Beginners: Where to Run
No matter whether you live in urban or rural environs, your running route is only as far away as the nearest open door.
Posted Thursday, 23 October, 1997
Much of the beauty and appeal of running lie with the simple fact that you can do it anywhere and anytime. No matter whether you're a city dweller or a veritable hermit hundreds of miles from civilization, your exercise space is only as far away as the nearest doorway.
Particularly as a beginner, though, you should seek out a place where you can relax and be at ease, where the scenery will hold your attention and take your mind away from what your body is up to. When it is convenient, go for pastoral; the calmer the better. Even the busiest cities have parks and waterways that make for carefree running.
Do your best to stay off the pavement, or you may find your legs punishing you with shin splints (if that happens, consult our tips for beating shin splints). If there's no way around it, at least stick with asphalt instead of concrete; it's softer and more forgiving. Trouble is, this may often mean running along the shoulder of a road. If that's the case, be very careful and run defensively.
Dirt paths or grass, though, are ideal surfaces firm enough to give you sure footing but soft enough to offer some shock absorption. A special bonus is that dirt paths often come packaged with forests, countryside and other assorted natural scenery. The aesthetics, as well as the terrain, are in your favor.
Less aesthetically interesting is the track. Many new runners seem to think that that big oval behind the local high school is the defacto place to run. In fact, you really never have to go there at all -- at least not until you begin doing speedwork, and you don't have to worry about that for a while yet. It can be monotonous going in a single short loop over and over and over again. Find somewhere more interesting and more relaxing, and make it your own.
Running the roads and paths of your neighborhood can be a wonderful way to see your community from a new vantage point. Explore and enjoy. If you need help finding local running routes, consult The Neighborhood forum of the Cool Running discussion forum, or browse our regional running links.