Tuesday 1 May 2012

Stanford University, California - USA

It's not difficult to see why Stanford University has been voted top college sports programme 17 years in a row
For a teenager, going to school at Stanford University, life must be good. This is not a College, this is heaven on earth!
I was in Palo Alto, California for the WTA Tennis Stanford event taking place on the College campus. I can honestly say I had never heard of the place before arriving, assuming it was just a small generic American town. I soon realised I was wrong!
Although a relatively small town, it is home to Silicon Valley where you will find the headquarters of Facebook, AOL & Xerox. Notable current and former residents include the late Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Condoleezza Rice and Larry Page. It is located under an hour away from San Francisco on the Cal Train.
This was my first ever first-hand experience of American colleges, having previously only seen them in teen films like American Pie and Old School. A University Campus in England is obviously much bigger than a high school, but very similar in terms of what is there, just on a larger scale. But man this was like a small city!
The Hoover Tower on the Stamford University Campus, named after former United States President and Stanford Alumni Herbert Hoover

Regularly voted in the top five universities in the World, for a starters, there is a 50,000 seater stadium where the College American Football team play their matches. To put that into context, that is bigger than 17 of the 20 English Premier League football stadiums and has hosted a Super Bowl and several World Cup 1994 matches.
Then you take a look at the Alumni, and it shows you the calibre of athletes who have attended. John Elway, Tom Watson, Tiger Woods& John McEnroe as well as a total of 182 Olympic medals won by former students.

Not just sports stars either, Larry Page & Sergey Brin founders of Google studied here, as did the founders of companies including Nike, Hewlett-Packard, & Cisco Systems.
In addition to 17 Nobel Prize winners, former US President Herbert Hoover attended as well as a Japanese Prime Minister. You get the idea now, basically this place is pretty incredible!
Serena Williams, one of the greatest female athletes in history. This is as close as I dare get, she would eat me alive!

I was staying in a Days Inn located on El Camino Real just 2.6 miles south east of the University campus. As it is open to public, I was very keen to take a nose around on my run!
Out of my hotel I therefore headed north west along the street, which runs through most of the town and straight to the campus - no chance of getting lost here!
There are a few crossings on the busier roads so depending on what time you run you may have to wait, or if it's quiet you could try your luck in between cars (if the police ask, I didn't tell you to jay-walk!).
I would suggest running early or late as being California it gets seriously hot here for probably 8 months of the year. This is a really well lit road too so there are problems in running after dark.
Upon reaching the campus on your left hand side, there are a few different entrances but I took the entrance which you will see at the main crossroads left on Galvez Street just as you pass Palo Alto High School on your right.
Now on campus, part of me was very jealous of all the students I saw who study here!

I followed Galvez Street south past the Stanford Stadium which is a really cool looking stadium (for a school!) and then the athletics track (top photo). 
Some evenings in Palo Alto, due to the tropical climate fog can be seen rolling in over the foothills. In real life it looks like something out of a horror movie!
Carrying on south I picked up Campus Drive passing the Tennis Stadium on your left hand side, with my plan now to complete a loop of the campus and head back to my hotel - This place is much bigger than I anticipated.

I followed Campus Drive as curved to the right and the right again as it began to loop round the back of most of the buildings and classrooms, picking up Junipero Serra Boulevard as the roads merged.

Not content with world-class stadia, there is also a lake and a golf course on campus (obviously). I passed both of these along Junipero (lake on your right, golf course on your left) as I began to turn for home. When you reach the driving range on your right hand side, take a right where you will be back on Campus Drive.

From here, you simply stay on the road all the way as it snakes north east towards the campus exit, passing some large greenhouses on your left and then a hospital. Before you pass a large wooded area (Frost Ampitheatre), take a left on Palm Drive. This is the main entrance to the campus and must offer an adrenaline pumping experience for new students on their first day as they drive up it.

Then simply take a right back on the El Camino Real and follow the route from earlier once again passing the high school now on your left, all the way back to the Days Inn. In total the run measured just under 8 miles. Great running conditions, mainly dry, all concrete and sidewalks most of the way. Minimal traffic on campus, lots of sports stadia and activity to inspire you mid-run.

If you can't motivate yourself to run here, you won't anywhere!

