EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

August 18, 2013

Benefits can abound when running on a vacation

Dave Dyer

---- — I’ve seen it all too often in the summer.

People who are generally well conditioned and fit, and work out throughout the year, return from a vacation and lament that they’ve done little of a physical nature for a week or two, or even three, and already are out of shape.

That’s something I’ve never understood. It takes very little time in one’s day to stay in shape and, with all the different avenues (virtually all hotels have fitness rooms) in which to do it, there’s really no excuse.

That’s particularly true for runners.

In fact, vacations should be a particularly enjoyable and inspiring time for runners. During the year, training runs can become stale when done in the same locales, with the same training partners, time after time.

Vacations are a chance to get out of one’s running rut and recharge the engine.

Over the years, I’ve had a chance to run while on vacation in — among other places — northern Wisconsin, southern and northern California, Missouri, Florida, New York City and Washington, D.C.

And that’s just in the United States. I’ve also run in Russia, Ukraine, China, Canada and various countries in Europe.

In addition to getting out of your rut, there is no better way to see the scenery as well as the in and outs of city life. It’s a lot easier to run down alleys and narrow city streets than it is to drive them.

And you can see more of everyday life, too, whether it’s how children play, how adults spend their evenings or what it’s like early in the morning when people are leaving for work.

You can also see a lot more of a city, and get a feel for its people, if you’re out running than if you’re with a group walking or, worse, in a tour bus just seeing the main attractions.

In addition, you can run a lot further without it seeming so far.

That happened to me once on my recent vacation, and it proved somewhat scary.

While on a wonderful trip to Ireland, our tour was staying at a hotel virtually across the street from the Kilarney National Forest, which has an iron fence with several gates around it.

I checked it out the evening before and it looked like a fantastic place to run, with an opportunity to pass fields of sheep and cows, fields of deer, mountains and lakes. I was also told that there were convenient 2K, 3K and 4K trails. Just follow the signs I was told.

The next morning, I headed out and decided to run the 4K loop and then add another 2K on my own. Unfortunately for me, the 4K loop was full of forks in the path with no readable signs to go by. After taking several turns, which I assumed were correct, I was soon lost.

I ran and ran. I had taken so many turns that it’d be impossible to retrace my steps. I passed a small castle twice and once I came to a dead end on a small cliff overlooking a pond. If there had been other runners, I could have asked someone for help, but the Irish seem to start later in the day than Americans, and I saw no one.

Finally, when I was really starting to panic, wondering if I’d ever get out, I saw a path to a road in the distance. I took the path to the road only to find that the gate there was locked. I turned around and finally found another exit onto the road a few hundred yards away.

When I got on the road, I started heading in one direction only to find, thanks to a bicyclist who passed me, that I was headed away from the city.

I turned around and finally headed back toward our hotel in Kilarney.

What I had intended to be a 5-mile run turned into an 10 or 11-miler — much farther than I had run in more than two years.

My problem is that I had violated one of my rules of thumb while in a new place, which is to run in one direction and then turn around. I had done that along the canal in Dublin a day earlier and had been fine.

Despite the scare, and an aching back from the extra miles, the run was terrific and was one of two that I’ll remember from my recent vacation.

The other was a run on a golf course and alongside some fields last week in North Haverhill, N.H. On a beautiful clear morning with the mountains in the background, the view was breathtaking.

I’m nearly finished with my vacation now, but I feel as fit as ever.

That’ll happen when you use a vacation as a tool to better your workouts rather than avoid them.