposed route – buildings, junctions, etc. that you can look out for both to make sure you stay on route and to gauge your progress along the route.

Safety First

Hopefully, if there are any areas in your locality that you should avoid, you’re already aware of them. But what’s safe during a sunny afternoon may be less so in the dark. If you’re planning to run in the evening, you might want to go along earlier in the day, take a look and work out if there’s any particular points you should avoid.

But safety isn’t just about "stranger danger". Think about what you would do if you became injured, unwell, etc. Would a gnarly trail maybe present more risk of twisting an ankle? Would your route stop you from getting help? Look for any areas where cell coverage might be difficult. Think about how you would get yourself to a public road. That kind of thing.

Making The Most of a New Route

New routes give you the chance to improve your running! If you’re used to running on the flat, have a go at a route which includes some gentle hills. If you’re happy with gentle hills, find somewhere with its own "Heartbreak Hill". For the best effect, make that hill towards the end of your run. Hitting hills when your legs are already tired will give you a real challenge!

If you have trouble running long, straight roads, can you find one that you can use to deliberately provoke the mental strain of these sections? The more you do them, the less of a problem they become.

How about trying some "interval training" – running hard for a minute or two, followed by an easy recovery section. Your route can include a short, sharp, hill, with a downhill section for recovery. It can be either a "straight line" up and over, or a short loop – uphill, then round the loop back to starting again.

Match Your Route To Your Goals

Really, the main point to bear in mind is that you should have a goal for every run. That might be simply to run 2km without stopping. Or it could be to do a 30 minute speed session. Or to run just a little bit fast over 5km. Once you’ve defined your goal, you can set up a route that helps you achieve it.

a graphic from a tourism leaflet showing a walking route

“It's important that your route matches your goals”