Summary: Start – Days Inn, El Camino Real, Palo Alto CA
Journey – North west towards Stanford University Campus on El Camino Real for 2.6miles. Enter campus on Galvez, pick up Campus Drive. Follow all the way around campus, briefly pickup up Junipero Serra Boulevard before rejoining Campus Drive. Pick up Palm Drive the main road into the campus and then turn right and return along El Camino Real.
Finish - Days Inn, El Camino Real

Sunday 29 April 2012

London - England

Tower Bridge (taken on Instagram) where the route gets going
Okay I know I am biased being English and all but London is surely the greatest city on the planet?

Yes it rains a lot, the roads are carnage and everybody is in an almighty rush, but there really is just something for everybody.

Whether you like sightseeing, sporting amphitheatres, Oxford Street, the West End, museums, galleries, striking architecture, innovative leading commerce or vibrant nightlife and elegant parks, All and more can be found in London.

The Tube can be both frustrating and crowded for Londoners but for tourists it offers one of the best public transport networks in the world. In addition, connections to both Heathrow and Gatwick Airports meaning you can be North America, Europe, Asia and Africa in as little as 6 hours. 

For this route I tried to capture as much of London's wide reaching appeal as possible...

The run started at the Tower of London, home to the crown jewels on the north side of the Thames (nearest tube stop is Tower Hill on Circle Line) and led me east only a matter of metres to Tower Bridge.

After crossing over to the south bank, I turned west staying close to the public walkway as much as possible, passed Belfast and Hay's Galleria until I reached London Bridge.

There were some works taking place on the Thames footpath on other side of the road so I decided to cross back over to the north bank using both the wide pavements and cycle lanes.

Back on the north bank, simply follow the signposted Thames West Path all the way to St Paul's Cathedral. The imposing dome will shortly be visible to your right but instead you will continue under Southwark Bridge to the Millenium footbridge.

Millenium Bridge links St Paul's Cathedral to The Globe Theatre and Tate Modern. It featured in Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince
I crossed back over to the south bank on Millenium Bridge upon reaching Shakespeare's Globe Theatre and Tate Modern. Dubbed the wobbly bridge because of initial problems when opening in 2000 to mark the millenium, the bridge closed for two years while engineering work took place.

From here it was just a case of kicking on further west towards the Southbank Area, a hotspot for tourists, passing London Television Studios and the National Theatre en route.

Once you reach the London Eye & London Aquarium, just be careful as there will be a lot of congestion on the footpath on weekends in particular. 

As you no doubt have noticed by now to your right - it's only BIG BEN!

Taking in the historic views of the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, turn right at Westminster Bridge and cross the Thames for the fourth and final time - beware though that it is difficult not to stop and stare in appreciation of its sheer beauty at this point!

Continuing west past Westminster Abbey to St James Park on Great George Street, real London first-timers can take a right for two streets and have a look at Downing Street before looking back to Great George.

Westminster offers some of London's most iconic skylines. The route crosses Westminster Bridge seen here
 Westminster is probably my favourite part of London as it combines everything foreigners typically love about the UK - the monarchy, the iconic sites and British traditions - with beautiful parks such as St James Park and Hyde Park, separated by Marble Arch & Buckingham Palace.

Carrying on west you will reach beautiful St James Park before getting your first glimpse of the world famous Buckingham Palace. Queen Victoria was the first Monarch to live in the Palace in 1837.

Passing the Palace to the right you will now be faced with Marble Arch. A long straight gradual incline to the monument flanked by the Gardens of Buckingham Palace and Green Park.

From here it is just straight across the roundabout using the underpass and into Hyde Park. This is where you can see lots of other runners as you begin to run west towards High Street Kensington where this route ends.

The Park is glorious all year round and hosts several concerts throughout the summer. Famously in 1969 the Rolling Stones performed with well over a quarter of a million people in attendance. There is also a memorial for the victims of 7/7 terrorist attack in 2005 and the Park will also host the triathlon in the London 2012 Olympics.

The downside of running from east to west means you tackle a very long relatively steep incline for the best part of a mile! Passing the Royal Opera House as you cross the road into Kensington Gardens, you will then exit to your left out of the Queen's Gate entrance.

Now on Kensington High Street, the tube stop is just ahead of you on your left hand side. The route in total was around 6.8 miles and is certainly one of my favourites.

The downside is that in the early part there is quite a bit of congestion on the footpaths so it is hard to get into an early rhythm, but by the time you reach Westminster Bridge you can open your legs and take in London's finest landmark and some spectacular parks to get you away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

If you are visiting London for the first time, 100% take in this route as you will not be disappointed!

