By guest writer: Jocelyn Mandryk
Urban running has never been for the faint-hearted. Its an activity that involves the cat-like reflexes of a puma, the lungs of a Kenyan and the legs of any sort of mammal that has more than just two. Put those intimidating facts aside and you've got a beautiful sport, done anywhere, at anytime, with friends or alone and with nothing more than your worn-out nikes and a Spotify account.
Here's what you need to watch out for when taking to the streets of any major city to pound some pavement:
1. Dog poo
Whilst running in the city, you will no doubt encounter dog poo. Sometimes piles of it. Sometimes it's in dry crusty little bundles that splits apart like old leaves when you step on it. Consider this the best case scenario. Unfortunately, more often than not, it's goopy piles that will cause you to a) fall or lose your footing or b) make you gag as it splatters up around your shins and hopefully no higher.
HOW TO AVOID: Learn to run in a slightly lateral pattern when necessary to avoid stepping directly in it.
HOW TO REACT: Scream your best curse word or phrase and continue onwards with you're head held high. Dog shit, shmog bit, it'll happen again, and you're not the only one. Tip the laundry woman once a week!
2. Loose paving stones
Some countries like Switzerland have perfectly interlocking masonry work where water, snow and dirt have no effect on the stability or infrastructure of footpaths. In other cities however, this is not so. When it's wet outside, most people tend to take shelter until the rain subsides. If you're a die-hard runner however, this is not an option! About 1 in every 37.5 paving stones will be floating on a slippery layer of water that has managed to soak into the cracks underneath. This means that when you step on it as a runner, it will be as if you were trying to sprint across an ice rink in your flip-flops. Unless you're either Torvill or Dean, you're going to fall on your ass.
HOW TO AVOID: Pick a route that involves more park than street. You'll get muddy, but you won't crack your head open.
HOW TO REACT: Pretend you fell on purpose if you're in front of a fancy cafe. Then check that your iPhone hasn't smashed. If you clear the first two. Walk for 30 more seconds, take a few deep breaths and continue running... to the park!
In some places there are clear lines of protocol where pedestrians organize themselves on each side of the street based on the direction they are moving. In other places people dramatically speak on their cellphones waving their arms in the air and manage to take up the same space as 3 lanes of traffic. Let's stick with reality and go with the latter. Human obstacles are difficult but not impossible to overcome. You're a runner afterall, not a jogger.
HOW TO REACT: A very loud "excuse me or permiso" usually brings consciousness to people in their own little cyberworld or those engaged in conversation. Next, instead of going around, make the other person move and use a bit of elbow. This is the "horn" equivalent for a runner - you don't have one... so elbow.
4. Erratic traffic lights
We all know that the little green man signals it's "safe" to cross the street, but what to do when you have the right of way and cars are turning directly into you. The "oh my god, I'm going to eat the hood of this car" reaction won't serve you very well. And if you hesitate... well, you would still be there and not reading this.
HOW TO AVOID: Position yourself beside or behind the same person who recently took up the same space as 3 lanes of traffic and follow them. They will get you across to the other side. Cyclists are equally good bets and will put some metal between you and the oncoming car.
HOW TO REACT: Raise both hands up in the air, stare at the driver and make a facial expression similar to that of Donald Trump (Thank you, Donald, your ugly mug came in useful for something after all).
Finally and least importantly are the pacers. Pacers are people that are trying to run but usually jog. They can run for short amounts of time and then slow to the pace of a tortoise. When they are running, they'll try to use you to set the pace. Often you'll notice them because the sound of a pacer breathing down your neck is louder than the beat of any Daft Punk song. In other words, increasing the volume on your ipod is not a solution. It's not uncommon to hear flem in their throat, heavy stepping, and once in a while some of their dirty sweat will land on you. Its gross, but it won't last.
HOW TO AVOID: Pretend you're interval training and burst into a sprint for 20 seconds. No pacer will be able to keep up and they'll find someone else to pace with.
HOW TO REACT: If a pacer prevails, simply perform a short but effective role reversal, slow down and get behind them, run 2 inches from their heels and breath like an 80-year-old with emphysema. 2 minutes of that will drive the point home. No one likes a siamese runner.
Now lace up, run your heart out, and don't get killed!