One of the most important details to consider when you start out running is your route. For many, this is something which is done once and then the same old trail is followed every time. However, this can cause problems, not least of which is the potential for injury, but there can also be the fairly weighty problem of boredom. For people new to running, it can often be the boredom that provides the excuse to stop exercising altogether. In order to avoid all this stress, and keep your jogs fresh and new, it is a great idea to have several routes planned out. To do this properly – and almost effortlessly – I use an online running route planner called Map My Run (www.mapmyrun.com). This allows me to constantly come up with more challenging routes, or pick more interesting ones, or find different terrain to run on to ward off injuries. Wherever you live, you can use this website to plan a route, find out how far it is, and use the Satellite view to check out what kind of areas and terrain you will visit. To give it a try, here’s what you need to do.
Design Your Own Running Routes
The first thing you need to do is go to the Mapmyrun website, and then click on ‘Map a Run’ on the ‘Routes’ dropdown menu. The next page provides you with a quick form to fill in, and where you can fill in your required location. Let’s say you have decided you want to run all the way around the perimeter of Central Park in New York, just as a theoretical example. So type this into the ‘Start Location’ field on the form and then click on ‘Continue’.
|Map A Run||Pick A Location|
The run planner will then take you to a street map of the area you typed in – you will also get a popup box prompting you to sign in or register; I normally just close this popup and continue. The next thing I like to do, in order to get a view of the kind of terrain, and what the surroundings are like, is to go to ‘Map Options’ and select ‘Hybrid’. When you map running route ideas, it is always a good idea to try and find places that are nice to be a part of, so parks are great, as are wooded areas. This also gives you the potential to find some grass to run on, rather than pounding away on hard roads and footpaths and grinding down your joints! So, having selected ‘Hybrid’ view, you will get a satellite map of your chosen location, with the street map superimposed on it, which allows to you to figure out the street names if it’s your first time jogging in that part of town.
|Street Map view – click Tools to hide ad||Select Hybrid view|
Now you can use the navigation tools at the top left of the screen to pan around the map, and to zoom in and out as required. If you find a winding running route that you wish to try out, and you want an accurate distance, it’s a good idea to take your time, zoom in close, and map your route in small steps. For this Central Park example, let’s say you just want to get a rough distance measurement. Zoom in using the ‘+’ icon, or use the slider. Position your cursor where you want to begin and click – in this case we are going to map a route starting from the corner of Central Park West and West 110th Street. Then pan over to the corner at the end of 110th Street and 5th Avenue. You will notice when you click the second time, you will be shown a red line highlighting the routes you have selected. You can continue to click on the map to extend the distance of your run, while at the top right of the screen is a cumulative distance display. This will allow you to design your own running route which is a specific distance ideal just for you.
|Click to position your Start Point||Keep clicking to map out your route|
You can toggle between Miles and Kilometers simply by clicking on the distance display, and as you build up your running masterplan, you should also notice that mile (or kilometer) markers show up automatically. Finishing off the circuit around the perimeter of Central Park, we end up with a nice jaunt of around 6.11 miles, or 9.84 km. So that would be a very nice training distance to master if you are focusing on 10K races – though of course, you will need to find some extra distance to train properly for a 10K.
|Mile markers as you go!||The ‘Nearly’ Central Park 10K|
As you get better at running, you can plan longer and more intricate routes, taking you through terrain you might not have been in before. It is wise to find a running partner, and do a little research about areas if you don’t know them well, just for safety’s sake. A good way to do this, if the circuit is primarily on the roads, is to drive around it beforehand to get a feel for the neighborhoods, and whether you’d feel comfortable running there. If not, simple – go back to Map My Run and start over with a new and improved route instead!
I love exploring with this running planner, and if I am racing in a 10K somewhere, I’ll always check it out first on the site to see if there are any parts which look difficult, so I know to prepare hard for them. For example, you can click on the Elevation button at the bottom of the map and it will show you what kind of hills you might encounter on your travels; this is the kind of thing you won’t see easily on a satellite image.
So if you are also somebody who likes to mix it up to keep yourself interested in your exercise, then I’d suggest you take a serious look at Mapmyrun, as it offers all the features you could ever want from a running routes planner.