It comes as no surprise that my favourite way to see a city is to get up at the crack of dawn and give it the runaround. There’s simply nothing quite like waking up alongside a city; whether it’s skirting around delivery vans dropping off fresh baked goods for the start of day, or darting businessmen and women hustling to get to work on time, taking an early-morning run while traveling is by far my favourite way to discover a city. You never know what you’ll see before the sun creeps up! Rising early to hit the pavement has led me to discover a Canadian cemetery in the North of Wales, and accidentally join a 5km while spending an anniversary weekend in Pittsburgh and been yelled at by a fellow hostel guest in Geneva who must have dreamed her alarm went off and blamed it on the early risers, or, I suppose I should say runners.
While I’ve had my fair share of fabulous runs to kick-start my travels around the world, here are my top 5! If you’re ever in the area, don’t miss out on the chance to take in the fresh air, the beautiful landscape and hit the ground running:
1. Stanley Park, Vancouver, B.C
Starting at Canada Place and ending at English Bay, the approximately 12 kilometer run through Stanley Park is the most amazing and memorable runs I have done to date (the fact that I ran it alongside one of my best friends was totally just the icing on the cake). Next to cyclists, joggers and walkers galore, you’ll weave in-between greenery set directly net to a never-ending coast-line in one of the most beautiful parks in the world. Check out more about Stanley Park and other things to see an do in Vancouver in my blog series on Beautiful British Columbia.
This past December, I made a plan to visit the glorious five villages of the Italian Liguria region, the Cinque Terre. To wander the isolated, cliff-topping villages and hike the rugged trails over-looking the Mediterranean had always been on my wish list since seeing a friend’s photos of the region while she was spending time in the neighbouring “big city,” La Spezia. The hiking trails of the Cinque Terre were constructed by local “sea people” as a means to get to nearby villages quicker for supplies. Walking the same paths as locals did to me was the authentic traveling experience I was looking for, and I wanted to take in every bit of it.
Doing some pre-departure research, I was well aware that strong rains often accompany the winter season in the Cinque Terre. This was the case in 2011, where severe landslides took a toll on the 11th century construction, devastating one village especially, Vernazza. Potential risk of landslides often causes such famous hiking routes like Via del Amore to close. During my time on the Liguria Coast, this was indeed the case not with one, but with all of the hiking trails in the Cinque Terre!
Still determined to find a way around the closed trails, I attempted what locals call the “higher route” from Manarole to the highest situated village of the five, Corniglia. According to the city information kiosk, this route was also dangerous. Twenty minutes into my hike, pouring rain had coated the sleek steps. What looked like piled broken branches blocked my pathway and my barely-there grip footwear had me second-guessing my decision. Flashbacks started, bringing me back to the evening earlier; two plaques are stationed on a rock wall in Manarole to commemorate the life of a Canadian who accidently drowned, and an American who, as it says, was swept away by her husband, the Via del Amore. Gut overtook my adventurous side. After standing soaking wet from head to toe so short into my 1.5 hour hike, I decided to call it a day and take the local trains. I would try an alternate path tomorrow.