Not London's biggest park but certainly one of the most popular - Hyde Park

Start - Tower of London/Tower Bridge
Journey - Cross Tower Bridge to south bank, run west along river wall. Cross London Bridge and follow north bank to Millenium footbridge. Cross and continue along south bank to Westminster Bridge. Follow Great George Street to Buckingham Palace, west to Marble Arch and into Hyde Park. Follow park through to Kensington High Street.
Finish - High Street Kensington Tube Station

Friday 27 April 2012

The Algarve - Portgual

The Algarve in Portugal may be world renowned as a haven for golf lovers, but it certainly has a lot to offer runners too.

It is not actually a city itself, but a group of towns and small cities. Located on the southern most coastline of Portgual, the area mostly has good weather all year round making the most of all the beautiful sea walks, beaches and golf courses.

I was here on a golfing trip but made sure to pack my trainers. Our hotel was located in Carvoeira in Lagao, a small quaint coastal town set on a bay, with dramatic clifftop views out to sea. A really cool little place, the kind you would just stumble across rather than plan to visit.

In case you are thinking I am some kind of high roller, let me just say now that I won this holiday in golf tournament, otherwise I would be probably be in the airport holiday inn!

I wanted my run to try and incorporate some of the cliffs and beaches as I knew with so much golf lined up during the day, there wouldn't be much time to visit them otherwise.

Setting off from the hotel on Estrada do Monte Paraiso, I travelled eastbound from the middle of the town and towards the more rural part of the coastline. The idea of this route was that with this would let me get a better view of the coast without the obstruction of the hotels and villas that line the cliff tops.

If you're going to run in Portugal, it goes without saying bring your sunscreen because it gets VERY hot...The sea breeze often disguises the fact and next thing you know you are burned, so definitely be prepared. Nobody wants to look like a tomato by the pool!
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The western part of the Algarve is full of secluded coves and beaches like this one near Carvoeira
The street was one way but soon joined up to the main road running through the town. However because this is such a tiny town in every sense of the word, the 'main' road is nothing more than your average single carriageway with pavements on either side.

The road does though connects a lot of the resorts and residential areas to the town so it gets quite busy in the evenings with people heading out to eat.

Now running east parallel to the coast on Estrado do Farol, you get glimpses of the bay with all of the fisherman and yachts through gaps in the buildings to your right, but the best views will come later - be patient.

Another feature of the Algarve is the cuisine. Man the seafood is so good here! With so many tourists, there are a bunch of good restaurants and you don't need to pay silly prices because there is so much competition. Being a seaside town, you know it is all going to be fresh (hopefully!).

The road travels through the central shopping area full of gift shops and local independents, and then the further east you travel the more you come across first hotels, and then villas and retirement accommodation.

As it heads east, it really gets interesting as the road begins to weave left and right up and down some really surprisingly big hills. However your reward at the top of each climb is a spectacular out to sea.
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A beach near Vale Do Lobo
As to probably be expected on the cliff tops, this is one of the most undulating of all of the routes I have created so be prepared for some real steep climbs. Probably best to run in late afternoon before dinner or early in the mornings. I ran at around 4pm after golf.

After 4.9km, the road came to an end at the top of one of the cliffs. I allowed myself a short break to really take in the coastline.

Similar to many clifftops, the formation and erosion of the rocks creates several small coves and caves below, with at least ten or more secluded little beaches. Some have been manipulated to offer tourist friendly beach bars offering deck chairs etc whilst others are 100% untouched, with only natural gradual stepping stone like access.

Satisfied, I simply followed this route back to the hotel. Not one of the longest, measuring in at just under 10km in total, but with the heat, the hills and golf it was just about right.

Another great route if in the Algarve is to pick up the beach at Vale do Lobo, follow all the way west to Vilamoura and then weave your way back. The beaches here are more traditional so you can include an actual run along the beach without running into a cliff or a cave!
Offering some fantastic views along one very quiet road, it is a nice little run that I would certainly repeat if I went back. Now for some seafood!

