Do you find your running mojo runs low sometimes? That every run feels the same and you’re pounding familiar paths again and again? It can be easy to get stuck in a rut due to certain training routes or races being convenient, even if they no longer fire up the passion you usually feel for running.
If this sounds familiar, then seeking a new adventure can reinvigorate your love of running. In fact, this search is what got me into running in the first place—the appeal of an event (that just happened to involve running) in a romantic place: namely, the Sahara Desert. Running has its own rewards, such as physical highs and improved fitness levels, but sometimes things get stale, and a new and exciting challenge can overcome this.
There are several ways to refresh your experience, and exotic travel is just one of them. If you find yourself looking through the websites of far-off races or following live coverage of major events on other continents, then consider what about these events appeals to you. Although traveling long distances can be expensive, there are three options to get you the high that comes from a new running experience:
Foreign travel—saving up for a once-in-alifetime race is very worthwhile. Since this isn’t always feasible, the next two options are cheaper but often just as fun.
Local travel—finding something cheaper and closer to home that includes elements of the foreign races that interest you. The US has a wide variety of events and many more pop up every year.
Switching things up—trying a radically different type of run than you’re used to. Perhaps a classic Fastest Known Time (“FKT”) route like the Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim, a multi-stage race like the TransRockies Run or merely changing from roads to trails or vice versa.
I asked two top-level, globe-trotting ultrarunners about what they take away from their overseas exploits: Jason Schlarb, who earned fourth place at last year’s Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc, and a woman who seems to be in a different mountainous country with every photo she posts online, Anna Frost.
What do you enjoy about going to races in far-off countries you’ve never visited?
Anna Frost: Every single experience is a learning experience. Your eyes are opened so wide to see the world in a different light. I am always reminded to never take life for granted.
Jason Schlarb: New races, particularly exotic ones, provide me the opportunity to experience new landscapes, f lora, fauna, people and food. In just one day, via racing an ultra, I get to fully immerse myself in a new world and culture.
The most powerful and culturally rich moment I have ever experienced while traveling for a race was at “Diagonale des Fous” 100-mile on Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean. Lined up at the starting line, adjacent to a Lollapalooza-sized stage where live music was being played and dozens of mini hot air balloons with candles were released, I started my race with over 2,000 other runners. The streets were lined with over 30,000 screaming fans. The sound was absolutely deafening. Women danced in colorful dresses, drums were played throughout the crowd while people sang and danced. Children and adults alike reached out to give me high fives as they screamed encouragement in French. I wept as I floated through those kilometers.
How important is it for you to get new experiences through running and how does this invigorate your training and enjoyment?
Anna Frost: It is critical. My inspiration for running comes from the new challenges… to seek somewhere new on foot… to see strange cultures to me is an awakening… to meet people along the way who change my footsteps with learning… I travel to run and run to travel—the perfect relationship.
Jason Schlarb: One of the primary reasons I run is to explore and be in wild places. Furthermore, it is personally gratifying to see how fast and efficiently I can travel through these vast and wild places.
Both Jason and Anna gain inspiration from keeping their running experiences fresh. A novel location and new faces can work wonders to raise motivation and make runs feel more enjoyable again. So I highly recommend searching for adventure wherever you can find it—even if it is as simple as racing in a costume.