Runners X-ing

Today is my niece’s birthday.  She’s 5!  And she’s the greatest niece ever.  She has a great sense of humor, she is very loving, she’s smart, and she’s adorable.  She also spectates at my races!  Who could ask for anything more?  I wasn’t able to call her today to say happy birthday because I wasn’t really free to make a phone call until after (what I’m assuming is) bedtime.   Hopefully she’ll forgive me for calling tomorrow, instead.  In the meantime, I figured maybe the next best thing is to send a big virtual hug and a special birthday message!  So, from me and Nat, straight to you, my awesome niece: “Happy Birthday!”  I can’t wait to see you this weekend 🙂

***

It’s finally gotten to a point where I can go running after work and not be in total darkness the whole time.  By the time I finish my run, of course, it’s pretty dark out, but it’s nice to have a little bit of daylight at the beginning.  Today I took advantage of the slightly longer-than-usual day and went for a five mile run when I got home.

Living in New York, you are pretty much never entirely alone.  This can be good when, for example, you’re running after the sun goes down.  After all, you don’t want to be running through Central Park when there is no one else around…you never really know who’s lurking just beyond the trees.  At the same time, though, it’s tough being surrounded by people all the time.  The subway is packed in the morning when you’re on your way to work.  It’s packed in the evening when you’re coming home.  The sidewalks are crowded, and people walk all over the place and often at pretty slow speeds.  In the park there are designated recreation lanes, and ideally you run/bike in a counter-clockwise direction.  But this never really happens.  Instead, navigating the sidewalks and recreation lanes adds a new dimension of work to your workout as you have to maintain constant vigilance in order to avoid running into someone or having someone on a bike plow you down.

Getting to the Park can be difficult because you have to deal with vehicle traffic.  I’ve had some pretty close calls a couple times and nearly been hit by drivers who were not paying the slightest bit of attention to the road.  But having to deal with pedestrians is almost worse.  If people are walking their dogs, they’re often on one side of the sidewalk while their dog is on the other, with the leash extended between them; groups of people will walk four abreast so that there’s no room on either side of them to slip by; and people who are walking alone have a funny way of being able to predict where it is you’re going to go in order to try to run past them, and step into your path.

Once you’re  in the Park, it’s a whole new set of challenges, even though you still have to contend with the ones I mentioned above.  Running clubs or teams might be training while you’re running.  In this case, you’d better get ready to either get out of their way (because they are usually running six abreast) or get trampled in a stampede.  Walkers and smaller groups or pairs of runners are also guilty of taking up a pretty disproportionate amount of space–clearly, though, not having to interrupt their conversation is a lot more important than allowing you room to run by in the opposite direction.  And when it comes to which part of the lane you should be using, it’s complete anarchy.  I’ve always figured that the rules of driving (that is to say, you stay to the right) also apply to walking or running.  But the fact that I am constantly weaving in between runners as they run toward and past me indicates that I may be alone in this belief.

Sometimes I wonder how much mileage I add to my run just trying to get around people and avoid getting run over.

Is this a problem in other areas of the country, or is New York particularly bad?  Or (equally possible) am I just a curmudgeon?  I’d love to hear about the unanticipated challenges you face when you lace up your running shoes and head outside!

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7 comments

  1. I haven’t run outside in a while but am intending (hoping?) to get outside this Sunday, weather permitting. But I intentionally run outside on Sundays at dawn, or slightly before dawn. This is the only day of the week that there is not much traffic, pedestrian or vehicular, at dawn. Even Saturdays is a little bad because a lot of people go to work on Saturdays. I don’t think I could handle running through the streets of NYC.

  2. I’d assume that New York is worse than other places, but I do struggle with many of the same things in Chicago! DC was almost worse…

    When I visit my parents, who live in suburban Kansas, it’s INCREDIBLE the difference that it makes! Wide sidewalks, no traffic, green yards… it’s like running in a different country. But, it also gets a little boring!

  3. I’m a chicken when it comes to running outside. I live in Edmonton, so most of the time it’s frackin’ cold with lots of ice and snow on the ground. When it is warm out, the entire city seems to be out running, so I am very intimidated lol. Unfortunately, my knee has decided to hate the treadmill, so once spring comes, I’ll have to suck it up and go outside!

  4. umm. i’m lucky if i even see someone else on my run 🙂 it’s suburbia, but most people are *not* out exercising either in the early am or the evenings. i noticed this week that the sun is up til almost 6:30 now! hooray! i can get in 2-2.5 miles now before it gets dark, instead of starting in the dark…

  5. I completely, completely agree with you on this one. I have recently added more long-distance runs into my workouts to get ready for the More 1/2 marathon in April, and I purposely try to plan runs where I will be alone.

    I live in Astoria, so I am lucky to have a little more space/less car traffic in certain areas. When I get to the park though, watch out! Unleashed dogs, kids zigzagging in all directions, people drifting from one side of the sidewalk to the other (how does that happen?! walk in a straight line!), the new skate park at astoria park is conveniently located next to the track, so all the skateboarders and BMXers can start their ascent at the running path….alright I’ll stop complaining, it makes me sound like an old woman!

    I always just try to do a nice soft hand on the shoulder of someone in my way, and I say “thanks” as I zip by. Who knows if they yell at me, I’ve got my iPod on! hah.

  6. I live in Arizona, so even though I live in a relatively big city, it’s really easy to get out into the desert and run by yourself. I live about 5 minutes away from a maintained trail that follows a wash (dry riverbed) through almost half the city. I have great mountain views and even though I’m in town, I rarely see more than a handful of people.

    When I run in town at the local bike/running park, it’s another story. There are rarely enough people that I have to duck and weave, but it IS really frustrating when two or more people with strollers can’t be bothered to top their conversations and move aside to let runners/joggers/dog joggers pass by.

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