How do you know where you're going?

Hi everyone, hope you've all had a good long weekend image

We were away in the New Forest over the weekend, so I worked out a nice run in the woods using OSM on gmaps. Follow the dotted green bits, take the second left, first right, etc. Seemed really easy, but once I was out doing it, there were extra turns, others missing, loads of junctions, etc. It was a maze and I got proper old school lost :'(

So my question is this... how do you work out your runs in unknown areas? Is it asking too much to want to go trail running without getting hopelessly lost? Surely it would kill the training effect if I had to stop and get a map out every 5 minutes?


  • why would it? Can't go wrong with a map. If you think the stopping would damage the LSR effect, then you could always run further to compensate..... you wouldn't be any worse off than you are now would you? image

  • PSC- Don't know mate, if you're aiming for a 14 mile long run which turns into 20, it's not so cool image Also, I've only got little legs, so each extra mile feels like two to me image
  • either just look for well defined trails in the area such as big national walks which a re well signposted.........or just enjoy the freedom of depends on what you are training for.......i love just following maps and getting lost.......stiles and such slow you down anyway........but on off road races you might have to navigate and  climb stiles

  • If I'm somewhere I don't know I tend to try and pick routes that are navigationally simple - disused railway lines, coast, canal or river paths, that kind of thing. Easy to follow, then just do an out&back run.

    Cycle paths are often easier to follow and better signposted than footpaths, although the long distance footpaths are usually clearly identified.

    Otherwise, I make sure I've got a map with me. Usually I print the section of the OS map I want onto A4, rather than take the entire map with me. Folds up and goes in my pocket/bumbag. It's easy enough to look at while bimbling along at an easy pace, just to check the next landmark or turn.

    Adds to the sense of adventure. image

  • Ah, short legs.... kindred spirits then! Another PORG here! I got a Garmin Oregon 350 for a Chrimbo pressie a few years back. Love it to bits. You can make up routes on sites like and then download them to the GSM device. Never get lost again, and if you do stray off track it has OS mapping on it... although to be honest using the maps on the GSM device free form is worse than being lost! I still love my maps though...... image

    Bikehike as an OS mapping section so you can map along trails. Do it early in the morning though as the licence seems to be limited and often in the evenings the maps aren't there...

  • Do a simple circular route several times.
  • Hog-mouseHog-mouse ✭✭✭

    I very good at getting lost, taking the wrong turning, making an easy 14 miler into a long 20 miler. Happens all the time. I'm all for going somewhere new, making it up as you go along.

    I don't believe there is such a thing as being lost, I always know where I am, it's just how to get to where I want to be that's confusing.

    I've used maps and still gone wrong, got the scaling totally wrong in my head. Doesn't really bother me too much. Quite often I'll see a path and follow it to see where it goes, just for fun.

    The other thing you could do is take a compass with you, or if you are really worried a Garmin, then you can head back to where you started however you want.

    It's all the fun of the fair and you'll never find new rotes if you don't explore.

  • PhilPubPhilPub ✭✭✭
    I love running somewhere new, especially on holiday, but tend to go for the safe and boring tactic of going halfway in one direction and then retracing my steps back again.  Works very well for coastlines especially.  Or San Francisco Bay.  image
  • Thanks for all your replies folks, very much appreciated. I guess I'll have to prepare a bit better next time if I really want to run around Ringwood Forest image
  • Hi, I really enjoy using my runs as a way of exploring an area, and have got "lost" several times on a run (and often multiple times in one run!).

    Sometimes I print out a map, mark up the route I want to follow and stuff it in my bumbag so I can check it during the run. I don't think there is any lost training effect, and I enjoy the mental challenge of working out where I am.

    I have tried to use technology to help me, and have occasionally mapped out a route on mapmyrun, and sent it to my iPhone so I can take that with me, and I've toyed with buying a proper Garmin navigational thing (I already have a 310xt but have never tried to use this to tell me where to go)

    At the end of the day, I think sometimes you have to get lost to really discover an area properly, and not being sure of where you are half way through a run adds to the excitement image Good luck, Ringwood Forest is a lovely area to run around.....
  • Hi Faithsdaddy, hope you enjoyed your weekend in the New Forest. I run in the forest most days, as I live near by and have never used a map or GPS  device to plan my routes. What I do is to decide before hand how far I want to run and then do an out and back run. Over the years I have found many different routes and have never really been lost. Sometimes I have gone off the track, but as long as I was heading in the right direction, always found my way out. I see many walkers with maps, but have never seen another runner with one.
  • I'm another "out and back" runner if I'm running somewhere I don't know. I did take a map with me once when I was in Montreal as I was worried I'd end up miles from the hotel and no idea how to get back. I had a small tourist map in a back pocket, lets just say it wasn't really usable again after the run!
  • Faithsdaddy, I don't know Alderholt at all, so I'm afraid I can't advise on the complexity of your run. I don't run on any marked footpaths, but do stick to established trails.

