A Beginner’s Guide to Running While Travelling

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Three days before Christmas I ran my first race—a 10k in Chiang Mai, Thailand. It was exactly a year after I began running along the white sandy beaches of Mexico’s Caribbean coast. Back then I could barely run for more than five minutes at a time; a year later I ran continuously for 55 minutes. I loved it. I felt strong, confident and happy during the race and I was buzzing for the rest of the day. I realised that I could do this; that I was a runner.

I’ve now set myself the goal of running a half marathon in 2014. A year ago I wouldn’t have contemplated such a thing.

Erin after running the 10k race in Chiang Mai
Erin after her 10k in Chiang Mai

Why Run While Travelling

“Racing teaches us to challenge ourselves. It teaches us to push beyond where we thought we could go. It helps us to find out what we are made of.”

PattiSue Plumer, US Olympian

The beach in Playa del Carmen where I started to run
The beach in Playa del Carmen where I started to run

For the first three years of our travels I didn’t pay much attention to fitness. I swam when we had a pool, I occasionally did push ups and crunches, and we walked a lot while exploring new places, but that was it. When I started running I realised that it’s the perfect way for travellers to keep fit. You don’t need any special equipment and it’s something you can do anywhere.

The obvious benefit of running is increased fitness and I definitely feel more capable of tackling physical activities on our travels, like hikes in Yosemite or up the Stromboli volcano. But running has brought me benefits beyond fitness—it’s good for my mind as much as my body. Starting my day with a run clears my head and leaves me happier, more confident, and more positive. I’m able to battle my demons and meet the challenges of the day.

There’s a satisfaction that comes from resisting the lure of a comfortable bed and achieving something before breakfast. Heading out the door is about overcoming a mental obstacle and it leaves me with an exuberance that makes everything seem possible.

For travellers there’s a very practical benefit of running—a run the day after a long flight is often the last thing I feel like doing but it helps me get over jet lag quickly and I always feel better afterwards.

Then there’s the sense of discovery. Running out in the world is nothing like the drudgery of a treadmill; it’s a way to explore and see places from a new perspective. In the last year I’ve run on the beaches of Mexico, splashing my feet in the turquoise Caribbean sea; along San Francisco’s Embarcadero with views of the Bay Bridge, feeling like a local; beside tree-lined canals in England and the Mekong River in Laos; through silvery olive groves in Puglia; and along Sicily’s dramatic coastline.

My morning runs have led to experiences I wouldn’t have had otherwise. On a beach run in San Pancho I spotted a dolphin splashing and playing in the sea. Lake Bled was at its most magical in the misty light on a drizzly morning. In Chiang Mai I pass barefooted monks in saffron robes receiving alms from locals who fill their collection bowls with food and kneel on the pavement as the monks chant a blessing. Everywhere I’ve witnessed the sky turning pink and places coming to life, glowing in the soft golden light.

What has surprised me most is the joy that running can bring me. It isn’t like that every day of course—it is often a struggle—but there are times when everything clicks into place and I can run faster effortlessly and feel an exhilarating sense of freedom.

Stop Making Excuses

“Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.”

Mahatma Gandhi.

Running while travelling - Lake Bled
It was worth running on a drizzly morning for this view of gorgeous Lake Bled in Slovenia

The biggest factor in one’s ability to run is not fitness level but mindset. Travelling is an easy reason for not running—I don’t have the right gear, it’s too hot, the roads are too busy, I don’t have time.

These are all excuses that I’ve used but have managed to overcome.

Gear – I started running with what I had—bare feet, board shorts, and a cotton vest top on the beach in Mexico.

Heat – I spend most of my time in the tropics so to avoid the heat and humidity I get up at dawn and accept that I’m not going to run as fast as I do in cooler climates.

Chaotic Roads – I prefer running away from busy roads but sometimes there are no beaches or parks to run in and I’m forced onto the chaotic traffic-clogged roads of SE Asia where pavements are non-existent or an obstacle course of cracks, street food stalls, and billboards. I’ve included some tips on finding a good running route below but if the roads are the only option then getting up early is the answer to this too—preferably as early as possible (even 6.30am is quite busy here in Chiang Mai)—and run at the edge of the road with the flow of traffic.