You can follow me and my blog on Twitter @fairboyruns, Instagram @tomlfairbrother or on Facebook. You can also follow my running progress on Power of 10

Start - Estrada do Monte Paraiso, west Carvoeira

Journey - East on Estrada do Farol, follow road all the way until it finishes at dead end 4.9km. Repeat route home. Spectacular views of coastline and out to sea.
Finish - Restaurante O Boteco, Estrada do Monte Paraiso, west Carvoeira

Thursday 26 April 2012

Beijing - China

Ready to run? The view from my hotel window in Beijing
Okay first of all, if you are reading this in Beijing, congratulations, you got a Visa! After two seperate trips to London filling in various forms, obligations and photo sessions, I got in. And boy was it not worth the effort. I previously described Luxembourg as grey and bleak. But compared to Beijing that place looks like paradise.

Probably a little harsh, but there is just such a huge difference in cultures that I cannot see why you would come here for anything other than business. That may sound like a typical English thing to say as we are renowned for liking our comfort zones, but I am usually very open to experiencing and seeing different ways of life. But China was just a step too far for me.

My favourite city is Rio de Janeiro, so I guess I should have expected China to not be my thing, and man this is not Rio! Everything is so controlled, there seems to be no freedom, character, spontaneity. Almost a feeling of fear. 

There is just such a methodical, disciplined feel wherever you go, which is very surprising as the Chinese are such fantastic innovators when it comes to architecture, construction and technology. 

Anyway back to the running, which is why you are reading this. I arrived at night, I was here with my friend, and after looking out of my window in the morning, (see above) I have to say, and I really shouldn't, this is one place where the treadmill actually looked reasonably tempting!
Resisting, we laced up our trainers and hit the streets, assuming it was okay to run on the roads in China. From our hotel in Dongxiaokouzhen in the north side of Beijing we set off south towards the Olympic Park. The reasoning for this was that if exercising in public is going to be okay anywhere, surely it would be there!

We stumbled across a park, which Google Maps later revealed to be Dengsheng Culture & Sports Park (our Mandarin is not the best!) and preceded to navigate our way from the northern tip in a full circuit, exiting the park through the south eastern exit.

Now you may be thinking this was some ellaborate spectacular high-tech park. Let me tell you it was not! A concrete walkway made it a nice clean surface for running but there were really no points of interest or highlights, other than a couple of small lake/ponds. NY Central Park this is not.

Being 6 foot 2" and 6 foot respectively, wearing shorts and woolly hats, it is fair to say that we probably didn't blend in too well, so it was good thing that the place was absolutely deserted. Okay it was a weekday but I cannot recall seeing a single soul in the whole park.
Proceeding south on Heiquan Road, which crossed over the River Qinghe before becoming Lincui Road, we reached the Olympic Park - although there was still no sign of the 2008 Olympic Stadium dubbed the Bird's Nest.

With asking for directions out of the question and neither of us having our phones on us just for precaution, like Forrest Gump we just kept running!

Having now travelled 2.5km to this point, we were both still fresh despite the usual poor night's sleep after a fly day and arriving in a new country/time zone.

We followed Lincui Road all the way south until it eased left (east) becoming Ao Lin Xi Lu Road, meandering through the middle of two relatively small green areas which I presume are more parks (obviously to keep up with the demand from people using them!).

After 6.2km we got a glimpse of the Nest much to our relief and one final push south on Thanchen East Road and a left on the imaginatively named National Stadium North Road saw us reach our destination.
The 2008 Beijing Olympic Stadium, dubbed the Bird's Nest - for obvious reasons
The highly impressive stadium holds 91,000 people and it has to be said, is absolutely extraordinary. Allegedly almost 5,000 local residents were forced to move from their homes from near the site, something which seem ridiculous given the sheer size of the city.

Satisfied with our morning's work. We set off back north towards our hotel. Neither of us said it at the time, but I am not sure either of us was 100% sure of the way back!
Probably even more spectacular than it's more infamous neighbour is the National Aquatics Center. In a city of pathetic fallacy where the grey gloomy weather seems to mirror much of its surroundings, these two achitectural beacons stand out as what could be possible if the state allowed the people to flourish.

Looking like a gigantic series of bubbles, it is one of the most imaginative and striking structure I have ever seen.

The temperature in Beijing can get very cold so definitely pack your cool weather running gear.

It was now just a case of following our tracks along the same route, which by the time we reached our total measured at just over 15km. Further than perhaps we had planned, but actually in the end what turned out to be one of the better runs overseas.

