Running on the Road: Danube River Cruise

In late June/early July, I had a work assignment that involved traveling on a Jewish heritage river cruise down the Danube.

While it sounds fun and glamorous, which it was, it can be hard to run and stick to a training plan while you’re on a cruise ship.

I know that you’re all feeling very bad for me right now, but given the amount of dessert that was served (and that I ate), it was important that I get my runs in, and the wobbly looking treadmill in the 6 x 8 exercise room wasn’t very appealing.

I joined up with the cruise in Melks, Vienna and while it looked like a charming city, there wasn’t time to get a run in before we were off down the Danube.

Overnight we made it to Vienna, and though it was supposed to get up to the mid-80s, we docked only minutes before I needed to be working and no time to get a run in on shore. But, as we headed over to the bus, I noticed a path going endlessly in both directions.

So in the afternoon, while other passengers were napping, I took off for a tempo run.

Path Along the Danube in Vienna

It was perfect. Though the weather was warm, there was a breeze and the path had enough runners to make me feel like I had company, but not enough to crowd me out. Though I was only doing 6 or so miles and didn’t feel the need for hydration, I noticed old fashioned water pumps along the way. Sometimes, I really enjoy running through a city and getting to know it. But having a flat, well marked, safe path to do a tempo run was perfect for that afternoon.

I enjoyed the run so much that even though the following day was a scheduled rest day, I ended up squeezing in 5 miles early in the morning before we sailed just to enjoy the river. There were a number of runners out, and again, I felt how universal running is.

We sailed onto Bratislava right after breakfast, and though we spent the afternoon touring around town, we left too early the next morning for me to get a run in before we explored Budapest.

Bratislava – I didn’t run here

The following morning, I was thrilled to try and get a speedwork in before breakfast and was looking forward to another well developed river path, since the Budapest riverfront is gorgeous.

Budapest River Front at Night

Not so much. I started off on one side of the river, and within my first mile encountered a sudden dead end, path too narrow to run on, cobblestones I was sure I was going to break an ankle on, and an unexplained sand pit.

I switched over to the other side, and though it was a little better, the paths were clearly designed for bikers — at points shunting pedistrians off to side routes that ended in traffic or on paths where the trees hung almost to the ground.

The odd thing is that I remember having an incredible run along the river in Budapest in 2009. So . . . I wish I could remember where I ran then, or how I avoided the cobblestones or what was different. Perhaps this blog will help. Or help others. I wish it were easier to identify running communities in countries where I don’t speak the language.

If only there were a Fleet Feet everywhere around the world . . .

Running on the Road: Jerusalem

Though I lived in Jerusalem for a couple of months last summer and got a couple of mediocre runs in, I really wasn’t in the shape to appreciate what the city has to offer.

In June, I spent ten days in the city, which meant that I would have a chance to get the full range of my training runs in — two long runs, a tempo run, hill repeats and a couple of easy runs.

There’s a few challenges with running when on a long overseas trip in general and with running in Jerusalem in particular.

First, the general.

Time changes are rough — but they can work to your advantage. When not running, if I wake up at 5 a.m. on the road, I spend the next two hours tossing and turning and trying to get back to sleep. But when in training, I use it as an opportunity to get a run in early in the day.

You also need to be highly organized — nutrition (gels), hydration systems, garmin, shoes, hat, other gear — it all needs to come with you. When you’re traveling stateside, you can typically replace anything you need fairly easily, but when overseas, not so much. When packing for a long trip, I look at my schedule, count the runs and figure out how many gels, energy bars, etc, I need to bring with me. Then, to pack my running gear, I pretend that I’m going for a run — just get ready, but instead of going on my body, it goes in the suitcase. One reminder, which I screwed up one of the first times I was on the road, is that you need chargers for electronics — garmin, my bluetooth headphones, iPhone, it all needs power, which may mean you need plug adapters and a small power strip to get it all done in your hotel room overnight. And a plan for what to do if technology fails — my Garmin went wonky mid-trip, and I had no old school watch to time myself. I made do with my iPhone, but could have saved a lot of trouble by having a simple Timex.

Wonky Garmin

Now for Jerusalem. Two big issues. Hills and heat.

Now hills are great for hill repeats. In Chicago, I have to ride my bike 5+ miles to find a wimpy hill to run repeats on. In Jerusalem, I had the perfect hill about 100 m from my hotel front door. But . . . it’s hard to avoid hills for things like speed workouts, tempo runs, and long runs.

I thought I had found a solution. Over the past year, the City has updgraded the old train station (the Tachanah) to an outdoor market, with shops, restaurants and very importantly, restrooms.

The Tachanah

Train Station

When I checked with a couple of colleagues, they suggested that I run the bike/running/walking path that runs from the train station to the mall.

