January 11 2018
A runner shares a personal essay documenting her years as "the runner" in rural South Dakota.
Chamonix Valley, France
I first visited this region in the Alps to run the 2016 Ultra-Trail Mont Blanc, one of the most famous trail races in the world. American runners might not be familiar with the event, but it’s incredibly popular in Europe. The finish line has crowds five people deep cheering for the runners as if it were a football game. I recommend the race, but at 170K, it’s not for everyone! You can also go to the Chamonix Valley on your own. It’s a trail runner’s dream with miles and miles of gorgeous well-kept and well-marked paths, from flat or rolling to steep and technical. The Alps have simply stunning mountain scenery with green pastures in summer and snow-covered peaks in winter, and the locals are warm and friendly. Off the trails, back in the valley, there are great food, drinks and shopping too.
When to go: Summer (April to October) is the best time for runners, but Chamonix is a year-round paradise, with winter ushering in excellent skiing and winter activities.
Insider tip: Stay in a village outside Chamonix for cheaper accommodations, and take advantage of the free shuttle buses to get around the valley.
One minute you are in the midst of a pulsing, busy and congested Asian city, and the next you are running on paved paths and smooth trails with jungle and island views on one side and towering skyscrapers on the other. Steep technical trails abound for those who want a bit more adventure. I was lucky enough to live here for three years and enjoyed some of the best running of my life.
When to go: Spring (February to April) or fall (October and November), before and after it gets too hot and humid.
Insider tip: Hong Kong is known for convenient public transportation and super-cheap taxis. Carry some cash with you, and you can run however long or far you want and get back to your starting point without any problems.
Lake District, United Kingdom
You can’t come to England without visiting the Lake District! Often shrouded in low clouds and drizzle, this is a region of lakes, rolling hills and friendly sheep. Use a smidge of imagination, and you could be in a scene straight from Harry Potter. It’s a peaceful and beautiful place to run along quiet country lanes.
When to go: Summer (July to September), when it’s warm and more likely to be sunny.
Insider tip: Pick up an Ordinance Survey (OS) map from a bookshop with every path, trail and walkway in the area marked.
With Buddhist serenity, gorgeous scenery and friendly people, Nepal is the place to go if you’re looking for adventure—and Himalayan mountain exploration. I’ve been a few times, mostly just for tourism, but on my most recent visit, I came specifically to participate in the Everest Trail Race, a 180K, multiday event. You don’t need to be an ultrarunner to run here though. Get out of Kathmandu, and there’s tons of beautiful trail running through friendly villages and rice paddy fields, or travel a bit farther to more mountainous regions. Teahouses and villages dot the way, so you are never far from food, transportation or a place to sleep—
making it a fun place to explore on foot.
When to go: Fall (September to November) and spring (March and April), when it is not too hot or too cold.
Insider tip: Contact Trail Running Nepal—they are always organizing local running races in Kathmandu and are happy to help travelers find running companions.