A few years ago, I had a security escort across the Golden Gate Bridge. Not officially, no, but it took about ten minutes to cross the bridge, and during that time at least three different sets of security guards on golf carts came up to ask if everything was okay. I guess that some people who arrive at the bridge, on foot, before the first light of dawn, might be thinking of jumping. I was just crossing an item off my bucket list, and with six kids back asleep in the hotel room, 5am was the best time to head out for a long run.
When I travel, I pack light. But there’s always room in the suitcase for the most important items I take on my trip: running shorts, Nikes, Gu, headlamp, Garmin, and water belt. To me, they’re as essential as my toothbrush and my phone charger. I love creating itineraries for each day of the trip, and for me, that includes an itinerary of where I’ll run each day.
I’m fully convinced that the best way to see any city in the world is at 6am, when there are no crowds, and the only people out on the streets are locals.
I’ve run on high school tracks in rural northern California, past windmills in rural western Minnesota, through trails in Denali National Park, next to an endangered Monk seal in Hawaii (oops), along the south rim of the Grand Canyon at dawn, and along the entire length of Regent’s Canal in London. Most days, I try to go to some of the places the family will visit later in the day. Not only does this allow me to get the lay of the land and figure out any tricky navigating before I’m leading seven other people around, but it also lets me explore more fully some of the places I know my family will only want to scratch the surface of (the family might just want to step into Central Park far enough to see the famous fountain that’s in all those movies, but when I go for a run by myself, I can explore as many out of the way spots as I want). Getting out early scratches the sightseeing itch so I can sit back and enjoy the rest of the day, knowing I’ve seen more things before the rest of the family wakes up than most tourists will see all day long. As an added benefit, this introvert gets a break from the constant din and clamor (and fighting!) that inevitably accompanies long road trips with children.
I know that some people would think that waking up before dawn goes against the whole essence of being on vacation. Others would insist that I’m being foolhardy, selfish or dangerous (I always run with my phone, a credit card, and an ID, and these days I can get an uber almost anywhere if I twist an ankle). There are places I won’t run. When we went to China, I stuck to the hotel gym, avoiding the trifecta of crowded streets, signs I couldn’t read, and air pollution. But most of the time, I figure that getting out for an early run isn’t any more dangerous than chowing down at the local food trucks, and it’s usually a whole lot more fun.
What is your favorite vacation ritual?