The first thing I do when I travel these days is to research popular running spots in that city or town. The next thing I do is to ask the hotel front-desk about local running routes. At the Marriott (Pune, Ahmedabad), I have received blank looks while at The Claridges in Delhi they actually have printed running routes in the room (the Marriott and other similar chains really need to address this issue). I again got a blank look earlier this week when I asked the same question at the Cape Royale, a hotel near the Cape Town waterfront.
I have also started defining cities by how runner friendly they are. For example, the area around The Claridges in New Delhi with wide, firm, non-potholed roads and virtually no traffic in the morning is terrific for running. Pune around the Pune Marriott is not a bad place as well, if you run towards the Commerce College in the mornings. I have even found a 1 km dirt trail into the Vetal hill.
Mumbai is still a difficult city to find good stretches of road to run on but last weekend I found one more nice place (another is the Mahul road). I drove down to the Bandra-Kurla complex…the main road from the highway up to the LBS Marg is a good 3.3 km run that is worth the effort. The roads again are firm and non-potholed and a pleasure to run on early in the morning. There are other side roads that are equally good and you can easily do a 10 or 16K within BKC.
So why did I get a quizzical look in the Cape Town hotel when I asked about a running route?
Because Capetonians run all the time, at any time of the day, anywhere and everywhere. In my 3 days there, I found people running on the pavements in the city, on the roads going up to Table Mountain and Signal Hill and on the beach promenade. The pavements are straight and tiled with not one hole or furrow that can throw you off. People run before sunrise, at noon, around sunset…unlike in Mumbai or Pune or Delhi, where we can only run in the mornings or evenings, around sunrise or sunset. This makes a huge difference.
As do the temperatures. Even at noon, it doesn’t go beyond 25 degrees. I ran twice on the beach promenade near the waterfront, once around sunrise and once at 4PM and at both times, I didn’t break into a sweat even once. In Mumbai, I need to start drinking water after the first 20 minutes or so. Here I didn’t need to drink anything for the entire length of the run. And the morning run, into the sunrise, the Atlantic ocean to my left, a cool breeze blowing across me…what better heaven can you ask for!
As I asked around, I found out that South Africans in general are running crazy. And no one will look at you weirdly if you run in the middle of the afternoon, in the middle of downtown, during your lunch break (try doing something like this in Mumbai or Delhi).
So seriously! If you are one of the hordes of tourists invading South Africa this summer, and have any pretensions to running or brisk walking…pack a pair of shoes and get up early and hit the pavement, before the bus hoots its hurried reminder.
And I finally realized what a difference, low temperatures can make. For the first time in my life, I cracked an under 1 hour 10K!