I told them I was looking to do a ten miler, and then said out and back would be perfect. And they promised me that it was flat.

Well, it was the perfect place in Jerusalem to run. Protected, only one light, water fountains, paved with aspalt instead of Jerusalem stone (killer on the legs).

But they were wrong on two counts. First, it’s only about 5K in each direction. Not the end of the world, just meant that I had to double back a little for my longer runs.


But the second issue was a little more challenging. The first time I ran the path, on my way out, I was flying. Probably 20-30 seconds faster than normal and thought it was because of the low humidity.

And then I turned around.

It turns out that the entire 5K out is a very low, almost invisible, down grade. Which, you guessed it, means that the entire way back up is a low grade uphill. This was instantly visible as soon as I turned around. And I swore at myself for pushing myself on the way out. Over the course of the week, I learned to deal with it by making sure to save something for the run back, but that first day, it was not a pleasant surprise.

The second issue I mentioned in Jerusalem is the heat. I was very nervous, as it can get up into the 90s during the summer. Running past 9:00 a.m. is brutal. The good thing is that Jerusalem cools off at night, and if you get up within an hour or so of sunrise, the humidity is almost non-existent and you can get a run in. It is important to run with hydration as other than on the path, it can be hard to find water fountains, and particularly on Saturdays, when stores are closed, it could be difficult to find somewhere to drink.

Running in Jerusalem was incredible. You see all sorts out on the path — everything from soldiers to observant women dressed in head coverings, below the knee skirts and three-quarter length skirts. The amazing thing is that despite the differences, you all feel like one running community.

Running on the Road: Atlanta

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When I ran in my previous life, my challenge was fitting in workouts on a big law schedule. I found that by becoming a morning person and hitting the pavement at 6:00 am or earlier I could make it work during the week, and I was typically able to get my long runs in early Saturday morning, even if I had to go to the office in the afternoon.

In my current job, the challenges are different. My schedule is flexible and totally inconsistent. Trying to set a schedule when your travel days differ week to week, and you never know what facilities you are going to find in any particular location keeps you on your toes.

But, since I’ve recommitted to fitness and running in mid December, I’ve averaged at least a couple of days on the road a week, and managed to go from not running at all, to breaking my previous 8k time by more than 12:30.

Running on the road requires two things. Flexibility and commitment. I need to be flexible on location, time of day, length of run, and workout. Even if Saturday is my long run day, If I’m staffing a trip over a weekend, I might need to do it Friday or Monday. I might not want to do two hill workouts in a row, but if my hotel is in a hilly neighborhood, that’s what I get. Learning to be flexible has been good for me, but my type A calendar and check list personality has had to adjust.

Commitment means that no matter how much room my size 13 women’s Asics take up in my suitcase, a set of workout clothes and my running shoes are always coming with me.

This post in the first of what I hope to be is a regular feature on running while on the road. I’ll talk about my life as a running road warrior, tips on gear, workouts, etc, as well as posts about running in specific locations.

This week I was in Atlanta for work, and stayed in a hotel in Midown.

After a terrific race on Saturday, it’s been a challenging workout week. Bronchitis and asthma really took their toll, and I’ve been tired and sluggish and unmotivated all week.

Since I wasn’t able to motivate to get out of bed for a spin class before my flight on Wednesday, I knew I needed to get a run I before dinner plans. Over the past few months, I’ve learned that hotels can almost always suggest running routes in the neighborhood.

In this case my options were Piedmont Park and the Georgia Tech campus. The park was about a mile a way.

There were a lot of things wrong with the run. First, I was still feeling terrible. Coughing, maybe still had a fever, but doc had ok’d running so long as I felt ok with it, so i forced myself to try. Second, it was 3:00 pm, 80 degrees and humid. Third — the mile route to the park was rolling hills.

Needless to say, it was not my best run. But I did learn that the park was beautiful, with more rolling hills, and a half mile gravel fitness oval.

Thursday I got up to run before my meetings started. Another lesson I should have learned is that knowing sunrise is very important. At 6:45 it was still fairly dark in Atlanta, but by 7 I headed out the door to Piedmont Park. 65 was a lot better than 80, and I was prepared for hills, but still struggled quite a bit.

It was a gorgeous morning for a run, and I enjoyed watching the sun come up as I headed toward the park.

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I had hoped to do speed work on the oval, and was jealous of a running group I saw doing 1/4 mile repeats, but just didn’t have it in me, so an easy 45 minutes at least gave me some sort workout.

All in all Piedmont Park is a fabulous place to run in Atlanta. Winding roads on gentle rolling hills, lagoons, a view of midtown and the oval track provided a lot of options. There seems to be a terrific runnincommunity, and I wish I had been feeling more myself. But, hopefully there will be a next time.

Next up, next week: Moscow!

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