The only thing we’re limited by is our imagination.
From running around all the stops on the Monopoly board, to racing the number 100 bus across the centre of Berlin, GO! is the ultimate inspirational guide to getting outside. Here Tobias extracts some challenges from his new book that you can try for yourself.
Run around the administrative edge of your local borough, town or postcode
With 90 per cent of the world’s population living in an urban environment, there’s a good chance you live in an administrative borough. But do you know where the borough starts and finishes? The idea of the Boundaries Run is to run as close as possible around the perimeter of your boundary or postcode, creating a permanent race route for those living there.
The route needs to follow the boundary line as closely as possible and should avoid private land not accessible to others.
If you’re the first to create a Boundaries Run, then you determine the start and finish point – which must be used by others.
Bored of running around my local park, I was searching for new paths, commons or parks to run in, anything to escape the monotony of my regular evening run. And then, by chance, I noticed a blue line tracing around my local borough of Wandsworth. It snaked along disused rivers, around parks and through housing estates – a continuous line of purple marking the boundary of one of London’s thirty-two boroughs, just as you’d find in any other city.
In fact, it doesn’t matter where you live in the world, I can say with almost 100 per cent certainty that you’ll live in an administrative zone – a borough, county or commune. At the very least, you’ll probably have a postcode that you could run around.
In this generation of Google Maps, you may not be confident following a paper map, so it’s a good idea to plot your route onto Strava or similar – just to get that warm and fuzzy feeling you’re on track. It will also allow you to figure out how far you’ll be running – which in my case I learned would be just over a marathon.
But watch out! Because when it comes to following a city map, or indeed your smartphone, you need to allow for a certain amount of what I call ‘the faff factor’. Somehow, as soon as you step off your familiar route and start following a GPS or map, everything takes longer – whether it’s stopping to figure out where you are, reaching a dead end, pausing to take photos, waiting at traffic lights – it all adds up.
Wild at Heart
Create a swimrun adventure
If you’ve not yet heard, SwimRun is the new triathlon. A sort of mashup between wild swimming and trail running, the concept is simple – to run and swim between lidos, lakes, rivers and dams.
This is a self-supported challenge.
All lakes/pools/sea should be publicly accessible.
Any form of swim aid is acceptable, but you must carry what you use from start to finish.
The hardest part in planning your own SwimRun is simply getting your head around the concept. Although there are a few similarities, SwimRun is very different from a triathlon in that you’re totally self-sufficient and carry the same equipment throughout the entire race. Which means you’ve got to swim in your trainers and run in your wetsuit.
Remember, you don’t need any specialist kit to do a SwimRun. If you’ve got an old wetsuit lying around, cut off the legs and arms at the joints – giving you better mobility when you run and lessening the chance of overheating. An old pair of trail shoes will also do – and if you think they’re on the heavy side, drill some holes in the soles to help with drainage. The only other bits of kit that come in handy are goggles and a swim cap.
Don’t worry if you don’t have an archipelago nearby. Instead, why not run between lakes and swim across them? With more than half a million natural lakes with a surface area greater than 10,000m2 in Europe, there is plenty of choice.
And if you live in a city, outdoor swimming pools work almost as well. You could create an urban route linking them up, although you might get the odd glance from passing strangers.
Regardless, it’s best not to bite off more than you can chew, so your first SwimRun should be simply getting used to transitioning from water to land and back again using just one lake/ pool/reservoir. Working out what kit works and doesn’t, how to carry water and food – it all takes a bit of practice. And that’s part of the adventure. Because after you’ve done your first SwimRun, everything else will feel boring.
How much can you do in 60 minutes?
As creatures of habit, we like to know how long something will take. But in contrast to a race, which is often limited by distance, this orienteering-style challenge is about squeezing in as much as you can within 60 minutes, all while exploring your local neighbourhood.
Your time is limited to 60 minutes.
You decide how you’re going to spend your time – ‘collecting’ monuments, running as far as you can, juggling while running, or even running between Starbucks cafés.
Smartphone with 3G connection
GPS watch to track route and keep track of time
With 1,440 minutes in a 24-hour time period, there’s no reason you can’t use 60 Minutes of your day for something new – whether it’s before or after work or even during your lunch break. And what’s more, it’s ideal to do with friends and family.
And the key to all of this is a map. That folded piece of paper puts us all on a level playing field where fitness levels can be offset by the ability to navigate. As the saying goes, ‘It doesn’t matter how fast you are if you’re going in the wrong direction’.
The first stage is to look at what’s around you and see if there’s a pattern. When I lived in London, I was intrigued by the Blue Plaques attached to the side of various homes and buildings. On my runs, I’d stop to read them, if I had my phone with me, I’d take a photo, to remind me to learn more about the person when I got home. ‘I wonder how many Blue Plaques I can visit in an hour?’ I thought to myself.
After a bit of research, I found a map that showed where many of the Blue Plaques are situated. But with more than two thousand to choose from, I decided to limit myself to a postcode, which in my case was London’s SW11.
I’ve been running around my local borough for many years, although I’ve been a slave to the same old routes. Armed with a map and my GPS-enabled smartphone as a backup, I now find myself darting down roads that were otherwise invisible to me.
I hardly notice the minutes pass, until the clock on my phone indicates my time is up. I’ve ‘collected’ 26 plaques, covered 11 kilometres, discovered areas I hitherto haven’t known existed and in the process learned so much about my area, including the fact that I live less than a mile from a former prime minister. But the most salient fact I learned is that the only thing we’re limited by is our imagination.
Extracted from GO! by Tobias Mews, out now via Aurum Press, an imprint of The Quarto Group.