I recently got back from a trip to Europe: Munich and Northern Italy, Bolzano, and Milan. In the planning of the trip, of course, my wife and I tried to pair it up with a local race to get a feel for what running is like overseas. Unfortunately for us, we weren’t able to make it work.
The race we were thinking about in Munich was rescheduled last minute to September. We missed running a half marathon at the Munich airport (I know, a ridiculous place to run a race) by a couple of hours (not that we probably could have done it after the flights), and we just missed a Milan race the day we arrived in that city.
The stars just didn’t align for us.
In 2011, my wife and I ran a fun run race in Granada, Spain, so we were looking forward to comparing that with what we could do on this trip. Instead, we’ve got other running stories to tell.
On this trip, we were able to get out and run a few times. If any of you have tried to fit in running while traveling, you know how difficult it can be. Depending on where you go and the running culture where you’re at, you’ll have varying degrees of success or failure.
For example, when we traveled to Lake Titicaca in Peru, we were acutely aware of running in a culture where runners are few and far between. Running in Cusco, a bigger, more international city, we felt slightly more comfortable than we did running somewhere where we were outsiders in our quick dry clothes and running shoes.
This time, we felt very much at home. Well, if you discount the mountains that surrounded us, anyway.
Munich is much flatter than I expected so near to the Alps. The change in elevation over the course of 5.35 miles was about 100 feet. That’s pretty flat, even for Midwesterners. We ran along the channel between the Nymphenburg Palace and the Olympic Park. If you have the time, running through either are great options. We chose to try to make it to the Olympic Park, but we didn’t make it. As you can imagine, running while traveling has its disadvantages. Time, acclimation, plus general fatigue from touring, all play a part on how much and how far you can go.
After Munich, we ran in Bolzano, Italy. Hands down, this was the best run of my life. The company was unsurpassed with my wife at my side; we literally ran up a mountain. We climbed 510 feet in elevation, if my GPS is to be believed, and increased elevation a total of 1,785 feet with all the ups and downs throughout the 7.35 mile run. It’s no wonder our legs were toast for days afterwards.
Jeff runs under the Castle Runkelstein in Bolzano, Italy
The beauty of running abroad is that you see places in a way you’d never do otherwise. For example, our view of Bolzano:
Bolzano as seen running, the only way you could have gotten this shot.
Bolzano, Italy really is this beautiful when you’re running.
It seems that wherever we run, places with rivers running through them are natural places for runners and cyclists. Bolzano had more cyclists in town than I’d ever seen, not to mention the Giro d’Italia that rode through the city. It helps that the old town is closed to car traffic. Cyclists, take to the streets! Or, as runners did, the paths along the rivers.
Finally, we ran in fashion-centered Milan. I was surprised by how many runners there were in town. We ran to the main park and ran around it, rather than find other places to go. We ran 8.7 relatively flat miles in Parco Sempione and the Arco della Pace. Again, an amazing run. You truly see the city in ways you just wouldn’t otherwise.
Jeff running by the Arco della Pace in Milan, Italy
If you have a chance to run while on vacation, do so. Sure, you might look weird, as we did in Peru, but the rewards are more than worth the strange looks you might get. You see the sights, you get the feel for the place, and you do the international symbol of greeting to other runners … a wave.