No Time – Our days are often packed with a busy schedule of sightseeing or work and it felt like I had no time to run. Getting up early is the solution yet again. I’m usually back from my runs before Simon is even up so there’s still the whole day ahead of me.

Embarrassment – I felt self conscious and worried about running in cities at first but I’ve realised that no one cares, and that I’m usually not the only one out running. Runners being heckled is quite common in the UK but I haven’t had one comment in the seven countries I’ve run in this last year. The only way to get over self-consciousness is to get out and run.

Lack of Routine – When we’re only staying somewhere for a few nights it’s more difficult to run than when we stay long enough to establish a routine. I’ve struggled with this and I’ve found it helps to plan a run ahead of time and create rituals that you can recreate everywhere (more on that below). It’s also a good reason for slow travel which makes running easier.

I’m Unfit – Running is a personal challenge. Even in races runners are often competing against themselves not against others. I try not to compare myself to other runners and just do the best that I can, even when I had to walk more than run when starting out.

No Running Partner – Simon isn’t interested in running and although I’d love for him to join me it’s probably best that he doesn’t as it would be too easy to miss a run just because he does. Running alone means I’m the only one responsible for whether I run or not, and I embrace it as “me time”, a chance to think and reflect, or just clear my mind of everything.

Different Environments – My location is always changing so I have to face new challenges. In San Pancho the beach wasn’t as flat and firm for running as it was in Playa del Carmen and at first I was annoyed and frustrated that I was sinking down in the soft sand and running really slowly. I realised my attitude wasn’t helping so I stopped fighting the sand and accepted the situation and it made the run a lot easier. My best runs are when I stay positive and don’t let these new problems defeat me.

I have found that the best solution is to simply stop making excuses and head out the door.

Getting Started

“The obsession with running is really an obsession with the potential for more and more life.”

George Sheehan

Running while travelling -Trapani, Sicily
Running along Trapani’s old city walls in the early morning was one of my favourite runs in Sicily

Start Slow – My goal when I started was to be able to run 5k regularly. I couldn’t do that to begin with and had to mix jogging with walking for quite a while. I felt bad when I wasn’t able to run continuously but I’ve since found that alternating walking and running is the method that’s recommended for beginners. I ran when I could and walked when I had to but if you’d like something more structured then look into couch to 5k programmes—there are plenty of apps and running plans online.

It wasn’t easy to begin with. I struggled to get up early, my lungs burned during runs, and for the first week my body ached terribly. It gets easier though and now running 5k is no problem for me. Keep at it.

Create a Routine – The most important factor to keep me running consistently has been developing a routine. This is more difficult when you are travelling but there are still things you can do. In The Power of Habit Charles Duhigg talks about the importance of a cue, a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and let a behaviour unfold. My cue is getting up. All I have to do is get up in the morning, get dressed and head out the door. It’s the first thing I do and there’s no time to doubt it or put it off. Running in the morning works best for me but you should find a time and cue that works for you and then make it a routine.

I find it helps to be prepared the night before. I have my running clothes laid out, my running app, playlist and alarm are set up on the iPhone next to my bed, and there’s a bottle of water in the fridge for after my run. It means I don’t have to think about anything when I get up. I also go to bed earlier now as I want to be refreshed and ready for my run.

If you struggle with making running a habit then try setting a micro goal such as running (or run/walking) one mile a day or for just five minutes.

Warm Up and Stretch – My warm up is just walking briskly or jogging gently at the beginning of a run and afterwards I do a series of stretches which help prevent muscle soreness and injury.

Plan Your Route

“It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard…is what makes it great!”

