I often think that running is one of the best ways to see a new place. You can explore quickly, dashing between spot to spot, and get your bearings. After a long journey the thrill of pounding the streets and moving the limbs is even more exhilarating than usual. It’s good for you and the environment – the sort of ultimate slow travel. And you have plenty of excuses to take a breather – photo opportunities, right? So before I went travelling I made sure I packed my bright pink Saucony Kinvara trainers. Soft and cushioned, ready for action. These are some of the top places to explore on two feet.
Melbourne is made for running, its long flat river banks full of joggers, cyclists, walkers and sight seers, a result of the councils extensive investment into the network. The Yarra River stretches 242 kilometres, but a couple of those will do, padding under the multiple criss crossing bridges such as the steel girdered Westgate and the poetic Queens, past inspiring aboriginal architecture, and all the while breathing in the air of one of the world’s greenest cities.
Dunedin, New Zealand
Want to get some hills in? Try Dunedin. As well as being drenched in Scottish influences (Leith Street, Edinburgh Press et all) it is home to the world’s steepest road – Baldwin Street. The 350 metre hill slopes at up to 1:2.86, and is known locally as The Gut Buster. You may wish to stop and walk on this one.
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
With over a million motorbikes and a crazy approach to road safety, people will probably look at you as though you are mad to be running rather than riding. But that’s part of the novelty. Check out the French colonial architecture of Notre Dame and the Post Office, wend through Ben Thanh park is a place for early morning tai chi, lunchtime natters, afternoon meanders, and twilight rendezvous between lovers, and reward yourself later with a cocktail at Caravelle hotel, the haunt of photographers and journalists during the war, and an excellent vantage point.
Queenstown, New Zealand
Steep hills and stumbly paths, up mountain and down dale, all around the shimmering glistening Lake Waikatopo. Beautiful mountains in the form of The Remarkables line a sparkling vista, green and blue clarity astounding me as it glimmers away. The lakefront is a perfect place to stop and ease a little, before pounding back through green leaves and clear air.
Chang Mai, Thailand
Around the city walls will see you a good 6 kilometres, past the history of Northern Thailand’s old capital, crumbling red walls, bustling markets, and the vitality of Thai culture. Just don’t breathe too heavily – the air is smoggy, albeit nothing compared to Bangkok.
Francesca Baker is a freelance writer currently wandering the world with her eyes wide open and scribbling about. Partial to music, reading, culture, walking, cycling, travel, wine, off kilter events, smiling, and life, you can read her musings at www.andsoshethinks.co.uk. Images by courtesy of Francesca Baker