How To: Fitting in a personal activity on a vacation

When I mentioned to Sam, then 14-years-old, that we were planning to go to Great Britain as part of our European adventure a few summers ago his first question was if we could go to Oxford. Be still my heart, my son wanted to see this prestigious center of higher education? No, he wanted to run on the track where Roger Banister broke the 4 minute mile. Okay, I picked myself off the floor and once again reminded myself that the whole purpose of custom trip planning is to work in favorite activities for each of the trip participants.  And so, in all my plans I considered Sam’s desire to run every day. Here is how we did that.

First of all, every location of our overnight accommodation, whether in a rural bed and breakfast or a city hotel, was near a place to run. For example, on our drive from Scotland returning to London we planned a night somewhere midway. While we could have stayed on the expressway and driven the entire distance in one day, it would have been a long day in the car. In addition, we would have missed seeing a section of the North Country area of England.

It was with great glee I identified that we could plan to stay near one of the historic landmarks I had always wanted to see: Hadrian’s Wall. Built by the Romans to keep out the Vikings and other invaders from the north, it is a short remnant of its former height. Dismantled in many areas for reuse of the stones for building other structures over the centuries, there is only one section of the wall that is intact. I found the Tantallon House Bed and Breakfast  in a small town on the border of Cumbria and Northumberland  that was walking distance to the wall and better yet, to the path that follows its 118km distance from coast to coast.  The B&B owners were able to instruct Sam on a round trip run and Graham and I went for a short walk along the wall as well.

Sam started to investigate if there were any races scheduled during our vacation time.  He quickly identified that there was a 5K scheduled the morning we would be in Glasgow, Scotland. Excited, we contacted the race organizers and were disappointed that he would not be allowed to participate because the race was only open to “Seniors” which meant runners over the age of 18. They suggested we contact one of the Junior running clubs.  We did and were able to arrange a morning run with another guy Sam’s age. His mom picked us up and took us to a park where the guys ran 10km while we walked.                                 It was fun to chat about her experience as a medical doctor in the British system, especially since it was at the time of the hoohah here in the United States about the attempt to make medical service available to all people here regardless of insurance.  (I will say the only difference she saw was that she would not become wealthy, no yacht or second home in the mountains or at the ocean for her compared to her American colleagues. She felt quite sure that the residents in her service area received timely and appropriate care.)

When I was researching walking tours in London I came across a website offering running tours!  After checking with their legal department if I could sign the release for Sam (once again that 18 minimum age issue) we arranged for Sam to meet a running guide at the Camden Market Tube Station.  Sam was a bit disappointed when a woman showed up, thinking the pace would be too slow for him. It was apparent to us that she was a marathoner and had been a runner for a long time. They had a great time and later we ate at the pub owned by Gordon Ramsey that she had identified.

The London running tour group contact asked me our travel plans and then suggested we arrange for Sam to run in Glasgow where there was an affiliate organization.  Although we already had arranged to run with Alistair in the morning, we set up an evening run the day before. After communicating Sam’s running times, the man in charge sent his younger brother to guide Sam around Glasgow and later, Sam received an invitation to run with the “Seniors” any time!

Sam was able to run on his own in other places: in Hyde Park in London and in Dubrovnik on the Stradun in the early hours before the tourists arrived and up and down the side streets, using the steps as his hill workouts.

Working a daily exercise or other activity of interest into a vacation is easy, but it takes time to make the contacts and search out safe running locations.

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