Tom Hanks in A League of Their Own

Running while travelling-Chiang Mai trail run to Wat Pha Lat
I’ve been getting more adventurous and started trail running up Chiang Mai’s Doi Suthep mountain to Wat Pha Lat

Planning my route ahead of time is important to make me feel more confident and prevent not knowing where to run being an excuse for not going at all. My favourite places to run are beaches (at the water’s edge where the sand is firmer), in parks, along seafronts, canals, and around lakes. Sometimes I’ll do circular routes (lakes are ideal for this) but mostly I’ll run to a certain point and back so I don’t have to worry about getting lost and I can just run a bit further to increase my mileage.

Here are some methods I use to find running routes before and when we arrive at a new destination:

  • Google “running routes” + place name
  • Search on Map My Run
  • Look at Google Maps around the area we are staying in
  • Walk around the neighbourhood when I arrive
  • Ask at our hotel for recommendations of quiet places to run
  • I’ll even sometimes choose accommodation based on its proximity to a good place to run

Running Gear

“Life is complicated. Running is simple. Is it any wonder that people like to run?”

Kevin Nelson

Running while travelling -San Pancho, Mexico
I often had the beach to myself in San Pancho, Mexico

Despite what running magazines tell us, you don’t need technical gear to run in—just wear whatever you have that’s comfortable. Sure it would be nice to have pockets in my shorts and a quick drying top would be most practical for running while travelling, but I don’t want to use lack of gear as an excuse not to head out.

Here’s my current set up:

  • Board shorts and cotton vest top – I mostly run in warm weather so shorts work best. On foggy San Francisco mornings in July I also wore my fleece. I recently bought a pair of capri leggings for yoga and liked running in them when Chiang Mai had a cold spell. Leggings would be a lightweight option for running in colder countries.
  • Sports bra – After nearly a year running without one I finally picked one up.
  • Hiking shoes and socks – I spent the first six months running barefoot on the beach and then switched to the only shoes I had. My Merrell shoes are similar to trail runners so although they aren’t ideal for running they have worked just fine for the last six months (including my 10k race). I’ll probably change them for something lighter when we next get to the UK or US but as I pack light it’s important that the shoes I have work for hiking and running. I’ve actually even had some great runs in my sports sandals. The more I read about barefoot running the more I’m convinced that the shoes you wear aren’t that important and that padded running shoes can even cause more injury as they encourage bad technique (landing on your heels).
  • Money belt – I don’t have pockets in my shorts so I use my travel money belt worn behind me to carry my iPhone, tissues, keys and money (just in case).
  • Sunglasses – If I’ll be running into the sun.
  • iPhone 5 – To listen to music and podcasts, and track the distance and speed of my run. Having a map with me is also useful if I get lost, and the camera took most of the photos in this post.
  • iSmoothRun app – You don’t need an app to run with but I’ve found tracking my progress keeps me motivated. I started using the free version of the Map My Run app which was fine but when I started taking running more seriously I bought iSmoothRun. It was a huge improvement and well worth $4.99 for custom workouts, audio coaching, and many more features (see our best apps for digital nomads post). You don’t need a data plan to use a running app but you do need GPS so an iPhone works but an iPod Touch doesn’t (update: an iPod Touch does work if there are WiFi hotspots around even if you aren’t connected). I also think you need WiFi to save the workout when you get back from your run.
  • Forecast app – To check sunrise times and the coolest time of the day (or just google it).
  • Plastic bag – To store sweaty running clothes in my backpack if I run on travel days.

Update 2014: After nearly two years of running and while training for a half marathon I treated myself to some new running gear

Running Hazards

“Mental will is a muscle that needs exercise, just like the muscles of the body.”

Lynn Jennings

Running while travelling -Palermo, Sicily
I loved running past fancy yachts and rustic fishing boats in the harbour in Palermo, Sicily

There are some downsides to running, and not just the struggle to get out of bed. I’ve discovered a few things I think you should know before you embark on your running journey.

Runner’s Diarrhoea – I never even knew such a thing existed and it came as an unpleasant, embarrassing surprise that has ruined a number of runs. It turns out that the trots are very common and there’s not much you can do about it other than trying to go before your run, carrying toilet paper, and trying to plan your route around a toilet (read more tips here). If you are forced to dash into a bush just remember that Paula Radcliffe had to go by the side of the road in front of thousands of spectators before going on to win the 2005 London Marathon.

