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Paths and trails are busier than ever, which is a problem for runners

Tips for finding the path less travelled

The COVID-19 outbreak has caused a running boom. There are massive numbers of people jogging, running, speed walking and working out outside due to the national closure of non-essential businesses (which includes gyms). While Canadians are encouraged to stay active in healthy and safe ways, like running, the number of people hitting the trails is making it very hard to follow the public health guidelines while getting your mileage in.

Strava heat map

RELATED: A guide to socially responsible running during COVID-19

Current public health guidelines recommend runners stay six feet (or two metres) apart. On a slammed trail, this can be hard to accomplish. We’re not saying runners should stop running (we know we couldn’t), we’re just saying that we need to diversify our running locations. Social distancing isn’t effective if we stay home for our work day but then meet up at 5:30 p.m. for a group run with strangers.

Thankfully in Canada, we’re not in total isolation and we’re still able to leave home for a walk, run or ride. However, not every country is in our position. If we want to maintain our freedom to exercise outdoors, we need to try our best to spread out when we’re doing it. Here are some tips for avoiding the crowds.

The Strava cold map

Strava’s heat map function shows where runners typically run. You can see, based on the colour of red on the map, where runners congregate. Usually, this function is used to find out where other runners run, but these are not normal times. Instead, try using this function to know where to avoid running. You’re looking to get your miles in in the less popular areas–welcome to the Strava cold map.

Run where you normally can’t

Roads are usually busy, golf courses are usually full of players and campuses have throngs of students. However, right now, these normally off-limits-due-to-capacity locations are pretty empty.

Runners could try a road run on the streets that are usually too crowded to feel peaceful, or head to a golf course, which is likely to be empty at the moment. Another possibility is university campuses, that are also closed, but have lots of turf and grass for some soft surface strides, drills or a short run.


Is there a new (and hopefully lesser-known) spot that you’ve wanted to run but haven’t had time? Now is when you should check out that spot. If it’s not a trail worth running, move on, but the gamble may pay off. This can be a win-win, as you’ll end up with a new running spot in the long term, and a space for some you-time in the short term.