One of the first things that goes into the case when I go on holiday is my running trainers, even more so when I’m in training for a race. I double checked that it was ok with my wife when packing for a trip to Zürich this week, to which she simply replied that she “expected nothing else.” Being a family holiday, the last thing I wanted to do was go off running and leave everyone behind without at least first discussing it with my wife.
When running somewhere new, the easiest thing to do is to run, almost in a straight direction, for x miles before turning round and returning along the same route. Given that the Fenix 5X has a mapping feature, I was confident that I could be a little more adventurous. I generally like to complete three runs per week, so three sets of running kit went into the case and three running routes were created using Garmin’s online course feature on Garmin Connect. I wanted three interesting routes, as opposed to just completing a square course around the concrete streets of the city. On a side note, I was expecting Zürich to be a pretty city. In reality, it was akin to a traditional capital city, quite industrial with plenty of graffiti, aside from around the lake.
Unfortunately, given where we were staying, running to and around any part of the lake wasn’t really feasible. Even a straight out and back would have equated to a 9-miler, and that’s just taking in half a mile of running lakeside. I wanted to maintain a good weekly mileage but keep the runs relatively mid-distance (for a half marathoner) so as not to be away from the family for too long at any time. We decided that we would keep the children on BST, which was one hour behind that in Zürich. This was to prevent messing up their bed and awake times for the sake of five nights. My wife also decided to remain on BST whilst I changed with the time zone. This was partly so that we made it to trains and flights etc. when we needed to, but also because that’s the correct thing to do! Anyway, being an hour ahead of the rest of the family allowed me to get out early, but not silly early, in the morning while everyone was still asleep.
The first run that I planned out on Garmin was a 7-miler, running West from our apartment in Oerlikon, through the ETH Hönggerberg (University) campus, onto the path alongside the river Limmat before heading back to Oerlikon along a main road. I was hoping the 1.5 mile section along the Limmat would offer some nice scenery, particularly in the rising sun. In reality though it was like running alongside the Thames. Dirty water and heavily graffitied banks. Add that to two ridiculous hills getting there and back and it hardly seemed worth it. Still, there were a few nice sections (see the image below) and 7 miles were in the bank.
The second run was not due to be a particularly pretty one. Being a football fan, and being in Zürich, I wanted to visit FIFA. After checking the distance from our apartment, I decided that, rather than dragging the family there, I would run there instead. What followed was quite possibly the nicest 7.5 mile run I have ever completed. On the way there it was mainly roads and park paths, with some very nasty hills. I have maintained that the hill towards the end of the Harborough 5 mile race is the toughest hill that I have ever faced, but the continuous 1.5 mile hill from Irchelpark to Zoo Zürich was on a different level. 217m of elevation gain inside 3 miles is unusual for a normal city run along roadside paths. Once past FIFA, the route went off road, and the trail was glorious, made even better by the fact that I had it all to myself. Once off the trail and back onto the road on Hüttenkopfstrasse, the views across the city were impressive. After this, it was a flat run alongside main roads back to Oerlikon.
The final run was a much needed easy 5-miler alongside a section of the canal. A quarter of the elevation gain of the first run and almost a sixth of the second brought a welcomed break for the legs. Nothing more to report on this one really.
Overall, again, I was pleased with the functionality of the F5X. It did have some GPS issues and, if moving fast and not keeping an eye on the map, it would be very easy to miss your turning. Also, without the constant pressing of buttons, it’s hard to keep an eye on anything more than the map, for example pace and/or HR. For that reason, there was no real training during the week, ‘just running.’ That being said, it would have been very difficult to have experienced the routes and scenery that I did without it and it’s mapping feature. It was a nice break and some nice running.