For the “Greatest Of All Trips” Check Out These Running Tours
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Justine DeCoste, a 31 year old from Boulder, Colorado, was skeptical when she first received an email from Aire Libre. If I were going to travel to run for fun, I would do it on my own.
She made a spur-of-the-moment decision to explore Mexico City and the surrounding area on foot with a collection of people she didn’t know from her days running in Boston. She says that it was not the same as touristy. I had never experienced anything like it before, we were integrated into the landscape and culture.
Travelers are looking for no-regrets experiences after being stuck close to home for a long time. The GOAT is the year of the greatest of all trips, according to a recent report. Sixty-five percent of the people the company surveyed said they plan to go big on their next trip, and many expressed a desire to immerse themselves in new destinations, cultures, and experiences.
Allison Macsas, the co-founder of Rogue Expeditions, says that if you are thinking, someday, I’m going to do this thing, well, someday may not happen. You have to go and do things.
Although running tourism is one of the fastest growing sectors within the global sport tourism industry, runners need to register for more than just a destination race. It is a reason to spend a lot of money on trip packages that focus on a deeper connection with the world, and maybe even yourself.
Women are signing up in droves for running retreats that are not gender specific. Most of Aire Libre’s participants are solo women, but we don’t deliberately target them. Andy Holak, the co-owner of Adventure Running Co., a Minnesota-based company that pioneered the idea of multi-day trail running tours in the U.S., says that last year they had one tour that was entirely made up of women.
There is safety in numbers, but there is also a sense of community that comes from group travel, especially when you are spending all day together on the run. The connections you make on a trip like this are not taken into account by DeCoste. I am still in touch with a lot of people from that group, and we were so tight knit.
An Insider’s Guide to the Springtime Surprise Weekend at RunDisney.
Are you ready to book your next race? You will be taken to the ends of the earth and anywhere in between on your own two feet, by these five companies.
1. Rogue Expeditions
Price range: $2,950 to $5,495
Trip duration: 7 to 10 days
Upcoming trips: South Africa (October), Morocco (October and November), Kenya (2022), Patagonia (2023), Nicaragua (2023)
Imagine riding a floatplane over the ice-fields of Tweedsmuir Park in British Columbia, and seeing bears below or the cascade of Hunlen Falls, one of the tallest waterfalls in Canada. You can see the flowy single track trail winding through the high Alpine terrain with a sharp eye just days before.
A bird’s-eye view like that is just one of the amazing travel experiences that is tacked on to its running trips. Allison Macsas says running is the common denominator that brings everyone together. We use running as a vehicle for exploring a certain area and its culture.
It also means riding camels in the Moroccan desert, climbing an active volcano in Nicaragua, dining on fresh-caught fish while sailing around the coast of Croatia at sunset, and searching for food in glaciers or hot springs.
Macsas says the group stays in family-run guesthouses, lodges, estancias, farms, and kasbahs, and indulges in local cuisine, because of the expedition-style nature of these trips.
There are 14 different itineraries in nine different countries, all of which include 10- to 12-mile runs. Macsas says, “We are there to run and use our feet to see beautiful things.” Our trips cater to all levels, and we offer a variety of distance options every day so people can choose how far they will go.
Group sizes are limited to 10 to 14 runners, and most people sign up solo. The team atmosphere is created by the rapid bond between people. It is an intimate relationship that leads to unforgettable experiences, she says.
Macsas says they want people to go home feeling like they’ve learned something about why a place is the way it is. It is about trying to immerse people in the full travel experience.
2. Run Wild Retreats
Price range: $2,195 to $5,200
Trip duration: 4 to 7 days
Upcoming trips: Telluride (September), Ireland (September), Vermont (September), Vancouver Island (October), Moab (October), Sonoran Desert (November)
Running can be a mental escape for many. Run Wild Retreats gives women the chance to travel inward.
Elinor Fish, the founder of Run Wild Retreats, says that their goal is for people to finish the retreat feeling refreshed and rejuvenated because they got to connect with people and focus on their own self-care.
The reason trips are limited to females is the first point. Fish says bringing together a group of women makes it easier to create a sense of connection and support. The company wants runners to practice being present in their bodies while on the trail by turning off their phones and watches.
Runners can choose from three levels of retreats: Level I includes 30 minutes to two and a half hours per day on undulating ground, like Moab’s rock slabs and dirt trails, or the sandy beaches of the Pacific Rim National Park. Imagine a grassy and gravel coastal path leading to Ireland’s Cliffs of Moher, or the rock- and root-strewn High Rockies Trail in Canada, with more challenging uphills and downhills. Level III is reserved for experienced trail runners who can navigate high-altitude single-track through mountains for up to five hours.
Fish says that it is not about doing as many miles as possible. Finding a balance between time on the trail and time for yourself is what this is about.
After running to the top of the Skogafoss waterfall, you can stay in a collection of traditional grass-roofed homes with a basalt stone hot pool. After a week of running along the Mediterranean, you can take a trip to the 2,000-year-old Roman baths in Spain, complete with a one-hour private massage. All of the retreats have gourmet meals, workshops, and coaching clinics.