You can follow me and my blog on Twitter @fairboyruns, Instagram @tomlfairbrother or on Facebook. You can also follow my running progress on Power of 10


Start - Dongxiaokouzhen
Journey - Through Dengsheng Culture & Sports Park then south on Heiquan Road, Lincui Road and east on Ao Lin Xi Lu Road. Finally south on Thanchen East Road and east on National Stadium North Road. Lap of Bird's Nest Stadium, past Aquatic Center and follow same route home. 
Finish - Dengsheng Culture & Sports Park north exit.

Wednesday 25 April 2012

Lyon - France

A really underrated city. I had heard very little about Lyon before departing and was really surprised at just how grand and chic it was.

Lyon in central east France is the country's third city, and although it is heavily made up of banking and commerce, there are also of tons of boutiques, courtyards, alleyways, historic architecture and museums with fantastic views. 
Two rivers, the Rhone and Saone meander from the north to the south of the city where they create a beautiful peninsula. Its location also means it offers great transport links to central Europe especially by train. The two rivers then meet at the southern point of the city.

It was January when I was in Lyon so it was quite cold but dry, so nice conditions for running. Where possible I like to run in shorts and when it is cold I will just wear some running tights underneath, which I did here. I did however layer up my upper body with a woolly hat and a thermal shirt. No gloves though - never!!

I was staying near Rue Carquillat to the north west of the city and wanted to incorporate both rivers in my morning run so I set off along Rue des Chartreux which eases east.
I cut through a park and then headed down a large stone-stepped footpath to pick up the road again as it turns south as it merging with Rue du Jardin des Plante and then Rue Terme. I continued on Terme south until the road turned back to the right heading west where I took a left on Rue Sainte-Catherine.

Unknowingly the road brought me out into Place des Terreaux where the elegant grand city hall, Hôtel de Ville de Lyon was located. Definitely a spot for a photo!
Hôtel de Ville de Lyon (city hall). This photo gives you an idea of the layout and architecture of Lyon and the running conditions, generally flat and concrete
As you can see most people where wrapped up warm, so it goes without saying if you visit in January or winter months, bring your cool weather running gear.

Just over 1.3km to this point, from here I continued east hoping to pick up the River Rhone by running on Rue Puits Gaillot and then de la Comedie which brought me out on the east bank of the Rhone.

The Rhone is the east of the two rivers that divide Lyon, with the Saone to the west. I crossed Quai Jean Moulin which is a road running parallel to the Rhone, north to south where it becomes Jules Courmont.

The river walkway running all along the west bank offered some great views as there are numerous bridges that cross it. The photo at the top typifies this. I followed the river wall as much as I could, occasionally have to use zebra crossings and the edge of roads in parts where the path met bridges and narrow or busier roads.
In total to reach the southern point where the two rivers meet, I had travelled just under 6.5km from my hotel. It was now time to head back along the Saone, north along the east bank, hoping to take in some of the dramatic views of the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière, part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière located to the west of Lyon looms ominously over the city
Now heading north along the west bank of the Saone from the southern tip of the peninsula, I travelled on a minor road, Quai Rambaud until I reached the walkway along the river parallel to Quai Marechal Joffre.

I followed the river path north for just under 4km, passing seven bridges of different shapes and sizes, all unique in their own way. At the 6th however I stopped briefly to take in the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière.

Construction was finished in the 1870s and whilst arguably not one of France's most well known landmarks, most of which are in the capital Paris, it certainly fits the landscape and the rest of the city as if it had risen out of the ground.

Not wanting to get too cold (I lied earlier when I said it was nice conditions, now around 11.30am and bitterly cool!) I stepped up the last 2.3km leaving the river pathway at Rue de la Martiniere heading east.

From here, I picked up Rue Terme which I headed south on earlier and followed my route back to the hotel, including another failed attempt to replicate Rocky up the steps, looking no doubt like a ridiculous Englishman wearing tights!

Out of all of the cities I have run in, I would say this ranks level with Salzburg in Austria as the two which have taken me by surprise the most.

The majority of the others have been big famous cities where you would expect to be impressed, tick them off your list and then not necessarily revisit.

Lyon however, like Salzburg, I would be very disappointed if I did not return to at some point in the future.

