Like most runners, I always take my kit with me when I go away. Indeed, sometimes I even wear it to travel in if there’s no room to pack it (yeah, I know – not even slightly sexy but worth it in the long run). It’s the best way to get over your jetlag, get a feel for a new environment and see things you’d never notice from a cab or a bus. So I was very excited to lace up my trainers and head out into the streets of Buenos Aires. Sadly, the feeling of elation didn’t last long…
First, there were the dogs. Thousands of them. It seemed like everyone had at least one and it wasn’t unusual to see people walking dozens of them. The dogs themselves weren’t the big problem for runners; they were all much more interested in each other than they were in humans. The real issue was the mess they left behind.The pavements were covered in dog crap which, as every runner knows is a hazard not just to your treads but to your form. It’s hard to get a rhythm going when you’re constantly leaping to avoid un-scooped poop. Quite astonishing really; Argentina seemed like a very clean country to me but the whiff of baking dog poo is the scent I remember most.
The city structure in Buenos Aires was a bit of hindrance too. In most areas, it’s very easy to navigate your way around the city – the blocks are by and large logical and uniformly spaced. This is great if you’re driving or walking. It’s a nightmare if you’re running, especially as Argentine drivers are known for their, well, feisty attitudes and lack of patience. The pedestrian is emphatically not king and you take your life in your hands if you attempt to cross when the road is anything less than 100% clear. Or even when it is.
A typical run in BsAs went: run 30 seconds leaping over dog poo, reach junction, jiggle for 2-3 minutes waiting for traffic to clear, eventually risk it anyway and nearly get ran over, repeat. For every minute spent running, there were 3 spent jogging on the spot, coupled with a near-death road accident experience. By the time the wonderful park and its fabulous lake came in sight (it was only two miles away!), I was exhausted. Not from running, you understand – I’d hardly done any of that – but from the sheer stress of trying to get to a peaceful place to run.
I learned several things from this less than edifying running experience. One was that we need to adjust our expectations to our environment. I live in a city but usually run by the canal – long, uninterrupted stretches of traffic-free running. I forget that cars have to run somewhere as well. People too – there were plenty of them cluttering the pavements, as annoyed by me trying to wriggle past them as I was by their very presence in the first place. Eventually, I decided to just breathe and accept that the road wasn’t mine alone. Oh, and as part of this acceptance process, I decided that it’s OK to take a taxi to the park if that’s the only way to get a decent run in!