The following story comes from the co-founder of Blaze Travel Guides, a small Boulder-based travel-guide startup geared toward runners and other active souls (or should I say “active soles”?). I recently discovered Blaze and wish I knew about the company’s super useful city running guides when we were on our round-the-world trip.
Blaze provides runners detailed info on recommended routes and practical tips for each city it covers. Most of its city guides are centered in Europe, but guides to destinations around the globe are in the works, and Blaze is looking for contributing writers. The next time you run in a far-flung destination, consider contacting Blaze to write for the guides or for the Blaze On blog.
Taylor Chase describes below how a run one day in Budapest planted the seed for starting Blaze in August 2010. She was on a trip through Hungary, Prague, and Poland that preceded a year of graduate work in Moscow. Now 27, she has lived in six countries and run through 35. Here’s her blazin’ story:
On May 7, 2008, I was in the middle of a training run along the Danube River in Budapest, and it wasn’t going well. Cars zoomed achingly close to my narrow bit of sidewalk, and scores of pedestrians blocked my way. My knees hurt from running on cobblestones, and my head ached with the thought of how many more miles I’d have to put up with all of this.
I paused at an intersection, and at that moment a guy on a mountain bike rolled up next to me. He was on his way to work (bike commuting is big in Budapest), but by his bike model I could tell he was a bit of an athlete. While we waited for the light to change, he asked if I ran a lot. Then he said seven words that would change my life:
“You should try running on Margaret Island.”
I noticed that island in the middle of the Danube while flipping through my travel guide. I caught glimpses of it, too, as I wandered up the hills of the eastern side of the city. But I hadn’t come across any specific information about it, so I forgot about it as soon as I got to town.
Margaret Island, I thought. Well, tomorrow’s my last day in this city, so I’ll give it a shot.
The next day was one of those beautiful spring mornings where you can tell the land has finally, fully shaken the last vestiges of winter. I moved through Budapest’s streets, past the castle and stunning Parliament building, and as I crossed the river on the bridge that led to my destination, surprise and joy supplanted my other positive feelings.
Margaret Island is not only a huge green park mostly closed to traffic. It’s not only the historic burial site of an 11th-century princess, nor just a quiet space with nice flowers. Margaret Island also has a running track! A 5K running track rings the entire island, which allowed me to run on soft, safe, open terrain with unforgettable views of the city.
Now, this may sound like an anticlimactic point to the story, but after days of running and traveling in foreign places, finding the track was the most amazing thing I could possibly imagine. It let me run without thinking about running. I could move, breathe, and enjoy the scene before me. Enjoy it I did—after all, Budapest is one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
But along with my ecstasy, I couldn’t help but be a bit annoyed. Why had I not known earlier that there was such a great place to run right in the center of Budapest? Why did that fantastic run in that fantastic city have to be my last run there, not my first? Someone should write a running guide about the best places to run in the world, I thought. And maybe that someone should be me.
I didn’t know it at the time, but that turned out to be the moment of conception of Blaze Travel Guides. Blaze publishes international guides for active, athletic travelers. Our current focus is a running guide series called “Running The World.” Our mission is to give runners the specific information—routes, maps, directions, etc.—to enable them to run safely and happily in great places overseas.
My personal mission is to make sure that neither I nor any other traveler has to put up with a mediocre workout when an extraordinary run experience is hiding just around the corner. As we at Blaze and The Runner’s Trip have found time after time, running and traveling is a transformative experience. When the two come together in concert, you can have a life-changing experience.
In the two-and-a-half years since my Margaret Island moment, I’ve traveled to and researched runs in over 65 locations around the world. In each place I’ve had a Margaret-like experience, in which I discover a new part of a city unknown to travelers but well-loved by runners. Still, that Budapest run will always be close to my heart, so I thought I’d share it with you.