Follow me on Twitter @runworldguide

Start - Rue Carquillat, north west Lyon
Journey - South east along Rue des Chartreux, through park and south on Rue du Jardin des Plante and then Rue Terme. Head east where roads merge through Place des Terreaux, past the City Hall to west bank of River Rhone.
Follow river walkway south all the way to where rivers merge. Run north along east bank of Saone River taking in views of Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière to you left across the river. Exit river east on Rue de la Martiniere picking up Terme and follow above route to Hotel, close to Park.
Finish - Close to Jouve Park, north west Lyon
Another example of the magnificent grand architecture which is evident throughout Lyon

Tuesday 24 April 2012

Barcelona - Spain

Sagrada Familia, the unfinished Roman Catholic Church, is probably Antonia Gaudi's masterpiece.  
First of all, be very careful with your personal belongings, Barcelona is regularly number one in polls of cities most likely to be pickpocketed. On our trip, one of the group had his wallet stolen before we had even reached our hotel.

It is quite is quite a cool city. But to be honest I was a little disappointed. I visited in September so not too long after Rome, which probably meant the bar was set a little too high. Maybe if I came here first I might have a different opinion.

However don't let my humble opinion deter you from booking, or if you have already, you will have a great time as there is still a ton of stuff to do and see. I was staying in a hostel which meant I could get close to centre without paying expensive rates at a hotel.

In England there is often a negative stigma attached to hostels. People are worried about safety and hygiene, and probably thought the film Hostel was a documentary.
I can honestly say though that I have had more bad experiences in hotels than in hostels and usually the staff who work in hostels are much more friendly and helpful, usually as they are travelling themselves or they own it.

From Passeig de Gracia , my first stop had to be the iconic Sagrada Familia located just north east of the very centre where my hostel was located, around 1.8km away.
For those who haven't been to Barcelona, the city is effectively divided in two by one long avenue running diagonally from west to east, known as Avinguada Diagonal. It's great for tourists as you always have a point of reference on your map or smart phone, and you can plan where you want to go using this as a starting point. You can also find your location much more easily if you get lost. 

One street south and I was on the Avenue heading east. Being September, it is still very warm in Spain at this time so I was wearing just a t-shirt and shorts. Most other runners I saw were too, so I guess that it must have been warm even for the local residents.

Quite a nice street for running on as there were plenty of Zebra crossings and it was very wide so there were not too many problems with congested sidewalks. It was also smooth concrete which after the cobbles of Rome felt like running in a foot massager!

After around 900m, take a left on Carrer de Provenca. Just beware as this is a one way street so ensure you stay on the paths. From here it is only 800m straight to Sagrada Familia. Pretty easy on directions so far.

It really is a fascinating piece of architecture. Despite construction starting in 1882, the work only passed the mid-point in 2010 with the an estimated completion date set for 2026. Visually very striking and in your face, I just love the way that they have just refused to give up on it and it will almost be a shame when it is finished.

This is a real hot spot for pickpocketers, so again beware especially if you have a bag or digital camera. Apparently some will use scissors to simply cut the straps, especially with cameras, which is a real shame.
Next stop was Las Rambla, the famous series of small streets full of tons of small shops, market stalls, cafes, street performers, musicians, artwork and great mosiacs on the pathway. Now without sounding like your Mother, once again watch your stuff here!

To get there, around 2.5km south, after completing a lap of the Familia head south west along Carrer de Mallorca (which runs parallel to de Provenca you ran along earlier), this will bring you back to Av. Diagonal.

Cross straight over here and continue in the same direction along Mallorca still and then take a left on the second street you come to. It will be called Carrer de Girona. It if's not, then you are lost my friend!

Girona will continue for just over 1km and by now you are very close to Las Ramblas. Still got your wallet? Nice! Swing right on Carrer d'Ausias March and follow it all the way and you will see it.

Lined by glorious trees which frame all the little stores and stalls, it is a lovely setting at either day or night. Be prepared for an annoying bit of weaving in and out of people. The Spanish for "Excuse me" is "Permiso, por favor!". This will come in handy here. And for when you ask for your wallet back later.

Camp Nou, the ultimate place to play football. So long as you're not on the other team. You're gonna lose. If you're lucky they may let you touch the ball.
Once you have picked your route around here, exit to the north of the street on Rambla de Catalunya. Around 1.5km north along the street you will reach our friend the Diagonal Avenue again.

Being a massive football (soccer) fan, I wanted to get a look at the Nou Camp before the match that I had a ticket for that night. I figured it would be too busy to really appreciate it later.
Our old pal Diagonal takes you right there. Around 3.5km and you will reach the roundabout (there will be one earlier in the road but stay on it until this second one). From here just swing left on Avinguda de Joan XXIII. The Camp Nou will now be straight in front of you.

