I’ve never been an urban runner. I’ve always lived in the suburbs and had wide streets, mostly empty sidewalks and, in the last year, a lovely quiet path along Lake Ontario to run on. That has ALL changed.
I just got back from my inaugural solo run and, like Dorothy in the ‘Wizard of Oz’, I’ve realized that I’m “not in Kansas” anymore! Indeed, the hazards and potential pitfalls that await me as an “urban runner” in a city like Paris are numerous and worrisome:
- Les Clefs: First, there is the issue of the size and number of keys I need to deal with. Access to our apartment requires a series of 3 separate keys, the largest of which is quite formidable:
(I can’t find a ruler so I offer up a Bic pencil to give you a comparative size). And, forgetting my keys would be a million times worse than getting my suitcases stuck in the elevator! I have NO idea how I would get in to our apartment other than scaling the side of our building like Spiderman.
This means that before I even started my run I had to come up with some kind of “key strategy” since running with them would be akin to carrying 5lb weights in either my bra or the small pocket of my running tights, neither of which seemed practical.
My solution: lock all the keys in the mailbox and carry the tiny mailbox key in my little zipped pocket (that’s the loose key you see above). Now, this also meant that I had to chant the code for the outside door like a mantra for my entire run so I wouldn’t forget it and would be able to a use the key pad entry to enter the mailbox area.
- Les Rues: The quality of roads. Paris is an old city. The roads are not even close to being flat or even. Cobblestones are the worst. Cobblestones are everywhere.At the best of times I’m not known for my agility and grace while running. I plod along and have been known to trip and fall on a somewhat regular basis on roads significantly better than those in Paris. Averting my eyes from the road immediately in front of me for even a second could spell danger.
- Les Gens: The people. Tourists, tourists everywhere. Recovering partiers. Homeless people. Parisians rushing along texting with their heads down are everywhere. Keeping my eyes down while I monitor the quality of the road runs the risk of crashing into someone else who is rushing around with his/her head down reading a phone or a map.
- La Beauté: This is a beautiful city. All I want to do is look up and around and backwards and from side to side. So, even accounting for all the other hazards, one of the largest challenges to running in Paris for me has to be trying to keep my eyes and my mind focused on what I’m doing. There is just so much to look at and it’s all so awe inspiring that it’s easy to forget about running altogether and just gawk at the amazing sites. Perhaps my awe will diminish over time (I hope not) or at least if I pick one route and stick to it perhaps I’ll simply become accustom to the sites I see. For the moment, I’m running the Les Berges de Seine, a pedestrian cornucopia of interesting things to look at. It runs along the left bank of the river beginning around the Pont d’Alma virtually to the Eiffel Tower. The road is paved so I don’t have to worry as much about falling and early in the morning the path is empty save for other runners.
However, with all of the hazards out there on the roads of Paris and so much to consider while running it is quite possible that I will return to Canada with more than a couple new scars on my knees and patches on my tights. But at least I’ll still be running!