Save for races, runs are often something “fit in” before or after work or at lunch. For a lot of runners, training is done because you “need” to do it to prepare for an upcoming race. As runners, many of us wax poetic about our love of running, but the runs themselves are often rushed or part of a busy day. It’s not a criticism, life happens.

Sure, our lives, health and fitness are improved due to daily runs, but the runner (or maybe just this runner) is often left wanting something more.

Like, an adventure. When was the last time, besides a race, a run was your day, not simply an item on a long to-do list? With a season of holidays and vacations on the horizon and training taking a back seat (at least for many of us), now is a good time to go on a unique run outing. Schedule a few hours or a half day for yourself and see what you can discover on your own two feet.

A couple weeks ago, I decided it was time to revisit a favorite trail run before the Colorado snowpack got too deep. It’s an out-and-back route up into the mountains, with a natural hot springs at the turn around point. The route is about 9 miles each way with more than 3,000 feet of gain and descent. Many people hike in and spend the night, but it also works as a day run—the uphill may get a bit long, but skinny dipping in the hot springs and downhill cruising on the way out make it doable and worth the effort. I convinced a friend to join me, packed lots of snacks, water and extra layers and we made a day—albeit a long one—out of it.

Straight ahead to the hot springs! Photo: Allison Pattillo

We met at the trailhead, and, before taking our first steps, we were out of cell service—meaning no more emails, texts, phone calls or social media updates. So, planned or not, we added a digital detox to the adventure. Our day was all about foot-powered exploration, soaking up nature and being in the moment—even if those moments were hungry or tired ones. We agreed from the get-go to take our time, and, including time on our feet and a long soak in the hot springs, we were out more than 6 hours. From snow showers to blue sky, an empty trail to amazing mountain views, it was all fabulous. There was no finisher’s medal, special T-shirt or Strava record for us. Instead, we returned to an empty trailhead, and went our separate ways spent, famished and beyond happy with our day of pure, selfish adventure.

Dedicating a day to running doesn’t necessarily have to entail long miles or going off grid. I’ve taken personal run “holidays” to run the monuments in Washington, DC; sample junk food along a length of the beach road on Nags Head in North Carolina; explore a point-to-point dirt road route south of Monterey, Calif. (that required hitchhiking back to the start); and tour through all the villages on a Bahamian Island (where I first fell in love with coconut water).

Tailor the run to be enjoyable and doable for you. Go on a historical tour of your hometown, tackle an enticing trail route, run from park to park or peak to peak, between towns or from museum to museum. The point is to make a run the main objective of your day. Explore, see something new right outside your backdoor, get exhausted and remember why you love to run.

Enjoying a therapeutic soak in the middle of a 6-hour adventure run Photo: Lauren Steele