Injuries – Injuries can happen. I’ve had two very minor injuries in the last year. One was a slightly swollen ankle which I think was caused by running on an angle on a sloping beach, and the other was a sore top of my foot when I first started running in shoes, probably from tying my laces too tight. It’s important to stop running and rest any injuries to prevent them getting worse.

Dogs – Semi-wild dogs are very common in SE Asia and I’m often barked at and chased. One time I ran down a narrow side street where five territorial dogs surrounded me and I was scratched and had to get rabies jabs (it’s not worth taking chances with rabies). It’s best to avoid running past stray dogs if you can or if you see one pick up a stick or rock to threaten them with (and try shouting). It’s usually only a problem in backstreets and most of them are more bark than bite.

Messy Feet – It’s not a problem for short runs but when you get serious about running pretty feet are a thing of the past. I’ve had blisters, callouses, and two damaged toenails that turned black, one of which has grown back weirdly thick. Getting a pedicure isn’t a good idea either as those calluses act as blister protection.

Making Progress

“If you run, you are a runner. It doesn’t matter how fast or how far. It doesn’t matter if today is your first day or if you’ve been running for twenty years. There is no test to pass, no license to earn, no membership card to get. You just run.”

John Bingham

Running while travelling- Trapani, Sicily
Sometimes it’s the simple sights – rocks glowing in the morning light in Trapani, Sicily

Be Gentle – Some runs are harder than others. It can be frustrating when on certain runs you feel like you aren’t progressing or are even going backwards. The only thing to do is to keep going, stay positive, and remember that the good days will return and even a bad run is good for you. Some of the best advice in Running with the Mind of Meditation is to be gentle with yourself—don’t give yourself a hard time but encourage yourself and remember your motivation for running.

Strength Training – To become a better, stronger runner and decrease the risk of injury strength training is recommended. There are lots of exercises for runners online but I keep things simple with a short routine of squats, push ups, the plank, and crunches after some runs, along with my usual stretches. In the last few months I’ve started doing yoga as well which I really enjoy and is great for strength and flexibility.

Sign up for a Race – Once you are comfortable running 5k on a regular basis then consider signing up for a 10k race. When I knew we’d be in Chiang Mai during the Christmas Marathon (six weeks before) I committed to running the 10k and it really helped push myself to run further and faster, and to motivate me to run on days when I didn’t feel like it.

Recommended Reading

Running while travelling -Palermo, Sicily
The view from Palermo’s waterfront


“Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.”

Haruki Murakami

These books aren’t running manuals but they offer inspiration to get you out and running—when reading about people running 100 miles it makes your 10k seem a lot more manageable.

Born to Run by Christopher McDougall – The book that started the barefoot running craze. If you read one running book make it this one. It’s a fascinating story of the author’s journey to discover the secrets of some of the greatest runners in the world, the Tarahumara Indians in Mexico’s Copper Canyon.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami – A memoir about running, writing and Murakami’s insights on life.

Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness by Scott Jurek and Steve Friedman – Scott Jurek was one of the ultra runners that featured in Born to Run. This is an insight into life as an ultra runner (a crazy world!) as well as practical tips that can be applied to running all distances, especially about how important your mental attitude and willpower is. Scott is vegan and includes his favourite recipes in the book.

Running with the Mind of Meditation: Lessons for Training Body and Mind by Sakyong Mipham – Written by a Tibetan lama about how to run more mindfully and combine meditation with running. I’m not really into meditation but this has convinced me to give it a go and I can definitely see the benefits for running, especially on difficult runs. I also enjoyed the anecdotes of his runs around the world and how he fits running into his busy travel schedule.

Running with the Kenyans: Discovering the Secrets of the Fastest People on Earth by Adharanand Finn – Finn spent six months living and running in Kenya trying to discover why Kenyans dominate long distance running.

Blog Posts

“Getting healthy on the road is different, but not harder, than getting healthy any other way.”

