Mastering Your Path: A Guide to Planning the Perfect Running Route

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Beginner Runner
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David Dack

Planning the perfect running route can significantly enhance your outdoor running experience and help you achieve your fitness goals. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned runner, finding the right tools and techniques for route planning can make a big difference.

In this post, we’ll explore various tools and strategies to help you discover and plan the ideal running route tailored to your preferences and objectives.

So, whether you’re looking for scenic trails, challenging hills, or a simple neighborhood loop, let’s dive into the world of route planning to make your outdoor runs more enjoyable and effective.

Why Plan Your Running Routes?

You lace up your running shoes, step out the door with a burst of enthusiasm, and start running. But wait, do you know where you’re going? Without a plan, you might end up in a running maze, unsure of how far you’ve gone or where you’ll end up. That’s not ideal, right?

That’s why planning your running routes is the secret sauce. It’s not just about knowing your distance; it’s about staying motivated, consistent, and safe. Plus, it adds a dash of variety to your runs, making them more exciting.

In a nutshell, planning your routes turns a potentially chaotic run into a well-organized, enjoyable adventure. Who wouldn’t love that?

How To Plan A Running Route?

Here are some of the measures to take to help you plan your running routes so you can have the most out of your runs.


Stay Safe

When it comes to planning your running route, safety should be your numero uno concern.

Nobody wants a run that turns into a nightmare, right? Here’s how to keep things safe and sound:

  • Do Your Route Homework: If you’re venturing into new running territory, gather intel beforehand. Get as much info as you can about the route. Thanks to technology, you can use Google Street View to zoom in on your path. Heck, you can even take a drive or bike ride through it to get the lay of the land.
  • Dodge the Crowds: If you live in a bustling metropolis, keep an eye out for traffic and crowded sidewalks. Skip the hustle and bustle and opt for quieter streets and less congested areas. The crack of dawn is your golden hour—run when the world is still in dreamland.
  • Shed Some Light: If you’re planning a sunrise or sunset run, ensure your route is well-lit. Proper lighting is your ally for a safe and enjoyable run.
  • Trail Tales: For the trailblazers out there, do some research on the local wildlife. Knowing what you might run into is vital. (No, we’re not talking about other joggers.)
  • Tell Someone: Always play it safe by informing a family member or friend about your running route and when they can expect to hear from you again. It’s like having a safety net, but for running.

Use Apps

Whether you’re a road warrior or a trailblazer, there’s an app for you, and it’s about to become your new running buddy.

Here’s how these digital wonders can help you stride toward your goals:

  • Track Your Triumphs: Running apps are like your personal cheerleaders, but with data. They keep tabs on your pace, time, distance, calories burned, elevation gained—heck, they’ll probably even tell you the phase of the moon if you ask nicely. It’s all about helping you conquer your running ambitions.
  • Plan Your Path: Say goodbye to the days of wandering aimlessly in search of the perfect route. Let these apps do the heavy lifting:
  • Plot Route: Perfect for you if you’re more of a laptop planner. You sketch out your route, and it does the math, calculating your distance and even offering speed options.
  • Strava: This one’s a champ in the premium department. Just tell it how far you want to run and whether you’re feeling up for some hills, and it’ll whip up a route for you.
  • MapMyRun: It’s like a treasure trove of user-generated routes. Plug in your address, and you’ll unearth a treasure chest of routes in your area. Sort ’em by length and elevation, and you’re good to go.
  • Os Maps: Ordnance Survey (OS Maps) is the map master. It offers both free and premium features, so you can tailor it to your needs.

Additional Resource – Here’s how to create a running program

Google Maps For Planning Running Routes

When it comes to planning your running routes, there’s one tool that stands head and shoulders above the rest—Google Maps. Whether you’re exploring your neighborhood streets or embarking on an epic trail run, Google Maps has got your back. Here’s how to make the most of it:

Step 1: Set Your Starting Point

If you’re already at your starting point, simply click the arrow icon to mark it. Alternatively, you can enter the address of your starting location.

Zoom in and out using those handy map controls, and don’t hesitate to drag the map around to get a bird’s-eye view of your route canvas.

Step 2: Time to Get Creative

This is where the magic happens! Begin plotting your running course by clicking on the map to set your starting point.

Then, keep adding points along your route to map out the distance you want to cover. Clickety-click your way to running greatness!

What’s incredible about Google Maps is its versatility. Whether you’re a street-level sprinter or a trailblazing trail runner, Google Maps can help you craft the perfect route. And don’t forget about the nifty measuring tools in Google Earth’s browser-based and desktop versions—they’re your secret weapons for precision planning.

Sounds too complicated?

Check out the following YouTube Tutorial to learn how to plot running routes using Google Maps.

Making The Most out of Google Maps

When using Google Maps to plan your running route, here are some advanced techniques to consider:

  • Street View Reconnaissance: Take advantage of Google Street View to get a street-level view of your intended route. This allows you to assess road conditions, traffic, and even terrain variations. Street View can also help you identify landmarks or points of interest to navigate by.
  • Terrain Elevation: Google Maps provides elevation data for various routes. If you’re looking to incorporate hill training into your route, use the elevation data to identify steep climbs and descents.
  • Alternative Paths: Google Maps often offers multiple route options for the same distance. Explore these alternatives to add variety to your runs. You can select different routes for different days to keep your runs interesting.
  • Distance Measurement: Use the distance measuring tool in Google Maps to adjust your route precisely to match your desired mileage. This ensures you hit your training targets accurately.

Plan Your Route According To Your Run

Whenever you plan a new running route, think about objectives, too.

That’s why you should match your route to your run.

In other words, your routes have to satisfy your workout intention—or else you might be heading in the wrong direction.


  • What type of terrain do you want to cover?
  • How far you’d like to go?
  • Are you looking for hills?
  • Planning on doing an easy run?

Choose a route where you can have the opportunity to get lost in the surroundings and not worry about speed.

Or, if you’re planning on doing speedwork, head to a track rather than the busy streets of your city.

Change Up Your Running Routes

Let’s face it: running the same route day in and day out can get, well, a tad dull. So, why not shake things up a bit and inject some excitement into your runs? Here’s how to keep the adventure alive:

Grass, hills, gravel, sand…the world is your running playground! As long as it’s safe and doable, venture into new territory.

Mixing up the surfaces you run on not only adds a thrill to your training but also forces your body to adapt to various running scenarios, ultimately making you a more versatile runner.

When diversifying your running routes, consider the following tips:

  • Local Running Groups: Joining a local running group or club can expose you to a variety of routes and running buddies who can recommend exciting paths you might not have considered.
  • Scenic Routes: Seek out scenic routes near bodies of water, parks, or natural reserves. Running in picturesque settings can be incredibly motivating and enjoyable.
  • Trail Exploration: If you haven’t explored trails before, give it a try. Trail running offers a unique experience with varying terrain, which can improve your overall running skills and prevent monotony.
  • City Exploration: Urban runners can change up their routine by exploring different neighborhoods or districts within their city. Each area may offer a distinct atmosphere and terrain.

Additional resource – Guide to Urban running

How to Plan a Running Route – The Conclusion

There you have it!

If you’re looking for practical ways to plan your running routes, then this article should get you started on the right foot—both figuratively and literally.

The rest is just details.

Please feel free to leave your comments and questions in the section below.

In the meantime, thank you for dropping by.

Keep running strong

David D

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