For many of us, running is the best way to explore a new location. We take running shoes with us on holidays and business trips and make sure we pop out on our first day to navigate the local area. But how many people truly explore the roads and trails where they live?
In 2020 I set myself an ambitious annual mileage goal that significantly increased the frequency and distance I ran each week. When the first UK lockdown came in March 2020, we were stuck inside with only a single outside exercise session per day for liberation. Conveniently lockdown coincided with the release of the Routes function on Strava.
For Strava Premium members, the Routes function allows you to enter the distance you want to run, whether you want a flat or hilly route, and choose between a trail or road surface. An algorithm then calculates three routes from your starting point based on the most run paths by local runners. You can choose one of the routes or rerun the algorithm to get additional options.
Once you have selected a route, save and star it to upload it to your Garmin GPS watch, and it will appear the next time you sync. You can load the course on your device and follow the audio instructions and map prompts for your run.
I used the Routes function for my runs each morning and discovered all the hidden trails in and around my local town. As the year went on and my routes got longer and longer, including a few 25-mile off-road test events, I began to rely on the Explore function to provide new exciting trails. During the summer, I got away for a break to the English south coast and another to Burgen, Norway and discovered some fantastic trails with the added benefit of not needing to carry a map.
I use the Fenix 6X Pro Solar, and Strava Premium is around £70 per year, so it is not a cheap solution, but I bought the watch before the tool existed and signed up to Strava for other features, so it works for me. I have been told that Garmin has a similar function built into Garmin Connect, and there are much cheaper watches on the market if you need a more affordable option.
Exploring the trails around my local area and running a different route most days allowed me to keep excited about running during the lockdowns and cancelled races. I guess a better option would be to join a club and learn the local trails and roads from other runnings in your area, but if you travel a lot and run at strange times (Strava had my average time at 7 am), this might be the perfect option.