Now being an Englishman, for me Wembley Stadium is the ultimate home of football, but this is pretty close in second. A monsterous bowl of a stadium, sure it could do with a lick of paint and maybe a roof, but it is something special.

After completing a loop around the stadium, which has a fantastic museum, it was time to head back to the hostel. Easy to get back, follow your footsteps on Joan XXIII and then back along, yep you guessed it, Mr Diagonal.

To mix it up I ran on the opposite side this time. There are plenty of points of interest along it such as a tram line, metro stations, the University of Barcelona, lots of shops and cinemas as well as the Torre Agbar skyscraper.

Now I am a bit biased I know, but this is clearly a rip-off of the Gherkin in London! The architect obviously was struggling a bit, liked the Gherkin and just said, "Build that. Siesta anyone?".

After 3.8km you will reach Passeig de Gracia where the run started around 13km previous. Quite a nice run, you get to see some Gaudi, a bit of the culture and of course the Camp Nou. However a few too many roads for my liking really.

Overall, a good city for a weekend away, you know what you are going to get (robbed), but I think there are plenty of other cities in Europe and even Spain that I would rather visit, especially to run.

You can follow me and my blog on Twitter @fairboyruns, Instagram @tomlfairbrother or on Facebook. You can also follow my running progress on Power of 10

Start - Passeig de Gracia, north side of Diagonal (one street)
Journey - North to Sagrada Familia on Avinguada Diagonal and then Carrer de Provenca. Leave Sagrada Familia and head south to Las Ramblas on Carrer de Mallorca and west on Girona and finally d'Ausias March. Exit Las Ramblas north west on Rambla de Catalunya then Diagonal west to Camp Nou on Avinguda de Joan XXIII. Follow Joan XXIII back to Diagonal and then 3.8km to de Gracia.
Finish - Passeig de Gracia

Monday 23 April 2012

Rome - Italy

Built in 72AD, the Colosseum could seat 50,000 people. A global icon true masterpiece of engineering

The first thing I discovered about my trip to Rome was that I wouldn't get to meet Maximus from the film Gladiator. Turns out that whole movie is make believe. "Strength and honour", Even the bit when he takes off his mask. Totally made up. I know, devastating right?

That earth-shattering news aside, this is probably the place in Europe I always wanted to go to the most. To me looking from afar it had everything. Amazing food, beautiful architecture, great weather, a plephora of museums, tons of history and full of passionate, charismatic people who love their sport. And only a two and a half hour sleazy-jet flight away. Perfect?

At this point I should say that the reality is actually the opposite and it is a horrible place to visit. But the thing is that it really is incredible.

I was here in June so the weather was stunning. I have heard that it can rain a lot and get quite cold in the winter, but most of Europe does. And with so much to offer tourists, even the most unpleasant of days couldn't ruin this place because it has what super-rich cities like Doha, Abu Dhabi & Dubai will never have. Authenticity and identity.

In Rome for only a day and a half, much like San Fran the objective of my run was to try and see some sites so I could enjoy the day taking in the city and the atmosphere and not have to sprint around ticking them off.
I was staying near the Piazzo Navano to the north west of city, just east of the River Tiber that runs north to south of Rome, around 0.6km from the Pantheon and approx 2.5km from the Colosseum. Unsurprisingly I set off south east to find Maximus see the sites.
I ran this route very early in the morning, before 7.30am so just bear in mind the later you run the busier the streets will be. With authentic hand made pizzas, breads and pastas, carbing up prior to your run in Rome is not particularly difficult.

This route may well be a first for me, as it contains neither a Park or River!

From Piazza Navano, I headed south and then east for 50 metres until I picked up Corso del Rinascimento, at which point zig zagged my way east along Vias del Staderari and Dogana Vecchia for 0.5km until I could see the Pantheon.

