Off the Beaten Path Runcation Ideas

Runcation in Kauai

A “runcation” usually refers to a vacation with a running-related focus, usually involving a run along an iconic route and often including a race (whereupon it may also be known as a “racecation”). But destination races can be pricey and the timing of those events may not always work with your vacation schedule. What’s a runner  to do if circumstances prohibit her from going to the PCT, visiting Tracktown or running Comrades? Well you don’t have to settle for a trip without running.

Whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure, we’ve got your back when you’re out of town. Read on for a few less conventional ways to incorporate running into your trip!

Take a boutique exercise class

Cross-training or an indoor treadmill class, anyone? Thanks to franchises and company-owned locations, boutique exercise classes are ubiquitous in every metropolitan area. If you’re a fan of a particular boutique class, you can go visit and take a class at the original location. Or perhaps there’s a certain boutique class that you’ve heard of that’s not available where you live. You can try it out while on vacation. While these boutique classes can be spendy, you can see if they offer a free single class or a discounted price for newcomers, or if Groupon or Gilt City have a discounted class.

Running with the Urban Swaras, a running club in Nairobi

Go on a running tour

You can see many of the sights of a city by doing your own running tour, but there are additional benefits of going on a professional guided running tour. A knowledgeable guide provides you with information about the history, culture, and people of the city you’re running through. Many running tours can take you off-the-beaten path by specializing in food, areas that tourists typically miss, history, music, literature, and much more. To find these tours, search the Internet for “running tour + [name of city].”

Go on a group run with a running club

What better way to get to know a locale than to run with locals? When my husband and I honeymooned in Kenya, we wanted to go running, but running in Iten with elite runners was not possible with our schedule. We did go running with Kenyans, but rather than running with the fleet-footed Kalenjin tribe, we ran with Kenyans of other tribal memberships and expats who live in Nairobi. You can easily find local running clubs through an Internet search, but another good place to look is at the local running store where you are visting.

Once you’ve identified a running group, look at their website to see when they hold group runs. Nearly all running clubs have free (or very cheap) group runs that are open to non-members. By running with a run club, you get to meet locals, talk about what running is like in that area, and check out a route that you otherwise might not have seen. When my husband and I ran with the Urban Swaras in Kenya, we got to see the outskirts of Nairobi which included running through a swamp, a first for me!

Getting my body fat composition

Get tested

Being a data geek, I love numbers. I love getting assessed and quantifying myself. A few years ago, out of sheer curiosity, I wanted to know what my body fat composition was. One of the reliable ways of measuring body fat is with Whole-Body Air Displacement Plethysmography, otherwise known as Bod Pod.

I bring this up as a runcation idea because I really did do this on a vacation! Three years ago, I could only get a Bod Pod assessment in New York City for over $100. I didn’t want to pay that much, so I was kinda sad about not getting one, but then I remembered that I was going to see my parents in Southern California the following month. A quick search revealed that the same Bod Pod assessment at a local college for half the price. I quickly made an appointment. If you’re interested in the Bod Pod or other kinds of assessment, like VO2 max, see if you can get it at your next vacation spot.

Be a participant in a running study

Of these five runcation ideas, this is probably the one that you’re least likely to do, but it’s pretty cool if you can somehow pull it off. I’ve had the opportunity to participate in running studies for marketing research and it’s fun to give information in exchange for money. Research universities have scientists who are always running studies and frequently need participants. Why not contribute to science and make a little money during your vacation?

To find potential exercise studies, you can look at volunteer listings in Craigslist or conduct a search using the terms “exercise study and participants”, and perhaps the name of a college or university. Departments most likely to have running-related studies are Kinesiology, Health Sciences, Exercise & Nutrition Sciences, and Physiology.

Happy running during your vacation!

Have you taken a runcation? If so, what did you do? If you haven’t, what would you like to do during your runcation?

I'm an academic, a runner, and a New York cliché. I write about the science of exercise, training, and the culture of running. My current goals are a sub-23:00 5K (achieved on 4/22/17 with 22:48) and a sub-1:45 HM (achieved on 10/1/17). Now what?

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  1. Love the boutique idea — I couldn’t fit it in but looked at doing some Pilates classes when we went to Chicago last year so I could gain some additional professional development and a challenging workout! I also REALLY want to try a treadmill class but there are none here (yet), so that is on my list!

      1. Oh, man. Woodways. I work at a university, and we have them in the student rec center…but the time limit on them is 30 minutes! It totally defeats the purpose of having a Woodway! I would kill to do a long tempo workout on that thing!

  2. Funny that you guys mention treadmill classes because that’s exactly what I was thinking when I saw your post! I follow a studio in Boston on IG that does them – but I don’t’ think a new class is a good idea right before the marathon when my trip is!

  3. Finding a local running club is easy depending on where you are traveling. While in London, I ran one evening with the Chelsea Running Club. I also got maps of training routes off the website of another running club. If you are up for a shorter distance, park runs (5K distances) are a great way to meet local runners. I did one in an area of London I would not otherwise have visited. The course was in a park with a portion of it run along the Thames.

    I like your other suggestions as well. Running is such a wonderful means to get to know an area when traveling.

    1. Park runs are fantastic! NYC has NYRR Open Run, which are pretty much exactly like park runs. At the last one I was at, there was a guy who was visiting from upstate New York. He was really surprised to learn that NYers run.