When you find yourself in the most populous metropolitan area in the world what do you do? Go for a run, of course.
That's what I did recently when I visited Tokyo, Japan. Home to more than 39 million people – almost double Australia's population – Tokyo is a city on steroids. With so much to see and experience, running was the perfect way orientate myself in the vast metropolis, explore popular tourist sights and cover ground quickly.
Before lacing up my running shoes and leaving the hotel lobby, I spoke to Japanese long-distance runner and Nike athlete Suguru Osako about how to be make the most of my urban runs.
Good fun, no risk
The Asian junior record-holder for the half-marathon said running safety was the most important thing to focus on.
"In a big city like Tokyo there are many ways a runner can get into trouble. Getting lost, uneven or slippery surfaces, construction sites and traffic accidents are some of the potential dangers lurking around every corner," said Osako.
"That's why runners need to play it extra safe in unfamiliar urban environments so they don't hurt themselves and instead, have a memorable, unique experience uncovering the city's highlights."
Osako and fellow runners from Tokyo's Nike+ Run Club gave the following advice for how to play it safe in a new city.
Plan your route
At home, you wouldn't go for a run without some idea of where you were running, so when visiting a new city is doubly important that you plan your run before you go. Ask the hotel reception staff for safe ideas, use Google Maps or log into a running app like Strava or Runkeeper for inspiration on nearby routes.
Leave your headphones at home as they are a surefire way to get distracted and reduce your alertness to hazards around you. Remember to use pedestrian crossings, look both ways before running across the street, use the footpath instead of the road, keep a safe distance from the kerb, and look up and ahead.
Don't head out for a run in a foreign city without these essentials: ID, such as your driver's licence, mobile phone, hotel key and address, a debit or credit card and some local money – in case you need water, food or a taxi home. Stow these items in a pocket or invest in a , that can securely carry all your personal items comfortably.
Timing is everything
While choosing a safe and scenic route is important, so is deciding the time of day you'll run. Avoid peak hour times as they will be pedestrian, car and exhaust fume heavy. If you plan to run in the early morning or evening, wear bright colours, shoes with reflective panels such as the new , and strap on a small LED light to make sure you can be seen clearly in traffic.
Meet-up with other runners
Social media applications, especially Instagram, are a great way to research, find and reach out to like-minded runners from different countries. Most urban running clubs have an active account, and members love going for a run with out-of-towners and showing them the hidden gems of their city. Information on when the club meets and where is easy to find, and you could just end up making some friends for life.
Attend a parkrun
Held in more than 20 countries around the world, parkrun warmly welcomes runners from different cities and countries every Saturday morning. All you have to do is find out where it's held, then turn up and jog or run five kilometres. Just remember to bring your barcode if you want to log your time!
Many cities now offer daily running tours that let tourists join guided runs and sight-seeing experiences. With several different options to choose from including combining running routes with yummy food and wine experiences, there's something for everyone. If running with other people isn't your style, download and try Running'City App, which features free smart runs by the city's main points of interest.