Jessica Ainlay, GlobetrotterGirls.com

  • Audrey shares her journey from being firmly “not a runner” to running in the snow in Berlin with tips on how to get started at anything in 9 Steps From Doubt to Doing.
  • Jess shares her story of getting fit, losing lots of weight, and becoming a more confident person. It’s not specifically about running, but her story of improving her fitness while travelling is incredibly inspiring.
  • Shannon has written a beautiful post about the challenge of running in her first marathon (at Disney!).
  • For general running tips there is a huge amount of information on Runner’s World.

If you’re interested in running then I hope you’ll give it a try. Running not only makes you stronger physically and mentally, but it’s a way to enhance your travels rather than burden them. Running has led to more positive changes than I ever imagined and I’m looking forward to exploring more of the world on my morning runs.

Update: I ran my first half marathon! Read all about it here.


  1. Hi there , ich really enjoyed this post! I already am into running, I run almost every morning. But I worry that I will not be able to run while being traveling through countries in South America or Asia. I am not sure whether it might be unsafe as a young women running alone through rather poor areas. How has your experience with this? Do you have any tips or recommendations?
    I know this post is almost 10 years old, but I thought I might give it a shot and would be thrilled to get an answer :)
    Greetings, annabel

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    • Hi Anna, I have run alone frequently in Asia and Central America/Mexico (I wasn’t a runner when we were in South America). There are definitely challenges but I haven’t had any major issues. It’s best to stick to daylight hours and busier areas if possible.

      My biggest issue has been with dogs rather than people. I haven’t been bitten but I was scratched once and have been chased quite a few times. Usually their bark is worse than their bite but it can be scary.

      It is difficult to avoid them in some places (like Thailand). Shouting at the dogs can help (you want to show you are dominant) or pick up a stone to throw in their direction if they start heading towards you (not to actually hit them). Or pick up a stick just in case.

      The other issue in more rural areas that don’t see many tourists is that you’ll get stared at. People just aren’t used to people running for fun so you’ll be a curiosity. It’s not that big a deal once you get over the self consciousness though.

      Although it can be a challenge, I’ve also had many wonderful runs through beautiful places. I hope it works out for you!

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  2. Great post! I have always loved to travel and when I took up running last year, combining the two was a no-brainer. I love seeing a new place at my easy pace and both Map My Run and the Nike + app are great sources for finding out where the locals run and mapping out a challenging or interesting route. Now I never go anywhere without my trainers and will be pounding the pavement on my fourth continent this spring. Thanks!

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  3. Great post Erin, I need to get up and do this. One of the things putting me off is the smelly clothes; I can’t wash/dry every day, how do you get around this?

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    • I usually hang them up in the bathroom and they’re OK to rewear. If I have to travel I pack them in a separate ziplock bag or packing cube from the rest of my clothes. My new running clothes are made from Athleta Unstinkable fabric and they really don’t smell even after multiple sweaty wears. It’s worth looking into some technical clothes that dry quickly and don’t smell as much. Good luck!

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  4. Thanks so much for this article! I read it back in January, few days before my departure for South East Asia, and it gave me the motivation to plan some running during my travels, and to pack a pair of runners in my small backpack.

    Few weeks ago I run my first 10k in Bangkok – but trained mostly in Chiang Mai.
    I’m not sure I’d been able to do it without the inspiration from this article, so thanks again and congrats on your recent half-marathon! : )

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  5. Hey lass, it was good to see a post on running whilst travelling as when I eventually get away (very soon I hope) I plan on keeping up my running and taking part in a few races around the world wherever I am. I did wonder just how feasibly it would be especially when I hit SEA.

    The only thing I have to disagree with though is the heckling comment in Britain. I have been running for the last 3 years and have never once had a heckle, even when I was just starting out and was a blubbering mess after 3 miles..! Potentially there may be some regional differences within the country but I do feel that saying it is quite common in the UK is a wee bit unfair and may put some of the readers off when reading this.

    Otherwise it was a great post :-D and I love swinging past and reading your blogs.

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    • Glad to hear you’ll be keeping up your running on the road. It’s definitely possible in SE Asia although it does get tough at this time of year as it’s hot season.

