In every single ‘buzzfeedy type post” about advantages of running, they tell you it is a great way to discover a new city or a new country. Usually, I agree with that statement, and I remember quite a few amazing runs in new cities over the past 6 or 7 years I’ve been running more or less regularly (and by regularly I mean like I do anything else: weeks of conscious training followed by weeks where the most vigorous exercice I’ll do is reaching for the chocolate bar).
I remember discovering small streets in London, hidden parks and canals in the Netherlands, small trails in the californian national parks (with bonus meeting with something black some 300 meters avay that might have been(but surely was, for heroic purposes) a bear), villages in Greece, strands in Denmark, San Francisco at dawn and Central Park before stopping for a bagel. All of these offered a new perspective on a country, and I really love to discover a place atrunning pace ( which for me means very slowly, and usually struggling for breath and cursing whatever I hold responsible for making me go for a run in the first place).
But who ever writes that sort of post has obviously never been to a crowded Indian or Nepal city. Today, for example, I tried going for a run outside the small hospital campus here (I’m lucky there is a campus, at least I can do small laps around the cricket field and where you get a bonus training since you have to avoid flying cricket balls, and generally keep a somewhat decent pace because children run with me, while yelling “namaste, where are you going?” – they consider that running just for running, to go nowhere, is a frankly useless endeavour, and most of the time while I’m running I agree with them). So I tried to go “discover the city”, with a run, fooling myself into thinking that, since there has been a general strike and a petrol band for almost 3 months now, it would be nice. Here, running is an adventure: every second you have to avoid a motocycle or a rickshaw, people crossing, stray dogs crossing, stray dogs lying in the middle of the streets, cows, goats and others, and the general pollution level, painting everything in a nice yellow cloud, don’t really help you with breathing.
So I came back after 20 minutes, mostly exhausted with the level of awareness required to run here, not with physical exertion, but I guess buzzfeed is right after all:you do get the drastic, visceral experience of a Nepali city when you go running, even more than with any other mode of transportation. I think I’ve learned enough about it , though, and will return to my beloved cricket ground until I’m nearer to the countryside again, where all you have to worry about are snakes in the high grass and Moskitos when the night falls.