A few words on choosing a route…

This week I’ve been thinking about the different types of running route, and the tricks they can play with your mind1.

The Out ‘n’ back


The plan: You want to run 10 miles. You head out and run for five miles, and then turn around and run the exact same route back. 5+5=10. Simple.

The problem:  I have a tendency to trick myself into seeing the halfway point as the destination. In the example above, I’ll approach the five-mile turnaround point with a sense of “nearly there”, and then wonder why the return leg feels so damn hard. It gets worse too: when I go on to plan my runs in the future, I’ll think back to how I felt as I cruised up to the halfway point, and my brain will tell me “that 10 miler felt easy-peasy, you should probably do 20 today”.

The Loop


The plan: I want to run, say, 10 miles, so I map out a circular(ish) route that totals 10 miles. Do I need to go into any more detail?

The problem: A lot of us runners are a bit bummy2 when it comes to having nice neat stats. For example, only the most iron-willed athlete would be able to finish on .97 of a mile. If your route is plotted out meticulously to the last centimetre then there’s no problem, but once you allow for things like accidentally cutting corners or swerving to avoid an adorable baby hedgehog, then it’s easy to come in slightly under or over. That’s why you’ll often see frustrated runners pinballing back and forth in ever-decreasing segments until they hit a nice round number and finally allow themselves to stop.

The Multi-lap


The plan: Let’s say you want to do 6 miles, and have plotted out a lovely two-mile route. That’ll be three laps then, maths fans. The thing I really like about a multi-lap route is that you don’t have to worry about carrying stuff like water, snacks or wet-weather gear. You just leave everything in the car and grab whatever you need when you come back round again.

The problem: Boring boring snoring boring! Also, on longer runs, there’ll always be the temptation to call it a day when you’ve still got a lap or two to go, if things are getting a bit hurty.

The One-way trip


The plan: There are a couple of ways of doing this. The first is the “run commute” (or to use the yet-to-catch-on term: “rummute”) where you basically leg it to work (assuming you don’t work on an oil rig) and then have a shower and a kit change when you get there. You can then sit back and enjoy the smug sense of having got your miles done for the day. The other type of one-way run is where you get a friend or loved one to drop you off x miles from your house, and you run back. The benefit of this is that it takes away the element of choice (i.e. you either run or you don’t get home) so it’s great for those days when you’re lacking in motivation.

Actually, I’ve just thought of a third type of one-way run: Run x miles from your start point, and then just live wherever you end up.

The problem: The fact that your significant other has just abandoned you miles from civilization could simply mean that they’re keen to help you with your training. Or… it could mean something else entirely, especially if they insist on slathering you with bear pheromones before kicking you out of the car.

The Mr Tickle


This is where you set out to do any of the routes described above, but then accidentally blunder head-first into a hornets nest.

1 Okay, my mind.
2 Sorry, I get a bit awkward and giggly if I use the word “anal”3
3 Teeheeheehee

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6 thoughts on “A few words on choosing a route…

  1. Another is to park in the middle of a route and do out and back one direction… Then the other. The benefit of this is that you have a base to store extra snacks and drinks if it is a long run and that you can bail if it all goes horribly wrong… But you could also bail of you are just feeling lazy.

    Expert tip: Don’t park in the middle if you are doing a circular route around a lake.

  2. Single direction route from home that ends up at a pub where beloved has driven and awaits patiently for you with their own pint and a smug look that they got their first.

  3. I like to do an out and back with a loop added on just for variety.

    I did once do a Mr Tickle, not intentionally. I was visiting in a strange city (let’s call it Manchester) ran in what I thought was a loop, but it wasn’t. I found my way back by running from bus shelter to bus shelter, checking the map for directions.

    It was a lot of fun (Not)

  4. I like a “figure of 8” route for very long runs, two different loops with a common start/finish for drink/loo stop. However, the very best routes are the ones where you don’t really know where you’re going until you get there… only to be undertaken if you are fairly fit and have plenty of time to find your way home again.

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