Fish says that they are positioned at the intersection of adventure and well-being. Our main focus is on women’s wellbeing.
3. Adventure Running Co.
Price range: $1,295 to $2,695
Trip duration: 5 to 7 days
Upcoming trips: Newfoundland (October), Zion-Bryce (October), Cinque Terre (2023)
All of the trails are on their own. Think of navigating the open “balds” of the Appalachian Trail in North Carolina and Tennessee; picking your way over rocky outcroppings and through Aspen meadow on the Rim Trail high above Lake Tahoe; cruising past natural arches down smooth single-track lined with redrock walls from Zion National park They are a nightmare for solo trail runners.
Runners have a problem of having to carry all their own gear from one campsite to the next on a point-to-point trail, says Holak, who leads tours with his wife, both are experienced trail ultramarathon runners. The supported tours allow you to explore the entire trail.
You can run The East Coast Trail along the edge of the Newfoundland in Canada, descending from fjord-like cliffs into quaint fishing villages, if you hire a professional to do the logistical legwork. The trail that used to lead to the five villages of The Cinque Terre is no longer used for mules. You can walk the entire Mont Blanc, passing through three different countries as you travel from France to Italy.
Tours are limited to 10 runners and cater to all levels Holak says they draw repeat customers and are attracting more and more female runners. He says the average is 15 miles a day. Holak estimates timing each day based on a three-mile-per-hour pace and leaves plenty of time for photos, meals and even cooling tired feet off in mountain streams. He says that they always have a lead runner who navigates and a sweeper who makes sure they don’t lose anyone.
The itinerary keeps the focus on the trail as runners make their way from inn to inn, or between vacation homes and campsites, with meals provided by hosts at certain accommodations, or by guides each day. Holak says it’s mostly about running. Relaxing around our campsite or in a home at the end of the day and having a few beers is a huge part of it.
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4. Trail Run Adventures
Price range: $1,995 to $6,895
Trip duration: 7 to 15 days
Upcoming trips: Bhutan (October), Madeira (October), Ecuador (November), Japan (2023), Kenya (2023), New Zealand (2023)
Traveling and running require a willingness to push yourself out of your comfort zone. “We want to go where only your feet, your energy, and your hard work can take you,” says co-owner Ron Braselton, who is also a professional trail and ultra runner.
It may sound intimidating to go up el Rumiahui in the Cotopaxi National Park or the top of the Troll Wall. If that is a bucket list goal for you, the guides at Trail Run Adventures want to make it happen.
To that end, the company requires background info for runners interested in more challenging trips, and will reach out to determine if the destination is right for them. Braselton says they will put them on a training program if needed. We want people to be able to test themselves on our trips and to help them as much as we can.
There are ways to shorten days if necessary, but running distances can vary from a few miles per day to 100 miles per week. If you want to push your limits, you can try new things, like white water rafting in Alaska or trying yak cheese in Bhutan, which is sandwiched between China and India. Maybe it is about learning new skills at the women-only retreats in Colorado and Madeira, an archipelago off the coast of Portugal.
The company is adamant about using local guides to support the community and help runners immerse themselves in more than nature. In Japan, we eat traditional food, visit onsen, and climb Mount Fuji, according to Braselton. He says that in Bhutan, you won’t see any other tourists, just yak herders, monasteries and small villages.
The company always pairs two people per room to keep costs down, even though there are different accommodations. Braselton says most people enjoy staying with a new person and making a friend along the way, and that you can pay extra for a single.
5. Aire Libre Retreats
Price range: $1,400 to $4,400
Trip duration: 4 to 8 days
Upcoming trips: Scotland (September), Mexico City (September), Jackson Hole (September), Oaxaca (October), Baja California Sur (November), Patagonia (December)
The trips at Aire Libre are based on the experience the founders had in 2015, when they were granted permission to run through the native land of the Seri tribe. It was the first time in our history as runners that we had heard running could be used as a tool for greater things, beyond our own egoistic agenda of trying to run faster or farther.
The idea of exploring different lands and cultures on a deeper level is in the company. You will get to celebrate the Day of the Dead in the city and run on ancient trails in Oaxaca, Mexico, when you take the Oaxaca retreat. Daz says that running for us is more of the means than the end. It is an excuse to discover a certain area and connect with people who live there.
Depending on the day, you can log 4 to 18 miles, but the runs are accompanied by local experiences that are far from tourist traps. Before the steep ascent up to Mam Barrisdale Pass in the Scottish Highlands, you will go for a wild swim in the morning; after a beach run in Costa Rica, you will spend the day snorkeling in the Caribbean Sea. According to Daz, most mornings start with guided meditations that set the tone for the rest of the day.
Daz says that they try to offer a wide variety of experiences from the local kitchen of a guide’s grandmother to more modern expressions of a place’s gastronomy. Accommodations vary from hotels to cabins to lodges to cabaas to tents, but are chosen to enhance the local experience.
Daz says that what makes their experiences so transformational is that they are going back to their roots and practicing what makes them human. It’s moving our bodies, sharing healthy meals, opening up spaces for people to talk about emotions, practicing being present, and gaining perspective from where you are and who you’re with.
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