A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
There are many ways for a student to let off steam before or after a hard day in the library, and running is just one of those ways! As someone whose entire exercise regime included chasing people carrying cake, running was never an obvious choice of hobby for me. However, after a few years of pointed comments about my waistband, I decided to make a change. I started running in May this year, and would still consider myself a complete beginner. Here are a few tips for a beginner runner in Leiden.
Leiden has many running shops. I recently bought a new sports bra, and learnt the Dutch word for bra (b.h., pronounced ‘beh hah’). The staff are friendly and most people speak both English and Dutch, so it’s a good place to practise your language skills but also be understood. Sportswear isn’t cheap, but it’s worth investing if you’ve been running for a little while and know you’re going to keep going. A good quality pair of trainers is really important if you want to avoid swollen ankles and sad knees.
When people talk about ‘mileage’ and ‘surfaces,’ my brain switches off. Perhaps the best way to plan a run is to decide where you want to go and then decide how far you’re going to run that day. Strava is a good app for measuring distance, as you can set it to send you a notification every half kilometre (or every kilometre if you’re more hardcore than I am). As it has compares other users’ times, it can get competitive so it is a good idea to completely ignore the fact you’re at the bottom of the leaderboard on your first few (hundred) runs.
There are some great routes in Leiden. Recently, I’ve been running to Polderpark Cronesteyn and doing a lap. If you want to avoid running through town, there are plenty of places to park a bike. It’s also possible to scope out the park by bike before committing to a run there, as cycle paths run the whole way through.
Another route is the Singel, the canal that circles Leiden. It’s about 7km, but it’s a good place to start running, as you are never too far from the centre of town if you get tired part of the way around. Landmarks include the observatory, the University Library and a few confusing crossings (both over canals and roads).
Another way of discovering the city is to just look at a map and pick a point to run to and back. Sometimes you will find warehouses, but other times there is beautiful countryside that no one else knows about. Take some photos, add it to Instagram and feel totally smug.
If you start actually enjoying running then there are options to start racing. The Leiden Marathon takes place in May every year, and the website includes routes.
The University also has a running association, which meets twice a week: once for long runs and once for interval training.
Hopefully this will have given some tips for would-be runners who are feeling daunted about getting started! There are plenty more apps and websites out there to help get going, so leave your tips below.