50 Surprising Lessons Learned From Running Around the World

by Jason Fitzgerald

I usually hate running when I’m traveling – I don’t know the locations, trails are hard to find, and out-and-backs on city sidewalks are boring.Redwood Forest

But for three months, I traveled to Pennsylvania, California, Hawaii, up the eastern coast of Australia, and all the way around the country of New Zealand. I ran almost every day and hit a new annual mileage record in 2012 (3,019).

I explored new trails and discovered hidden natural treasures that I would have never experienced if I wasn’t a runner. The entire experience was surreal and I never would have enjoyed it as much if I wasn’t running through it every day.

You can see some of the amazing landscapes I ran through in Maui and New Zealand in my previous posts.

The goal for this trip was to broaden my perspectives on work, life, and of course, running. It worked.

Running in multiple countries, in different landscapes, and in very different climates will teach you a lot about yourself and what it means to be a runner.

Today I want to share those lessons so hopefully you can apply a few to your running and get inspired for more “travel running.”

50 Lessons Learned from Running Around the World

1. No matter where you’re running, people will yell things at you. My favorite: “Hey! Why are you wearing your sister’s shorts?

2. There are good places to run almost anywhere. You just have to look hard and get creative.

3. You don’t need a track to get faster. Learn to run by feel.

4. You don’t need a GPS watch or a measured course. In fact, you don’t really need to know exactly how far you’ve run at all.

5. Look right before you run across the street in Australia and New Zealand. Don’t learn this one the hard way!

6. Keep your eyes peeled when running in the woods – sorry, the bush – in Australia. Everything is poisonous.

Australia

7. Hills can take the place of more structured speed workouts. For more hill workout ideas, read 52 Workouts.

8. The rainforest is hell on earth to run through. And I thought the summer in DC was bad.

9. “Ooohh a new trail!” often adds unexpected miles to your planned run.

10. It’s ok to stop and admire the scenery.

11. If I can run in a cyclone, you can run in a drizzle.

12. If you’re running in a new place, remember the name of your street before you leave. You will get lost, like I did, and run miles more than planned.

13. Google your new address and look for green. It means there are parks, trails, and good places to run nearby.

14. Running on soft sand saps all of your energy. Wait until low tide for the flat, hard packed sand.

15. Don’t run under trees that are home to thousands of nesting fruit bats.

16. Even if you’re traveling, don’t skip your strength workJust don’t.

17. When running in Australia, remember that tops are optional at the beach. It’s rude to stare…

18. Dawn and dusk are always the best times to see wildlife no matter where you are.

19. The more you can run, the more you’ll see. Click here to tweet this lesson!

20. Find time to run – it’s always worth it to explore.

21. Explore residential neighborhoods – it’s a non-creepy way to see how other people live in other states and countries.

22. Chickens are everywhere in Hawaii; get used to it.

23. Explore the sugarcane fields on Maui but don’t do it in the rain or if the ground is wet. The red clay will clump on your shoes so bad you can’t even run.

24. You need less running gear than you think. Embrace minimalism.

25. Chase every animal you see, like turkeys, chickens, deer, or rabbits. But don’t chase snakes – that just doesn’t work.

26. Other people might think you’re weird for running every day, but soon they’ll ask how they can start, too.

27. When in doubt, just run an out-and-back so you don’t get lost. Side benefit: it’s an easy negative split!

28. Low tide is the perfect opportunity for barefoot strides on the beach.

29. Pay attention to the signs that warn of crocodiles. They’re not there for decoration!

30. If you’re staying at the top of a hill, don’t stop at the bottom and walk up. Running uphill is a good way to finish any run!