      Maybe quite common is unfair but it definitely can happen. Perhaps more to women? I certainly don’t feel comfortable running past a group of teenagers in England whereas places like Mexico is wasn’t a problem at all.

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  6. Long time reader of the blog – it’s been interesting and super useful for planning my next trip.

    In particular, this post was just what i needed! I’m going to South America for seven months in June and really want to build some running into my routine. I am however petrified of stray dogs – are there many of these in South America? (I feel like the answer is going to be yes…) The heat is a concern too, but I suppose I just have to do like you and get up early…(groan!) Jonny

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    • I wasn’t running when I was in South America so I can’t really remember. You can always run with a stick or a stone if you are really worried. Good luck with it!

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  7. Your post was recommended by Shannon at A Little Adrift. Trying to get back into long distance running and just started traveling full-time. Very impressed by your accomplishments and glad for the information in the post. I will come back often for inspiration – I’m sure I’ll need it!

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  8. Love this! I’m using the Couch to 5K app to get me up and running (so to speak) – I totally agree that it’s a great way to explore new places and it’s perfect for people who travel. Great advice about hazards too – always terrified of the stray dogs and bad roads in SEA, but you can’t let these things stop your personal progress.

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  9. This post hits close to home! My husband and I just quit our jobs and are about to embark on a traveling-the-world adventure. I’m also training for my first full marathon, which is on June 2 in Cork, Ireland. I started a blog to document our journeys and to keep me accountable for my marathon training. I can’t wait to explore new cities by running! I’m currently reading No Meat Athlete, by Matt Frazier, and really love his blog too.

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  10. Great post! I always feel self conscious running in new places, especially when you don’t really know where you’re going, but the tips here will be very helpful for my next runs!! :-)

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    • I do too but I am really getting over it the more I do it. Planning your route in advance definitely helps.

      We didn’t know about the Qantas review but I just found a copy online. Thanks for letting us know!

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  11. Excellent tips!! I love running. It’s a great opportunity to clear my mind and interact with a new city on a whole different level than you normally would when in ‘tourist mode’. Unfortunately pleurisy has kept me from being able to run for a few months now, but I can’t wait til I’m better and able to run again! Good luck with your half-marathon!

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  12. Loads of inspiration!
    Although in our travel tandem Gianni is a runner and I do more yoga, I found the tips useful for any kind of physical activity that is so important while being on the road. Especially when a person travels and works at the same time.

    Have a great time in Chiang Mai, guys and many happy miles, Erin :)

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  13. Love this post! I rediscovered my love for running in NYC last summer – it was just the perfect weather and the perfect setting to take up running again and I loved every minute of it. I had also forgotten what an awesome way to explore a city running is! The last few months traveling through the Andes at 3000 – 4000m altitude made runs impossible but one of my New Year’s resolutions was to sign up for a marathon this year, or at least a half marathon. We’ll see :D

    P.S. I agree that a running app helps to stay motivated – the kind reminders to go on another run usually get me going. BTW – am using an iPod Touch and it does mark my routes even though I am never connected to wifi on my runs, so the GPS does work :)

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    • NYC does sound like a great running city. Maybe we can run a half marathon somewhere in the world together!

      Thanks for the info on the iPod Touch. Apparently it doesn’t have true GPS but it uses WiFi hotspots to pinpoint your position. It might be less reliable when you away from everything but glad it has worked out for you.

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  14. Absolutely LOVED this post Erin! Great quotes, beautiful photos, smiled at the authentic way you shared your experiences and can’t wait to get into the book recommendations!

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  15. Hi Erin,

    Good to see you’re running whilst on your travels. There’s no better way to explore a place and connecting with the landscape than getting out on the trails. Can I suggest an addition to your reading list? ‘Run or Die’ by Kilian Jornet – he’s a Spanish trail running superstar (a Euro Scott Jurek!) but I think you’ll appreciate his motivation and love of the outdoors.

    I’ve got your friend (old school friend?) Tom ‘Wildman’ Wild joining my twice weekly hill-rep sessions. You’ll have to join us when you’re back in the UK!

