January 11 2018
A runner shares a personal essay documenting her years as "the runner" in rural South Dakota.
When I was living in London and seeking a warm-weather weekend to get me through the dreary, dark, cold U.K. winter, I’d escape here. Known to most as a beach-party destination with year-round Mediterranean weather and awesome beaches, this area features an outdoor lover’s paradise as well. Head inland to find great hiking, running and cycling through spectacular volcanic scenery. Run up to the top of a volcano and then down to a beach—how’s that for a perfect morning?
When to go: Winter (November to March), before it gets too hot.
Insider tip: If you want nightlife and activity, stay in a beach town and rent a car to get around. All of the parks and trails are simply day trips away. For those who prefer quiet villages, reserve a spot inland and experience what may be the true Canary Islands.
This country is relaxed and very easy to explore—with every kind of outdoor adventure imaginable (and unimaginable). All of the cities have great running options, either directly in the heart of things or on trails just outside. A 40-minute drive from Auckland, you will find the coast with running paths along beaches and the cliffs above. I’ve been a few times—the lure of this dreamland is real—and have participated in the 100K Tarawera Ultra Marathon and the 70K Hillary Ultra Race.
When to go: Their summer (our winter, December to February), when there is slightly less rain.
Insider tip: Most of the longer treks require bookings in advance, as the overnight huts get crowded in the summertime. There’s so much to see and it’s easy (and cheap) to get around by public transport or with your own wheels. Don’t stay put!
I’d heard great things about the Pyrenees and decided to explore it from this tiny country, sandwiched between France and Spain. Quiet and forgotten by tourists, Andorra has stunning nature and scenery. If you like trail running and want to explore a less-trodden place with well-marked and plentiful trails, this is it. While on one run, I went down a wrong path and all of a sudden the holas (Spanish is the spoken language in Andorra) from passing hikers changed to bonjours, and I realized I had run across the border into France without even knowing!
When to go: Summer (May to September), when all the ski slopes turn into running paths.
Insider tip: Don’t stay in the main city—all you will see are casinos and duty-free shopping. Take a bus or drive less than an hour outside of town, and stay in one of the villages, where you’ll have all the trails at your doorstep.
When I was living in Hong Kong, I traveled to explore the mountains of Taiwan—they have several peaks around 10,000 feet and a great trail system. While running the O’ Holy Ridge trek in the Shei-Pa National Park, we camped in huts and woke up above the clouds. This relatively small country is easy to explore, whether you want to be in a busy Asian city, quiet fishing village or the mountains. You can stay in bustling Taipei and still easily access lovely nature paths and mountain hikes.
When to go: Spring (March and April) and fall (September and October), when it’s not too hot and humid or too cold.
Insider tip: Everyone is friendly and, even if they don’t speak English, will offer to help you.