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Plan Your Next Restorative Training Getaway

You don't need a sign up for running camp to go on a running adventure. Runner and writer Amanda McCracken serves up four locations perfect for a DIY running vacation.

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Looking for a getaway that sends you home feeling both fit and recovered? Feeling unmotivated without a fall marathon on the schedule? Not all trips have to be race destinations. You can travel to train, too. While most running camps cost $1,500-$5,000 (sans airfare), you can easily put together a long weekend of restorative training for under $1,500.

Why not gather a couple friends or go solo on your own DIY wellness retreat? After all, science says we get just as much (or more) happiness from planning a trip than experiencing it. Forget the usual running meccas of Boulder, Flagstaff, and Eugene. We’ve put together four amazing running locations with a variety of possibilities for you to begin exploring.

Mendocino California
Redwood forests are a runner’s paradise in Mendocino. (Photo: Courtesy: Visit Mendocino County)

Mendocino, California

This enchanted, historic seaside town is a great hub for trail adventures along northern California’s rugged coast or through nearby acres of redwood forests filled with fern-covered canyons and stream-lined paths. Mendocino was eco-conscious before it was trendy.

Run

Easy: Run through towering redwoods to a 30-foot waterfall by taking the 3.9-mile Russian Gulch Waterfall Loop. Or for stunning coastal views, cruise the 4.2-mile out-and-back Mendocino Headlands Trail.

Moderate: The Fern Canyon Trail in Van Damme State Park is an 8.5-mile lollipop route along a creek bed, through lush greenery (including the charming Pygmy Forest).

Rest

Splurge: For a cozy treat, book one of 11 rooms at the Brewery Gulch Inn, a bed and breakfast, made of eco-salvaged redwood and perched on the bluffs overlooking Smuggler’s Cove. Don’t miss the wine hour or the guided forest bathing (shinrin-yoku) tour! Add the North Coast Adventure package for a guided horseback ride down the beach, followed by a kayak tour through sea caves.

Modest: Take your running pals on a glamping trip to the slightly rustic Mendocino Grove, only minutes from trails at Big River Beach and Estuary. Your heated bed in a spacious tent will welcome you after a day on the trails. The bathhouse comes complete with organic bath products and a designated shower for your canine trail companion, too.

Eat

Splurge: For the ultimate culinary experience in plant-based meals, check out Ravens Restaurant at  Stanford Inn by the Sea, a restaurant known for locally harvested sea palm and chanterelles.

Modest: For fresh off-the-boat seafood caught by an all-women crew, travel a few miles north to Princess Seafood at Noyo Harbor. Or for Californian vegan cuisine with a southern twang, try Fog Eater Café.

Balance

After a long day on the trails, step into the clothing-optional redwood hot tubs at Sweetwater Inn and Spa. If you’re into the healing benefits of cannabis, visit the Bohemian Chemist for its tasteful selection of lotions and potions set in a vintage apothecary.

Asheville North Carolina
The Blue Ridge hills extend for miles in Asheville, North Carolina. (Photo: Courtesy: ExploreAshville.com )

Asheville, North Carolina

Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville attracts trail runners year-round with mild temperatures, but most often during its spectacular leaf peeping season. This equally artsy and foodie city supports its running community so much that its visitors bureau created a guide to running Asheville.

Run

Easy: Beaver Lake Trail (and Bird Sanctuary) has been called a “hidden oasis in the city.” This can be a flat recovery run, or the perfect loop to do 2-mile repeats.

Moderate: One of the more popular routes for locals is the 6-mile Hard Times Trail Loop located in the Bent Creek Experimental Forest. The rolling path provides great views of mountain ridges and Lake Powahatan.

Stay

Splurge: The Grand Bohemian Hotel is a luxurious stay designed to look like a plush 19th-century hunting lodge. It is a great home base for runners since it’s minutes away from over 20 miles of forested trails on the Biltmore estate.

Modest: Wrong Way Cabins combine the nostalgia of a campground with hotel conveniences. The Sixteen A-frame “Scappalachian” (Scandinavian design meets Appalachia) are conveniently located right across from the French River Greenway, a 3.5-mile asphalt path.

Eat

Splurge: Located in the historic neighborhood called The Block, Benne on Eagle is known not only for its “Affrilacian” cuisine, but the ways it has preserved the memory of the African-Americans who had a professional impact on The Block.