31. Stuff wet shoes with newspaper to help them dry. Replace and repeat until they’re dry.

32. Respect strong sun, high temperatures, and humidity: you just won’t run as fast. It’s ok – effort counts.

33. Don’t sit down anywhere in the bush in Australia. Ants will bite your ass.

34. Even if you’re doing an easy run, flocks of screeching cockatoos will stress you out.

35. Swimming in the ocean is the perfect post-run activity. Enhanced recovery and a bit of extra fitness – win!

36. Most lakes or rivers usually have a path near the water that’s perfect for running.

37. Don’t you even think of skipping your run in New Zealand – it’s the ideal country for running.

New Zealand

38. Waterfalls in the mountains always make pools that are perfect for ice baths.

39. Hiking rugged terrain is a hybrid strength-cardio form of cross-training.

40. You don’t need hiking boots to hike. Flip flops work pretty well too!

41. Get lost in the woods (for a brief period of time). It’s fun.

42. Don’t be “that guy” with your keys jingling for an hour of running. That’s obnoxious.

43. Stop staring so intently at the ground – look around and enjoy the scenery!

44. In the southern hemisphere, the further south you go the colder it gets. And it’s hot up north!

45. There are no monkeys in Australia – you’re hearing Kookaburras, which I happen to think are a lot cooler.

46. The sun in Queensland is really strong – it’s called the Sunshine State for a reason.

47. Run the terrain: hit the hills, stride the flats, high step through the grass, and quick step over the rocks.

48. You don’t need to wear a shirt when it’s raining if it’s hot.

49. Stairs count as running so long as you run up them.

50. Running is one of the best ways to see and explore the world – cherish the giftClick here to tweet this lesson!

The Problem with Travel

A three month trip through three countries – and over 25,000 miles round trip - was exhilarating. I saw new places and ran the most beautiful trails, mountains, beaches, parks, and neighborhoods I’ve ever seen.

But it was also exhausting. 

Finding a routine that’s so important when you’re training for an important race is damn near impossible. You’re constantly running at different times of day, skipping workouts because you’re tired or driving for 12 hours, or cutting back your mileage so you can experience the place you’re staying.

And at the end of the entire trip, I wouldn’t have changed a thing (well, I’d have changed a lot of things, but that’s a topic best discussed over a few beers). I still got in great shape while seeing the best of Maui, Australia, and New Zealand. My life is richer for the experience.

For those who take more “normal” vacations and are worried about losing your fitness at the beach, on a road trip, or at the amusement parks, I wrote a (free) ebook called How to Stay Fit on Vacation that you get free when you join the team.

No matter how you travel, remember that running can be the lens through which you see the world.

Run. Get lost a little bit. See the world. Never stop exploring.

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Kris

Sounds exciting, thanks for sharing your lessons!

Melinda

Aww, come on. Not EVERYTHING in Australia is venomous. I ran into a mob of kangaroos this morning, they’re relatively safe as long as you leave them alone. And I’m sure we’ve got one or two spiders that aren’t deadly…. :-)

We have some amazing wildlife and an incredible country, I’m glad you enjoyed it.

Jason Fitzgerald

Haha, no not everything. Just about 85% ;)

Michelle

I travel pretty frequently for work, so finding time to fit in my run can be difficult. I used to just go to the hotel treadmill because I was so afraid of getting lost, going into a bad area, or not really sure where I wanted to go. My trip to Australia completely changed that mindset! I could not go to the hotel dungeon while I was surrounded by this beautiful country. I had very little time while I was there to myself so running was a way to clear my head, see some awesome sites, and burn off those mid morning and afternoon coffee and cookie breaks! I brought my phone along with me and I would just stop and take pictures of whatever I wanted. It was relaxing and exhilarating all at the same time. I saw so much of Sydney and Cairns this way. Some of my best pictures are from my runs around there. Now, every time I go to a new city I can’t wait to do my “tour”.

Esther

I just started training for my first 1/2 marathon. Couch to running. What did I get myself into??? I love this post, it just has so many good points and I see that I can actually enjoy running. : )

Lori

Great article! I travel frequently– spending time between Florida and Europe. I, too, tend to stay in the hotel gyms for fear of getting lost running in unfamiliar areas. I have started to venture out recently, doing exactly what you said, heading out from the front door for a ways and then back so I don’t get lost. I stop and take photos of the view. It has made my runs much more enjoyable. It is hard to stay on track with my training on some of the days (travel days, late evening events followed by early morning events, etc.) and that concerns me as I train for my first half-marathon.

Stephanie

I love your thoughts on New Zealand and Australia! I lived in Australia for 6 months in 2004 and visited again in 2009, and everything you said is spot on! And 9 years later those bastard cockatoos still have me traumatized…

Jason Fitzgerald

hahaha my wife got a kick out of that

Greg Strosaker

Good thoughts Fitz, as you know I’ve had a lot of opportunity to run while traveling (though only in Phuket did I encounter anything as adventurous as you have described). I’m learning to let go of expectations and instead just focus on seizing opportunities as they occur.

Ido

You probably know this website, but just in case next time you travel check out http://www.walkjogrun.net lots of running routes uploaded by people around the world.

Ido.

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