The London 2012 Olympic 5000m and 10,000m eighth-placer shares her top five places to train
Some of my favourite training locations are simply stunning. Watching the sunrise illuminate the mist-blanketed valleys of the vast landscape beyond Sululta, immersing tired legs in the icy Alpine streams of St Moritz to help speed up recovery, running repetitions along the tree-lined avenues of The Royal Parks in Teddington with the deer looking on, losing yourself among the endless pine forests surrounding Mammoth Lakes and executing speed work on the pristine grass pitches in the shadow of the Stellenbosch mountains.
Of course, I love to run – but I also derive much joy and inspiration from the places to which I travel as well as the people there that I meet.
As an elite runner I am continually assessing ways in which to become the best athlete I can – how to test my limits and push the boundaries.
Training at altitude, seeking the right climate, identifying appropriate training company – all of these aspects help to establish the flow of the year, phased accordingly with racing goals and aspirations.
Runners at every level can benefit from training in a new location, whether for the reasons mentioned above or simply wishing to experience an inspirational setting and have a break from the demands of everyday life.
I would like to share five locations with you which I enjoy immensely and continue to visit. However, there are others – the world is vast and I have many more places to explore!
Green – Most favourable
Orange – Okay
Grey – Not so good
Nestled among eucalyptus forests, just 10km to the north of Addis Ababa, Sululta offers the ideal climate with direct access to a vast and varied running playground.
For me it is the ultimate training location for logging base miles in the winter months. The high altitude and sometimes challenging terrain slows your pace, reducing the impact on the body whilst increasing the hours spent on your feet.
Mix in some interval sessions and speed work on Kenenisa Bekele’s local all-weather track and you’re bound to feel the benefit when returning to sea level.
Yaya Village (www.yayavillage.com) provides full-board accommodation and a gym alongside beautiful gardens for relaxation.
Temperature: 9 – 23 C (Jan)
Time zone: GMT +2/3
Best time to go?
Top tip: If you enjoy trail running and exploration this really is the place for you. Additionally, travel to the Simien Mountains in the north of the country to experience the ‘Roof of Africa’ and to run at over 4000m!
ST MORITZ, SWITZERLAND
Being a bit of an alpine mountain goat, St Moritz really feels like a home away from home.
The beauty of this training location is its efficiency – a stunning train ride from Zurich, St Moritz can be accessed at ease and when there everything that an athlete requires is right on the doorstep.
The trails are pristine and pleantiful, meandering past crystal-clear lakes and through steep sided valleys. A good mixture of flat and rolling hills, I use St Moritz for altitude training when the summer season is in full swing. At medium elevation, fast paced work can be achieved and the smooth trails do not comprimise leg turnover.
I like to run kilometre repetitions beside the lake and undulating tempo runs in the forest, before heading to the stream for an ice bath. Further details can be found at www.stmoritz.ch.
Temperature: 3 – 18 C (Jul)
Time zone: GMT +1
Best time to go?
Top tip: If you are preparing for a race and wish to do a track session at lower elevation, head to Chiavenna, just over the Italian border which lies at an elevation of just 350m.
TEDDINGTON, UNITED KINGDOM
The further I travel the more I come to realise how much Teddington in south west London has on offer.
With close access to two of The Royal Parks as well as many kilometres of Thames River Path, you can run long distances off-road without ever retracing your steps.
Bushy Park is flat as a pancake, perfect for precise pace work, whereas Richmond Park has different options for hill work.
Despite being a stone’s throw from central London you can really lose yourself among all the wildlife – there are hidden gardens and plantations, vast areas of grassland, majestic oaks and ancient trees, ponds, streams and herds of deer!
St Mary’s College at nearby Strawberry Hill boasts track and gym facilities while just two kilometres away Hampton Pool offers unique outdoor swimming in heated water.
A great running community exists in the area, buzzing with activity at all levels. For more information see www.royalparks.org.uk.
Temperature: 15 – 23 C (Jul)
Time zone: GMT
Best time to go?
Top tip: If you are in the area but crave some real ascent and descent, head to the Surrey Hills – just 30 minutes drive or a short train ride to the south.
MAMMOTH LAKES, USA
Lying in California’s Eastern Sierra, Mammoth Lakes is a hub of activity all year round and a beautiful spot for running particularly in the late summer and early autumn.
Endless trails pass through wildflower meadows, sandy pine forests and loop around the resort’s famous lakes.
You can head down the valley to Mammoth Track Club’s athletic facilites where you can also find quiet roads with marked out distances for interval training.
I just love the backdrop to training here – it is a place to inspire and revitalise. Further details can be found at www.visitmammoth.com.
Temperature: 7 – 25 C (Jul)
Time zone: GMT -8
Best time to go?
Top tip: For rest and relaxation check out the natural hot springs in the area, after all recovery is a vital part of training!
STELLENBOSCH, SOUTH AFRICA
Due to its low elevation this leafy town is more often frequented by power-based athletes and triathletes seeking warm weather and exceptional facilities, but I also like to use Stellenbosch to get some pace in the legs following an altitude training stint in Ethiopia.
With great heritage in cricket and rugby there are many pitches just perfect for fast grass running. In addition there is a track in town and the Stellenbosch Academy of Sport (www.sastraining.co.za) offers full-board accommodation, a first-class gym, access to support services and a pool.
Jonkershoek Nature Reserve is a short drive away, containing kilometres of jeep and single track.
My favourite workouts encompass the cricket ground, looping two together and running a figure of eight for longer efforts. In the fresh early morning air with the sun rising above the mountains (and while dodging the occasional sprinkler) it is a lot of running fun.
Temperature: 15 – 26 C (Jan)
Time zone: GMT +2
Best time to go?
Top tip: If you want to escape the winter and accelerate your strength and speed training, the facilities and climate in Stellenbosch are spot on. It can, however, get a little hot at times so be prepared for that possibility.
» Visit Julia’s website at juliableasdale.com where you can share more of her running adventures. This post was updated on 17/09/15 with a video of Julia Bleasdale training in St Moritz