What a piece of architecture. Built in 126AD, getting on for 2000 years ago, it has the world's largest unreinforced concrete dome. One can only imagine just how spectacular it must have looked then if it looks this good so long after construction.
Wherever you go in Rome, there is a sense of drama and you can't help imagine what it must have been like to be there at the height of the Empire

From the Pantheon, I headed south with the Colosseum next on my list. The streets in Rome, especially around the tourist hotspots, are cobbled and uneven, so I would say take it steady, especially if it is wet. Don't go flying out the traps like a lunatic - Nobody wants a broken ankle.
Leaving the Pantheon, with it now on my right hand side, I headed east along Via del Seminario for over a kilometre past the beautiful Sant'Ignazio all the way to Via del Corso where I took a right, turning south ever closer to the Colosseum.
All of a sudden I was greeted by a phenomenal white marble building that I have to say I have never heard of; The Monument of Victor Emmanuel located where Via del Corso meets Piazza. For anyone visiting Rome, make sure you see this for your own eyes, I won't ruin the surprise for you!

I knew at this point I was close to the Colosseum as there was an increasing number of people dressed as Gladiators and posing for photographs with tourists, even though it was not yet 8am.

From the Monument, the Via del Fori Imperiali takes you all the way there, only 2km from the Pantheon. The great thing about Rome is that if you get a central hotel you can walk to most of the sites and attractions, saving you lots on taxis and public transport.

With parking skills like this, it's no surprise Italians excel at motorsports

The road is almost completely straight and from at least 700-800 metres away on the horizon you can this beautiful grey structure. Immediately I sped up. It wasn't a conscious decision, it just seemed to happen as a surge of adrenaline kicked in.

To some it may look like a run down derelict piece of rock, but for me it is probably the finest combination of architecture and engineering you could ask to see. Considering how long ago it was built, even today it has an aesthetic beauty, with much of the core of the building in tact despite being just shy of 2000 years old.

But most of all it just has a presence. It may sound odd to say a building has an aura but it just does. There is almost a hush around the outside as the millions of tourist who pose for a photo in front of it take in just what an achievement it is.

Reluctantly, I complete a lap of the outer walkway and depart back along del Fori Imperiali. Next stop, the Trevi Fountain.

I was advised by my hotel not to take my phone with me, which I use as both ipod and camera, so my snaps in this route were taken later in the day.

Personally though I would say there is no risk in it at all, especially during the day, so long as you stick to the main streets. Running at night however I would not recommend, but mainly due to the utter chaos, sorry I mean traffic, that is on the roads. 
From the Colosseum to the Fountain like most of Rome is a relatively short straight forward journey north for 1.8km. This time, instead of passing the Monument, where the road forks in front of you take the right route on Via Alessandrina. A pretty good road for running along, which goes for most in Rome. Maybe not for quality of surface but simply for the romantic feeling on show much like Paris.

It can get very cold out of season - it was June around 8am when I did this run so I just wore shorts and a long sleeve lightweight top with an undershirt. Even then it was certainly not hot, so I would say pack a thermal top or hat if coming any time but summer.

Right (east) on Via delle Tre Cannelle and then left onto della Pilotta takes you all the way north to the Fountain. I know this is getting a bit boring by now but...this is pretty special as well.

Not your average fountain, legend has it if you throw in a coin you will be sure of a return to Rome. It must be true because I had no money on me and I've never been back! Plenty of people do though, as on average 3000 Euros is thrown in each day (straight into the Berlusconi party fund no doubt).

I was quite surprised to see so few other runners out. I know it was quite early, but when compared to many other European cities it seemed to be eerily empty any joggers.

From the Fountain it is just a case of heading west 1.3km on Via del Muratte which will lead you all the way back to Piazza Navano. A nice gentle route taking some of Rome's best sites, leaving you with some energy for a day strolling around the city.

Okay so Italy has no money - what, it's true alright. At the time of writing, they're even worse of than we are and that is saying something!

Their economy may be as doomed as an underwater hairdryer or inflatable dartboard, but when it comes to a weekend break in Europe for someone looking to continue training while away, the Italians done good. Look no further than Rome.

You can follow me and my blog on Twitter @fairboyruns, Instagram @tomlfairbrother or on Facebook. You can also follow my running progress on Power of 10

Start - Piazza Navano, north west Rome
Journey - Head south east to the Pantheon, than continue east on Via del Seminario and south on Via del Corso. Passed The Monument of Victor Emmanuel, south on Via del Fori Imperiali to Colosseum. Then north to Trevi Fountain on Via Alessandrina and della Pilotta. Then west from Fountain to Piazza Navano for 1.3km on Via del Muratte
Finish - Piazza Navano
Inside the Colosseum you can really see the detail of the design, Bottom left of the photo shows where the Gladiators and Animals were kept prior to entering the arena