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    • Hi Chris, lovely to hear from you! Thanks for the book recommendation -running books are great for when my motivation wanes.

      Ha, I’m not sure I could keep up with you on your hill runs but maybe :)

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  16. I saw some other recommendations, but if you like Merrell, they have their own Barefoot collection and are incredibly lightweight. Just wanted to let you know as well that my husband and I just set out on what we hope to be at least a yearlong trip, and we have used so much of the information on your site to build packing lists, itineraries, etc! Thank you!

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    • I’ll definitely look into the Merrell barefoot shoes as well this summer and will let everyone know how I get on.

      Happy travels!

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  17. Awesome Post! Running is definitely my stress release as well as my favorite way to see new cities. Long term travel is tough when you don’t have access to laundry, but you get use to cleaning your workout clothes in the sink!

    If I have room for nothing else in my travel bag, you better believe my tennis shoes will be in there! Great tips and guides for new runners!

    Good luck with your first 1/2 marathon!

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    • Thanks Caroline! Yep, hand washing in the sink is an essential skill :) At the moment in Chiang Mai we have a washing machine and clothes line in the garden where things dry in a few hours which makes things so much easier.

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  18. Although I’ve gotten into a good running routine while in Berlin, I find that I have a harder time motivating myself when we’re on the road. This post is a good reminder to stop with the excuses!!

    Dan runs regularly, but we’ve rarely run together. Since we’re with each other all the time, I find that running on my own is good for tuning out and getting some space to myself.

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    • My runs are just about the only thing I do without Simon :)

      Good luck with running on the road. It definitely takes more willpower but then you feel even better afterwards.

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  19. This post was at the perfect time for me. I’ve been traveling for months now and I miss getting decent exercise. Three weeks ago I started to exercise regularly again, but I got sick right afterwards and stopped. Now that I’m better, I’ve been using the excuse of no running shoes, but I think I’ll give it a try in my hiking shoes. I look forward to starting the day right again!

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  20. I agree with Kim – it IS such a mental game. One of the reasons I love it. I’ve found that my biggest challenge to running while traveling in SE Asia has been the pollution. I have managed to run fewer times than I anticipated mostly because of dust and car/motorbike fumes. Most recently I tried running along the river in Siem Reap, but had some serious asthma issues due to the pollution. Have you encountered that problem much? We’re in Hoi An right now and it seems to be a little better here on the water, so I’ll try again, but it has been a serious issue for me.

    Good luck with your half marathon training!!

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    • I actually haven’t had a problem with pollution but then I’ve never had any asthma issues and I’ve managed to spend most of the year by the sea which definitely helps. I like to run early here in Chiang Mai to avoid the worst of the traffic and try to choose quieter routes.

      We are off to Cambodia next and I’m a bit worried about finding running routes there. I thought the river in Siem Reap would be the best option but that’s a shame to hear about the pollution. I hope Hoi An works out better for you.

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  21. I have been slowly learning to run over the past few months. I am planning a RTW in 2015 and the ability to exercise anywhere by running is part of my motivation. I feel like I am finally starting to see some of the rewards (I can now run for 15-20 minutes continuously) and your post is really motivating – so thank you!

    Building habits and routines is so important, and it’s very inspiring to read that you have managed to keep this up while traveling. I’m not much of a morning person (my trigger for exercising is leaving work) but maybe while I’m traveling I will overcome that. I always love it once I am actually up in the morning…but getting out of bed can be so hard!

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    • That’s great – it’ll be much easier for you having started running before travelling. I’m not a morning person either and I still really struggle to get up but it’s worth it to avoid the heat and traffic and I love how the day feels so long. It does get easier over time as well. Good luck on your running journey!

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  22. Great post Erin, thanks for the links and info.

    ”The biggest factor in one’s ability to run is not fitness level but mindset.” – I agree with this 110%. I run to challenge myself mentally, I often find it very difficult from a mental point of view but that just means every run is an achievement, even if it’s only 3km.

