A Digression on Running

by uber

In the past few years I have gone from saying "I’m an Alex; Alexes don’t run." to actually doing rather a lot of, I hesistate to call it running, but I suppose jogging is a fair name for it.

My routine is that I put in a thirty minute jog before my morning weights sessions during weekdays, supplemented by longer runs when I travel. I usually aim for an hour or so for the longer run. My pace is nothing to write home about, but’s it seems to be more or less where I can keep doing it long-term without accruing a chronic injury.

I actually like the treadmill run. It’s part of that feeling that I have made a measurable achievement and "ticked a big checkbox" out of the day. It’s important for me to get it done in the morning, because I know how tired I will be by the end of the day, and how much less willpower I have.

The real thing that I like is the running when I travel. So far I have run outdoors in Florence, Berlin, London, Liverpool, Barcelona (where I started), Granada, South County Dublin (over Christmas), The Hague, and Bangalore. My most recent city, somewhat oddly, was my home town of Dublin. Thus far I had resisted actually doing long runs in Dublin, mainly because I a) don’t want the jogging to lose its novelty, and b) need to enforce some rest days on myself. However, Easter and work meant that I was significantly out of my usual routine, so I took the opportunity to do two runs: one out to Kilmainham through Temple Bar, and one out to Dartry along the canal.

Different cities are more or less jogger friendly. I usually get up an hour early and jog before breakfast when I am away. It motivates me to have breakfast waiting at the end, and the time management is simpler. It also takes the decision and willpower part away: get your run and start your day. London, Berlin and Dublin are excellent urban jogging spaces. The Hague is built for cyclists, who are imperious and merciless, and so it’s less friendly than I would have expected despite the Shared Space mode of planning.

I feel that you learn a very great deal about a city and its populace running in the morning. People are going to work, getting up, and starting their day-to-day lives. I get to see what time a populace wakes, when and how they go to work, and I get a sense of their overall health and happiness1.

I also learn the city streets and the urban language far more quickly. I find with walking that it’s easy to wander, get lost, and not really know where you’ve gone. You don’t have the time or the spare energy to do that when you’re jogging: dead ends are costly and I find it hard to turn back and run where I just came. I was surprised on a day trip to London how my mental map of the streets ‘kicked in’ the moment we approached my running route, even though it had only been over two days.

When I am away, I run using Runkeeper and my phone with music. I tend to pick an album and let it run to the end. Most recently that has been True by Avicii. It particularly includes the following song:

Which the chorus line sounds to me like "Liar Liar! Are you running? Oh Tell the Truth", which I take as encouragement[2].

The thing I would love to be able to do is take photos as I run. Brunelleschi’s Duomo at the moment it is struck by the dawn sun, is heart-stoppingly beautiful, but I know I can’t pause without struggling to go again. Maybe wearables will ultimately solve that.


  • [1] Albeit an extremely superficial one.
  • [2] The real lyrics don’t actually say that, but my jogging-addled brain resists reason.