When I vacation, I always check out the running facilities of my destination before I leave. Am I in an area that's good for running? If I'm in an urban area, is there a park nearby? Is there a college with a track? If the area is not conducive to outside running, is there a gym in the facility where I'll be staying?
When I mention this in passing ("I can't wait to go running in Central Park, even though it's the coldest December on record!" "I hope the gym has an elliptical because there's construction for blocks around the capital...."), I get funny looks.
Often, there's at least one person who screws up the courage to ask, "You're not really going to run on vacation, are you? That's why they call it vacation!"
And I laugh. Of course I run on vacation. Every vacation I've taken as an adult (except for a couple late last year) I find myself lacing my shoes in the morning. My family doesn't even think to ask if I plan to run, but when. Even on Christmas Day, I'm out in the elements, pounding the pavement. (After gifts; I'm not completely crazy.)
A trip I took this past weekend proved to me the joy of running while on vacation. I didn't know exactly in which South Carolina city I'd find myself, so I couldn't plan. I didn't know much about lodging, or amenities on site or around where we'd be.
But I was ready for anything: I had gotten lost for an hour in San Francisco in the 90s and, one summer in North Carolina, run twice my normal distance (quite by accident, I assure you, and got a sunburn to prove it). I couldn't be thwarted.
I was pleasantly surprised the night David and I arrived in Columbia. We were within walking distance (okay, my idea of walking distance) of the city's throbbing night life areaa. As David and I walked back to the hotel from dinner, we saw the dome of the state capital building. I couldn't wait to check it out in the light of day.
The following morning, David was up with the dawn. I was not. The day was gray and drizzly, but it was 25 degrees warmer than it would have been at home, so I couldn't really complain. I donned my running gear around mid-morning and hit the street.
People rarely see bars in the light of day for a reason, and other "hot night life" areas often suffer from the same spirit. Without the neon and the press of stylishly-dressed bodies, the center of town looked underwhelming and very definitely under improvement. The streets were quiet, the doors were locked and there were only a few cars on even the busiest roads. I loved it.
I discovered a lovely park full of war memorials a couple of blocks from the hotel, and I made a mental note to return with my camera. I could read the historic markers and knew the answers to David's questions about the "train depot" look of part of the strip (it was a train depot at one time). The flour factory was, indeed, in operation. The convention center was getting itself gussied for its next group (Spa Expo 2009, according to the marquee and the two-story inflatable rubber ducky on the lawn). And yes, that was the state capital building.
And I saw it all because I went running.
So, the next time someone wonders why you aren't leaving your walking (or running) shoes at home on your next vacation, know you made the best decision to discover your surroundings while getting a workout. Just remember to be careful — and don't forget to take your camera (a little tip I'll remember next time).