How to Plan Your Running Routes

How to To Your Plan Running Routes

This is a guest post from David at Runner’s Blueprint. I found this post very helpful, as I start finding new routes in Boulder, Colorado. I hope you find this resource useful as well! Thank you to David for sharing this!

Whether you just took up running or have been around the running block for a while, one thing all runners agree on is that outdoor miles are a lot more enjoyable than running on a treadmill.

However, outdoor running isn’t always as simple as stepping out the door and hitting the pavement. In fact, whether you’re walking, jogging, running, or a mix of all, finding a good route can make the difference when it comes to your exercise experience.

Here are some key guidelines to help plan your running route—regardless of your ability, training experience, or ultimate goals—so that you can make the most out of time logging the miles.

Decide Length And Starting Point

Before you start planning your running route, determine how long you want to run—or how many miles.  Next, decide your starting point. Your home is likely the first pick, but your office or the next train station are often a good start point too.

Other things to keep in mind while planning your route include:

  • Time of the day
  • Terrain
  • Accessibility of the path
  • Degree of difficulty
  • Elevation gain
  • Safety
Google Maps

As far as I can tell, the best way to plan your running route that comes right from your house—or any other specific start point—is to use Google Maps.

To make your running route, just choose your starting point, then trace where you want to go. In the meantime, the tool will show the exact number of miles—or kilometers—you can expect to log in. This helps you to easily guess how long you’ll be going.

You can also figure out the distance between more than two places if you just keep clicking around the map after the first click. Furthermore, you can easily transfer the new routes to your smartphone, so you have the running paths at hand should you need them. To get the most out of this tool, I’d recommend using Google Maps on your laptop as it’s much easier to change path details that way.

Still confused? Check out the following YouTube Tutorial.

Use Apps

Want to take it one step further? Try an app. 

In fact, there are plenty of online tools and apps you can use to plan, track and measure your running routes. You can also find plenty of crowd-sourced routes that other runners have created and saved.

Some of my favorites include:

  • Strava

This is by far my favorite app for plotting running routes. Simply input whether you’re running or cycling, the distance you’d like to go, your elevation preference, etc., and there you go. You can also sift through plenty of crowd-sourced routes based on your region, then filter by distance, elevation gain, and more. What’s more, if you’re keen on trail running, you can simply type in the keywords so you’re not always stuck on the pavement.

  • OS Map

OS map is one of the most popular map-building platforms. You might need a subscription to get the most out of it, but as far as I can tell, the free version has plenty of local walking, running, and cycling routes to keep you busy for a while. According to their website, there are about two million paths stored in the routes database.

  • Plotaroute.com

This is one of the easiest route-planning tools that works best on a laptop. As you sketch out your rune, this tool will estimate the distance of your run as well as provide you the option to add in your running speed. This lets you accurately estimate how long the route should take you at a specific speed. This awesome online tool can help you map and measure a running route with many useful features.  You can sign up to save and reuse maps as well as print your own map.

Stay Safe

One of the most important factors of planning your running route, besides distance, is safety. Not only a proper running route should offer a challenge, be motivating, and running friendly, it should also be safe.

Here’s what you need to keep in mind:

For starters, make sure the route isn’t too lonely or secluded—unless you’re running with a partner or a group.  It might feel nice to have the whole route for yourself, but safety could the be price—and it’s not worth it.

Running on the street? Stick to wide shoulder and remember to always face traffic. This should give you enough room to maneuver in case things take the wrong turn.

Running early in the morning or late at night? Stick to a well-lit area. This not only limits your risk of tripping or falling on uneven terrain or crashing with unseen objects. You should also wear highly visible clothing, preferably with reflective details,

Planning Brings Variety

Whether you’re trying to improve your 5K time or trying to stay safe, switching up your routes can help. Planning your running route adds variety to your daily runs.

Changing up running routes helps your body adapt to various running scenarios—making you a better runner, both physically and mentally. Every running surface has a purpose, and various terrains and grades employ different leg muscles and stabilizers.

For example, trail running may engage more stabilizing muscles in your core, knees, and ankle than running on a stable, predictable surface, such as a road or the track. 

That’s not the whole story.

Changing up running routes makes outdoor running much safer too. 

For these reasons, try streets, sidewalks, trails, grass, sand—and everything else in between.

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How do you find new routes to run?

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5 Responses

  1. I’ve never heard of Plotoroute, but I usually use Map my Run if I’m creating a new route. These are some really important points to keep in mind! I am most concerned about safety when I am going to try running in a new place.

  2. This is brilliant Laura! I’m actually writing a guide on running in new places and I will link back to this post (if that’s okay with you!) for your explanation of those Apps!

  3. Great tips! I’m big on planning my route when I’m running in a new place. I usually do check out Google maps so I can try to figure out the path for the distance that I want to go. And safety is SO important, especially when running solos.

  4. Great suggestions and some very good tips, too!
    I have used some local apps to download routes. I’m a creature of habit and don’t like trying out new things, so these apps really help me to get out of my comfort zone.
    I should do it more often because it’s always enjoyable!

  5. The Internet is a great way to help plan routes and make one’s workout routine that much more interesting. After all, spicing things up by running in different areas can make staying fit less of a chore and more of a pastime.

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