Modest: If you’re looking for quality comfort food using locally sourced ingredients, check out HomeGrown, whose slogan is “slow food right quick.” It’s a perfect stop only two miles from an interval run at Beaver Lake.

Balance

Stop in Skinny Beats for a group or private sound healing session or book a Mountaintop Vortex Yoga experience at sunset through Namaste Nature.

Las Catalinas Costa Rica
Writer Amanda McCracken runs oceanside in Las Catalinas. (Photo: Courtesy Amanda McCracken)

Las Catalinas, Costa Rica

This seaside, car-free town, an hour drive from Liberia airport, is designed for the wellness-conscious traveler. Las Catalinas is sandwiched between two of Costa Rica’s loveliest Pacific beaches and cradled by 1,000 acres of protected tropical dry forest which are interlaced with extensive trails. Las Catalinas, described as “physically soulful,” is also home to the Tri-Catalinas triathlon in February.

Run

Easy: For a short ~5k run, start out on Principal at the public entrance trailhead and then take the Punta Guachipelines trail that loops along the coastal cliffs. The short but steep climbs through the forest will reward you with some of the best panoramic coastal views and a quick ocean dip, if you want along the way.

Moderate-to-hard: “Peaks, jungles, and beaches—oh my!” You may find yourself singing along the challenging 5.1-mile McHenry-Punta Guachipelines-Punta Penca Big Loop.

Stay

Splurge: Gather a group together for your Catalinas trail adventure to share a multi-bedroom villa footsteps from the trails and beach. Many include plunge pools where you can rest your weary legs.

Modest: Designed in homage to the mansions of Havana and Cartagena, Santarena Hotel will take you back in time and place in all the right ways. It’s a mere 5-minute walk from the main trailhead.

Eat

Splurge: Gather your friends for a sunset beach bbq where you’ll watch your private chef grill your meal by the light of tiki torches.

Modest: Grab a fresh smoothie or an organic dish from Pots & Bowls, or grab picnic provisions from the deli at Copper & Stone Market.

Balance

Outdoor gyms with Flintstone-esque wooden weights are hard to find, particularly only steps away from your trail. Join a yoga or strength class at CORE by Chakfitness to address muscle groups runners often neglect. Restore your mind and body with a sound bath, massage, or red-light therapy session at the Center of Joy.

Maui Haopili Trail
An adventure awaits runners in the island of Maui. (Photo: Courtesy: Amanda McCracken)

Maui, Hawaii

Maui is an adventurous runner’s paradise that offers challenging trails varying from paths of lava rock to crushed coral to muddy tree roots to white sand. At this center of wellness innovation, you’ll find nurses administering IV therapy drips at the Four Seasons to the resident evolutionary astrologer at the Grand Wailea offering natal chart readings.

Run

Easy: The stunning Haopili Trail to Hanamanioa Light House is a 3.6-mile out and back path through lava fields which follows the shoreline of La Perouse Bay. You’ll pass the ruins of an ancient Hawaiian temple and kaleidoscopes of yellow butterflies playing near pools beneath natural arches.

Hard: Some travel to Maui just to run the epic Haleakala Crater Loop trail. Runners say the views on this 17.7-mile loop (6 of which are on the road) make them feel like they’re on Mars. Weather can be quite variable, and there is little to no shade, so come prepared.

Stay

Splurge: For a feast for all your senses, treat yourself to a night at the Fairmont Kea-Lani. Restore your mana (life energy) after running the nearby lava fields with a traditional Hawaiian style lomilomi massage at the Willow Spa, or meet with the hotel’s Energy Ambassador for a customized wellness program.

Modest: While it’s unlikely you’ll be able to book one of the three highly sought after cabins in Haleakala National Park, you’ll have a better chance of booking a wilderness tent permit.  Either way, you can’t go wrong.

Eat

Splurge: The Kula Lodge Garden Terrace Restaurant looks like something out of a Dr. Seuss book. Perched high above the green hills of Kula, the al fresco dining experience with locally sourced ingredients offers sweeping panoramic views of all of Maui.

Modest: Treat yourself after a run on Haleakala to sweets at the century-old, family-run Komoda’s Store and Bakery in Makawao. The line forms early for its guava-filled malasadas or macadamia-encrusted donuts on a stick.

Balance

To experience the water as the ancient Hawaiians did, reach out to the historic Lahaina Canoe Club for an outrigger canoeing lesson or Hawaiian Paddle Sports for surf lessons. Come during peak humpback whale season (February), and you might find yourself paddling alongside the gentle giants.