City Running Is Trail Running

Here’s another banger from my friend Caitlin, who is a better runner than I am, in so many ways.

John is a big fan of trail running. “Road running kills the soul” he says, or at least I imagine that he would say that. It sounds like him, no?

The roots and rocks and twists and turns keep us on our toes (literally), and allow us to learn adaptability and to achieve that elusive sense of flow when in that mindless (but alert!) state. And I agree, to a point. Slogging away on a straight line of pavement, only to turn around and slog right back again? Not very inspired. No creative thinking required. And even for me, a person completely uninterested in the heart-pounding rush of adrenaline, pretty tame.

But you know what DOES require creative thinking, quick decisions, lightness of foot and of spirit? Urban running. With a pack. I don’t mean jogging on that lovely path around the Charles River. I mean running in the semi-dusk on the streets and sidewalks of Boston’s South End, Roxbury and the Seaport with Unnamed Run Crew.

Weaving in and out of tourist throngs on a hot July day in the Back Bay with Trailblazhers. Quick! What’s that shadow ahead? Not a tree root. That’s a loose brick paver, waiting to twist an ankle. Every now and then the very real panic that you’re about to fall into one of those NYC-style metal grates that lead to a restaurant’s subterranean kitchen.

How fast can you slalom around pedestrians who move in unpredictable, Saturday-morning shopping herds? There are no mountains, but we have hills. Pavement uneven, some litter here and there. Maybe a puddle of unknown origin. Dodge them all. Up, up Blue Hill Avenue. Up Beacon Hill.

There goes Bruce, hurdling over a chain link stanchion. Abeo is blasting that song she loves from Trinidad. The beat and the fleeting light and the feeling of freedom as we dodge and weave en masse, pushing each other faster.

Without a word, the pack splits around impediments in our path. Instead of rocks in the stream, we flow around construction barriers on the sidewalk. The flow is broken as we wait at a stop light. Or wait for those at the back of the group, taking more time. But that’s part of it. Never leave someone behind. The pack moves together. We catch our breath. The light turns green.

We start again.