After running 18 miles two weeks ago and 20 last weekend I have been thinking about different types of running routes. Choosing the right running route can make or break a run for me. I noticed that my 18 miler felt much harder than my 20 miler did, even though it was 2 miles less in distance. That’s because my 18 miler was on an out-and-back route, and my 20 miler was on a big looped route. Personally, I prefer looped routes because out-and-back routes are much more difficult for me mentally. However, each type of route has its pros and cons. I thought about this a lot on my last long run and thought I’d write a blog post on it!
Here are my thoughts on the two most common types of running routes.
- Good for running in a new or unfamiliar area because it’s easy to know how to get back.
- No thinking involved except remembering to turn around when it’s time.
- After the turn around you know exactly what to expect on the way back and how much more you will have to go based on landmarks and what you remembered.
- Good for shorter distances (3-6 miles). Knowing you will turn around soon is motivating and the time usually flies by.
- Easier to extend or shorten your run if you need to, while still knowing exactly how many miles you will be running.
- After the turn around you know exactly what to expect on the way back and how much more you will have to go (this is a pro and also a con sometimes!)
- Can be very boring and monotonous! Not much of a change of scenery.
- Not as good for longer distances. For example, if you are running 18 miles that day it can be depressing to turn around and know that you still have 9 miles to get back to where you started.
- Along the same lines, sometimes it scares me to know that I am so many miles out from where I started in case something were to happen (like injury or bad weather). I have experienced both of these on an out-and-back trail when I was very far from my car and it has scarred me for life!
- Easier to break the run up into smaller sections, which makes the run feel easier. For example I broke this 20 mile run into 6 sections – 6.5 miles, 4.5 miles, 1 mile, 5 miles, 1 mile, and 2 miles (each time I turned onto a new road). This is much less overwhelming for my brain to handle when compared to running out 10 miles then turning around.
- Along the same lines, there is a constant change of new scenery that keeps your mind from getting bored.
- Looped routes usually don’t take you out as far as an out-and-back route would, which always makes me feel more comfortable in case something were to happen.
- Good for both long and short distances.
- You need to pay attention and remember when it’s time to turn or cross the street. This can be hard to do when you’re in the zone!
- If you aren’t as familiar with the area it can be easier to get lost or turned around.
- If you decide to spontaneously shorten or extend your route it’s harder to calculate how many more/less miles you have to get to your finish spot. With an out-and-back this is much easier to know.