The beauty of running, along with its many benefits, is its versatility and accessibility. Feel like going for a run? Just step outside your door and do it. It’s as easy as that; with proper training, you can run in almost every terrain. The most accessible terrain of them all, though, especially for those who live in urban areas, is the road. What do we need to consider for hitting the road, then?
Here are some of the pros & cons of road running, races, gear, and tips to consider.
What Is Considered Road Running?
Road running is usually a mapped and measured course on a road, different from other running terrains such as trails, tracks, treadmills, etc. Running on the road is usually associated with long-distance and endurance races or events, as it is easier to track due to the more leveled terrain. These competitions are usually constructed on roads made of asphalt or tarmac. Road races are accessible to all categories of athletes, beginners, recreational runners, pro-athletes, and wheelchair users. The World Athletics organization lists various distance events in Road Running, among other running events such as Cross Country, Mountain Running, Ultra Running, Trail Running, etc.
What Distance Does a Road Running Race Cover?
Road running races are typically long-distance and endurance races. The most common road running race distances include 5K, 10K, half-marathons which are 13.1 miles, and the marathon, with a distance of 26.22 miles. These races gather runners of almost all profiles, who are up to the challenge of running the long distance.
Road Running vs Trail Running
If you are used to running on one terrain more than the other, you might probably wonder how two different terrains such as the road and trails compare. Road running is surely more popular since trail running requires extra effort to get to the desired location, for example, whereas you can find a flat road to run just about anywhere.
The road is better for intensity, speed, and does not require as much concentration on the terrain as trail running does. Due to its less predictable routes, running on a trail requires more balance, attentiveness, quick reflexes, and a strong core since you will be making uneven movements like jumping, dodging a stone, branch, and other natural obstacles.
In terms of speed, trail running is quite unpredictable, and it varies on a case basis, meaning each trail has different altitudes and obstacles therefore speed cannot as easily be measured and compared with other trails. In general, due to their uneven landscape, runs on trails tend to take longer than a run on a road would at the same distance.
Pros of road running:
- Running on the road and pavement is beginner-friendly and more accessible compared to other terrains of running (especially in an urban setting.)
- If you are looking to train your running speed, running on the road is among the most efficient terrains. Asphalt is usually very leveled, making it easy to keep a stable pace and rhythm, suitable for measuring distances accurately. The even surface is also better for putting less strain on the Achilles tendon than other terrains.
- Compared to an indoor treadmill run, road running is often much more pleasant, especially if the weather is nice. By running outside, you get fresh air, a nice view, and you train your endurance by acclimating to wind and weather conditions.
- The most popular races such as 10K-s, half-marathons, or marathons are usually organized on this terrain. The road, then, is a practical place to train for them as well.
Cons of road running:
- Traffic, cars, bicycles, or pedestrians can be a distracting disadvantage, which you need to look out for, especially if the road is busy, you are in a low-lit area, or wearing headphones.
- The hard surface of asphalt and concrete can cause strains or injuries if you are running long distances and repetitive patterns.
- Road running can be challenging during the winter, especially if you live in an area where it snows. The road can freeze and get slippery, or the cold, in general, makes running more challenging, especially if you are not properly dressed.
- Compared to other terrains, the impact loading is higher due to the road’s harsh, even material. This means that when your feet land, there will be more shock to them than there would be on softer terrain, and this can consequently be rougher on your calves and shins.
Road Running Tips
While the terrain is quite safe, there are some things to consider when on the road for safety and better performance. Let’s take a closer look at them.
Face the traffic
This is a common unwritten rule in most countries; If you are running on the road (if that is allowed), the safest option is to run in the opposite direction of the traffic. This way, if there is oncoming traffic, you can see them quickly and take evasive action, and vice-versa.
To cross the road, especially if it is busy, cross it at crosswalks or intersections, where drivers and cyclists will expect pedestrians and slow down.
Be cautious with headphones
If you are running on a busy road, it will be difficult to hear cars and sirens if your headphone volume is too loud. Therefore, if you are using headphones, try to use them at a volume that allows you to be cautious.
Road running gear
Your road running apparel should be adjusted to the weather conditions and the surface of the road. Concrete and asphalt are hard surfaces; therefore, picking the appropriate shoes is important. For this terrain and especially for speed runs, opt for lightweight shoes with extra support. If you prefer jogging, you can choose from a variety of gel-filled or lifted shoes. The important thing is that they are slightly cushioned, so you are less prone to injuries and straining your legs.
Safety is an important thing to consider when it comes to your gear as well. For a safer run, you can wear reflective gear, bright colored clothes, and a headlight, so people in traffic and pedestrians can see you when you are approaching.
US Road Runner Races
If you are looking for your next road runner race, these are some of the most popular long-distance races in the US:
- Boston Marathon (Boston, MA)
- New York City Marathon (New York, NY)
- AJC Peachtree 10K (Atlanta, GA)
- Memorial Day 10K (Boulder, CO)
- Lilac Bloomsday Run 7.45 miles (Spokane, WA)
- Chicago Marathon (Chicago, IL)
- Blue Cross Broad Street Run 10 miles (Philadelphia, PA)
- St Jude Half Marathon (Memphis, TN)
- Lilac Run 10K (Rochester, NY)
Road running has its advantages and disadvantages, but it is convenient, it allows for flexibility in your speed, and you get bonus outdoor time. With some extra caution for traffic and other pedestrians, hitting the road is just as exciting as any other running terrain.