    I've only really got seriously lost once and that was on the south downs many years ago. When I started the run the weather was fine and I was just wearing vest and shorts. I knew the hills well but was suddenly enveloped in dense fog. I lost all sense of direction, and had no idea where I was. I kept running and running, hoping to see a landmark I recognised. In the meantime I was getting colder and colder and starting to get really worried that I would get hypothermia. I eventually saw a radar mast so knew where I was. The only problem was, I had another 6 miles to run, luckily on roads, to get back home. I made it somehow, absolutely exhausted. I have no idea how far I had run, as I didn't have a Garmin in those days. I knew it was 6 miles each way by road to the Downs, as I had measured it by car, to the car park there.

  • I got lost on the South Downs once as well. Was aiming to cycle it, but lost so much time that I ended up abandoning the ride.
  • Hog-mouseHog-mouse ✭✭✭
    Terence, I've done similar on the Downs. Not got lost but went out running on a reasonable day only to hit fog atop the Downs. Again I became very cold and wet like yourself. I actually changed my route slightly for safety reasons though it meant running further, then as I came down off the Downs I hit bright sunshine and a gloriously warm day. Managed to warm up and dry out. Have to admit that at one point up there on the Downs I feared that I wouldn't be able to make it home.
  • Forests are one of the trickiest places to navigate in - you often can't see very far.

    I take a map with me (printing out a portion, or even photocopying the part of it I want , and sticking it in a polypocket sealed with sellotape). It folds up dead small then. The key thing is to keep track of where you are and what is coming up next, by glancing at it freqently as you go along, possibly following where you are with your thumb.

    In somewhere like the New Forest the consequences of going wrong are not too disastrous, so I didn't bother to take a compass then, but if really heading out into the wilds I do take a compass and a proper map tucked away in a bumbag or hydration pack just in case things did go wrong.
  • E mmyE mmy ✭✭✭

    Ahh... I get lost even when I know the route! The best thing for me is to plan the route beforehand and either print it out or look at markers (street names/big monuments) to direct me. It works 95% of the time. For forests - I normally try and run through to recognisable points (e.g. church in the distance).

  • Copy of OS map is best
  • I do figure of 8 type runs, so a double loop with say 6 miles for each one.

    If the first one goes a lot longer I've got plenty of reserve then, doesn't help as much for loop 2 of course but if there are lots of dodgy turns I'd normally head back and do part of the first loop again perhaps.

    Normally stick with out and back though, staying on the main route each time to avoid having to try and remember too many turns.

  • Instead of trying to make my route complex, I tend to just follow the path/trail and see where it ends up. When I'm around halfway through my run I just turn back and I should end up around the start!

  • When planning routes through places I do not know well, I tend to use quite a lot, because of its 1:25k and 1:50k OS map layers ( has OS maps too, but I find it slower to navigate to what I want).

    I flick between the OS maps, the standard aerial photo layers and the "Bird's eye" angle photo layer, and that way I have a rough mental picture of how my planned path fits in with landmarks (pylons, buildings, field boundaries, rivers, lakes etc), rather than the green dots on the OS map alone.

    Where trails meet road I check out Google streetview if available, to see what the path entrance/exit looks like.

    And as others have said, you could print out a copy of just that part of the map and fold it up and stick it in your pocket/waistbag.
  • Generally, what you do is use the map tool at for a very clear view of where all the footpaths, bridleways, etc are and then use the mapping tool at to create a file which you then download onto your Garmin 305. Then you just follow the line. When I first moved to Winchester I did a lot of night running in the local countryside and used this a lot and its foolproof. Now I know most of the many routes so I use it less, but whenever I go away somewhere I always do a route or two in advance so I can get offroad and know how to get back to where I started.

    New forest is slightly easier because you don't generally have to worry about sticking to public rights of way like you do when you're running over private land. So you can make it up with a bit more freedom using the gpsies site. Even then if you plan a rough loop it doesn't matter ifyou vary it a bit - as long as you have it stored in 305 you can always find your way back to your planned trajectory eventually.

     Good pick by the way - I grew up in the New Forest and it's a runner's paradise.

  • Ps: just read your post again Faithsdaddy and not surprised you got lost - the New Forest, as you will know now, is chocka with all manner of paths, tracks, trails and the like. A few of these are official footpaths and will be marked accordingly on the OS maps, but most aren't. It can get confusing.

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