January 11 2018
A runner shares a personal essay documenting her years as "the runner" in rural South Dakota.
On a road trip through the region, I was especially impressed with Croatia and Montenegro, for their picture-perfect coastal towns and beaches, inland nature and friendly people throughout. If you wake up early in the towns, you can run on cobbled streets and along fortified city walls before the cruise ships invade. Outside the cities, there are great trails and parks. Exploring Durmitor National Park in the northern part of Montenegro was a favorite.
When to go: Spring (March to May) and fall (September to November), before it’s too hot or too cold.
Insider tip: Rent a car, and wind along the coast. Driving between the countries is easy, and there’s a variety of scenery and places to explore with your own wheels—and by getting out on your own two feet.
Think Aladdin, Arabian Nights or any of the classic Middle Eastern films, and this is Oman: stunning desert scenery, welcoming people, beautiful Arab culture and a safe country to experience. I visited when my husband was working here. In Muscat, there is great running on the promenade that runs the length of the city and on trails just above. Outside Muscat, there are trails through wadis (desert oases) with places to cool off and swim, as well as trails in and around canyons. Just make sure to go with someone who knows the way or take a map, as the trails are not always well marked.
When to go: Winter (December to February), when it is not boiling hot.
Insider tip: Rent a 4×4, bring a tent and go exploring! Oman has a nomadic culture and a right to roam, which means all land is public property and you can park, camp, sleep anywhere you like. One night we were driving from Muscat to a park where we would be hiking the next day and it got quite dark, so instead of driving all the way, we pulled off the road, drove a few minutes to the coast and set up camp on the shore. In the morning, we woke up and found several fellow campers around us and a beautiful beach at our feet.
The cold, unpredictable and insane landscape of this country includes places that you will never be able to spell or pronounce. In summer, it is warm enough to run, and the trails can be explored with relatively few tourists and ridiculously out-of-this-world scenery to yourself. We took a public 4×4 bus (yes, they exist) off-road and through rivers to get to a national park.
When to go: Summer (June to September), when it is not freezing, or winter if you want to see the northern lights.
Insider tip: In summer, there are public buses that can take you all around the beautiful country. In winter, a lot of the roads are impassable, so the travel options are limited to a circuit near Reykjavik.
The opportunity to see lions, elephants and giraffes may draw you to this English-speaking country, but don’t plan a run on your safari day (for obvious life-threatening reasons). The capital of Cape Town has some gorgeous options from beach-side runs to off-road trail runs in Table Mountain National Park. For the more adventurous, the Drakensberg Mountains have rolling hills and trails to explore.
When to go: Their spring (September to November) or fall (March to May), when it is not too hot or too cold.
Insider tip: It’s a big country to explore with so many different activities available, so you should fly from city to city and rent cars in between to cut down on travel time.