    I’d recommend ‘The Non Runner’s Marathon Trainer’ by David Whitsett, Forrest Dolgener for anybody looking to up their running game – even if they don’t plan to run a marathon. It works as much on the mental side of things as the physical and I’m going to use it again to train for the halves and a full marathon I plan to run this year. I love this book!

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    • Looking at every run as an achievement is a great attitude. I always feel better if I can drag myself out for a short run than not going at all.

      The book sounds great -thanks for the recommendation. Good luck with the marathon training!

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  23. Erin an inspiring post thank you. I started running two years ago & ran my first half marathon last year. I was running 8 miles 3x a week whilst in Europe last year, but have not been since arriving in the heat of Central America. I have my kit with me & you have given me the `kick` I needed. Thanks Erin and good luck with your goal for 2014.

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    • 8 miles is great! It’s definitely harder in hot countries and getting up early is a pain but it gets easier once you’ve started. Good luck!

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  24. Really inspiring and informative blog post Erin! I am on an 8 month trip with my husband and I am realizing that I need to get some more exercise in. Too much amazing food and not enough exercise. Running on the beach barefoot is one of my favorite things (well, maybe not the actual running part, but the feeling after and some parts during :P) and I’m inspired to run some more now. Do you run everyday?

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    • That’s the thing -better to run and enjoy all the amazing food than to miss out on it.

      I aim to run 6 times a week but often it can be 4-5 times.

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  25. This came at the right time. I can’t believe it has been two years since I’ve run a marathon (and two years since I started traveling) and the time has come to get back in marathon shape. I’m thinking of shooting for a fall marathon. One thing I’ve found is how important it is to stay motivated. I’ve started reading Runners World again and inspirational blogs that keep me moving. I’ve put some great podcasts that motivate on my iPod. It’s such a mental game!

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    • Absolutely, motivation is everything. Signing up for a race is a great way to motivate yourself so good luck with the marathon training!

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  26. This is such a great post Erin! I travelled very (verrrrry) slowly around Australia and then lived in Auckland for a year and I definitely tried to carry on the running routine that I had at home in England. It was amazing to be running by the beach in St Kilda, Melbourne or at Rushcutters Bay in Sydney near where I lived. Now I’m back and living in London I’ve found another great running route near my new flat and I’m genuinely toying with the idea of signing up for a 10K for May!

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    • It is definitely inspiring when you find a great route on your travels. I found signing up for a 10k really motivating so it’s a great idea. Good luck!

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  27. Wow, amazing write up – inspired to step up my running game. agree with you about the crazy dogs tho, there isn’t many around Chiangmai land road but I still avoid em!

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  28. Wow, that’s a great article with lots of good ideas and resources. I also started running because I realized that this is the only sport I can practice while traveling. But even at home, it’s more difficult to find excuses.
    Thank you!

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  29. Hi Erin! Congrats on the 10K, that’s a fantastic achievement :) It’s inspiring to hear you’ve managed to develop running as a regular habit travelling with just carry-on luggage too. I’m also working towards a half-marathon this year, tendonitis in my knee permitting, and I wish you the best of luck with your goal!

    Regarding shoes, you might want to check out VivoBarefoot’s trail shoes next time you’re in Europe/USA. They are barefoot shoes specifically designed for trail running so they might be a little lighter than Merrells but they still provide protection. I’m probably going to pick up a pair of their road shoes when my Vibrams have worn out.

    Thanks for writing such a detailed and inspiring post! Hope you’re well :)

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  30. Congratulations, Erin! I ran a half-marathon (from a couch potato start) back in 2010 before we left on our travels. I stopped running after that and began walking/hiking, but recently I had to run for about a kilometer (long story) and I was surprised at the good feelings it spurred. It made me remember why I liked running in the first place. I’ve been thinking about returning to a running schedule since, and your article just cemented the deal. Thanks so much for sharing…and good luck on that half-marathon!

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    • Thanks Betsy! That’s impressive that you went from couch to half-marathon, it still seems a really long distance to run to me but I’m sure I’ll get there. Good luck on getting back into running and let us know how you get on.

      Reply ↓

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