Us runners love to plan everything perfectly. Our nutrition, the route we’re taking, how many miles we’re going to accumulate, the time a run should take and so on. I’m usually organised to this degree but, on a recent holiday, this planning went out the window. Long story short, I got lost in another country on my run and had one of the best runs of my life. Read on to find out why.
What was the situation?
Last week, I went on a lad’s holiday to Kraków in Poland. I know what you’re thinking. Loads of booze, hardly any sleep, non-stop partying, pubs and clubs galore, no time for running. Whilst a lot of this is true (minus the alcohol as I hardly ever drink), I did squeeze in some running.
I packed my ASICS Men’s Gel-Phoenix 9 shoes, a pair of sports leggings and some tops. Having run at least 1 mile every single day since New Year’s Eve 2018, I was determined to maintain my running streak on holiday. I also love running in different countries as it’s a great chance to explore.
Each morning, I planned to set my alarm an hour earlier than the rest of the group to get some miles in before everyone else had awoken. After our first eventful and humorous night I awoke at 7:00AM, slipped into my running gear and departed for the crisp Polish morning. Once outside I turned on my Garmin and off I went.
Having arrived in the city in the dark, I hadn’t yet seen it in all its day lit glory. I was overwhelmed. Kraków looked like a city straight out of a Disney movie. With its cobbled streets, pretty squares, ancient buildings and churches, I was amazed.
I was totally absorbed in the sights, sounds, hustle and bustle of everyday life in this enchanting city. It was only when my Garmin vibrated to inform me that I had covered a mile, that I remembered I was running.
Having totally forgot about my workout, I must have zoned out and got lost in the environment around me. I jolted back to conscious thought and thought about how to get back to apartment we were staying in. That’s when I realised, I couldn’t remember. I was lost in a foreign country.
I wasn’t ‘strictly’ lost but I acted like I was
Okay, so whilst I couldn’t remember my way back to the apartment I wasn’t ‘strictly’ lost on the streets of Kraków. I had my iPhone on me, with its GPS services, which could point me to the apartments address at a moment’s notice if I needed it to.
I thought about using my iPhone to bail me out, but then I had a thought. ‘Why don’t I try and find my way to the apartment myself?’ That way, I’d explore more of the city, get a longer run in and have a memorable experience in the process. If I really cocked it up and had no idea where I was, my phone was the back-up plan.
The next 30 minutes were incredibly fun. I ran past the Wawel Castle, the old market square, through green spaces, past street food stalls and through endless streams of people going about their daily business. It was all new to me and I loved it.
Though Poland is only 2 hours away on a plane from the UK, it was refreshing to see another culture in action.
I also found it exhilarating to test my spatial skills i.e. remembering the way I had come from the apartment.
Eventually, after 30 minutes of searching, I found a familiar road and knew I was in the correct vicinity. I ran up it, found the apartment, went in and sat down. When the rest of the group asked if it was a good run I simply smiled and said ‘yes, it was a great run.’
Why did I love being lost in a foreign country whilst running?
Being lost on the run gave me a unique opportunity to explore the city of Kraków. The running activity meant I could cover more ground in a shorter amount of time than if I’d just been walking. This meant I got to see more of the city during the ‘lost’ episode.
I’ll never forget the feeling of overwhelm I experienced when I saw Kraków in daylight for the first time. It literally looks like it has come straight out of a Disney movie. The city dates to the 7th Century and plenty of its medieval buildings are still intact. It was a pleasure to explore the city on my lost run.
For me, exploration is a necessary part of life. It allows you to enhance your view of the world as you realise there is more to life than once thought. Seeing new places, different cultures, other sights and sounds, is a remarkable and exciting part of exploring that I love.
If you go running in another country, try getting lost and see how you get on. You might just have the exploration of your life.
2. Get more miles in whilst on holiday
Many people tend to think of holiday as a time to relax and take it easy. Understandably so, many people want a break from the stresses of everyday life, so they travel for a bit of ‘me’ time to unwind and chill.
Whilst this is great for mental wellbeing, it also means us runners are tempted to reduce our mileage or even stop running altogether whilst on holiday. For some, reducing or cutting out running altogether isn’t a bad thing but for others it certainly is.
If you’re training for a marathon or trying to lose weight, taking it easy on holiday isn’t going to do you any favours and will hold you back from achieving your goals. Not good.
Instead, try getting lost when you holiday to a foreign country as it will increase the number of miles you run.
I initially planned to do a mile or two when I set out for my run in Kraków (even though my daily average is 4). However, getting lost and running to find my way back to the apartment meant I clocked up 5 miles. Significantly more than I had planned for.
If you want to guarantee that you will run more miles whilst on your holiday, get lost and explore the city. It’s a memorable way to get ensure you don’t relax on the goals you’ve set yourself like training for a marathon or losing weight. Give it a try and clock those miles up.
3. Experience a unique challenge
I quite enjoyed the sense of drama and excitement that came with getting lost. ‘How will I get back? Will I make it okay? How will I manage?’ were all questions that raced through my subconscious as I realised, I was lost.
Challenges and problems are an important part of our lives. They allow us to learn, push ourselves, test our abilities, and ultimately serve to make us stronger. If we didn’t have any problems, we’d experience no resistance and then we’d stop growing as individuals. That would suck, to put it frankly. Everyone wants to be better than they are!
I found the challenge of finding my way back to the apartment to be exhilarating. I was forced to think through the route I had taken, use landmarks as visual cues, trial and error the wrong routes and even pluck up the courage to use some basic Polish phrases I had learnt to ask the locals which way to go.
The experience put me out of my comfort zone, big time. I was in a foreign country, didn’t speak the language, had no idea where I was going and arguably in one of the busiest places in the entire country. However, I stuck with it and – after considerable effort – found my way back to the apartment. Challenge accomplished.
Beating the challenge of finding my way back to the apartment whilst running in a foreign country gave me a confidence boost. I had managed to traverse through unknown territory back to the familiarity of our apartment room.
When we complete challenges, the confidence and self-esteem boost we get transfers over to every other area in our lives. If we’ve excelled in one challenge, what’s to say we can’t exceed in another challenge? I now tackle my work, musical and sports pursuits with more confidence and readiness to face challenges whenever they arise.
There you have it. Some of the reasons why I loved getting lost on my run in a foreign country. It might seem like a scary idea and one totally out of your comfort zone, but I’d recommend it to anybody. It’s great for exploration, getting in more miles and experiencing a unique challenge.