Urban running is so much more than running. As well as the ability of putting one foot in front of the other, warm ups, energy fuelling, post-run stretching and recovery routines; urban runners need to have an added set of skills in their running kit bag. They include: ‘Dodge the pedestrian’, ‘Skip the school pupil’, ‘Leap the dog’ and ‘Time the traffic light’.
If you don’t have the time or geography to run in open spaces, city run routes provide an added dimension to your run planning. It’s not just about what route to take, how far to go and what sort of incline you want to deal with. It’s also about how to navigate the perils of pedestrians and other curved balls you’ll get chucked on your run.
So here’s a few tips that I’ve developed to help navigate your route and run pedestrian peril free:
1) Develop your own set of hand signals to indicate where you’re going: The most effective way of dealing with people coming towards you who don’t appear to have noticed that a) you’re running and b) they might need to move, is to use simple hand signals. If you use your hand to point to where you’re hoping to run and do it with a smile on your face, the pedestrian will normally shift to let you through. This is especially helpful the further you go, as after a long mileage, the idea of weaving nimbly around things becomes surprising difficult (well it does for me anyway!).
2) Use your voice: For people walking in front of you that may be blocking the path, a polite ‘excuse me’ or a carefully expressed ‘coming through’ is also useful. Say it in advance enough and you’ll find that people shift and also that they don’t get completely freaked out by a silent stealthy runner coming up behind! But time your gap – say it too far off and they’ll just think you’re being stroppy. Then they won’t move.
3) Watch out for random dog movements: Dogs can be highly perilous to the urban runner. I am not a dog owner, but apparently, dogs like to sniff at stuff and walk in a random way, sometimes chasing after runners as part of some sort of dog game. Dog owners (yes, sure they’ve just as much right to be there too) aren’t always aware that the runner is trying to keep some sort of pace and not wanting to play dog games. They can be random too. The only thing to do is to keep your wits about you, keep your eyes on the course you’ve set and try to use the techniques listed in 1) and 2) to the best of your ability.
4) Beware of the long and winding dog lead: Some dog owners have their dogs on a lead, but they may as well not have. There is such a thing as an ‘extendable’ dog lead, which means the dog can still walk at length and still be random, with the added risk for the runner that the dog lead can get wrapped around the runners legs at a moments notice. Bang goes pace, bang goes your face, as you hit the floor in a flash. Hide scissors in your run pants for these situations.
5) Avoid school routes: Sometimes a morning urban run will involve running past a school. This brings high levels of random activity, which is almost impossible to plan for. The only thing to do is to avoid routes with schools. If you can’t – you have been warned.