Friday, January 13, 2012

City Sidewalks...

(photo taken from:

City sidewalks, busy sidewalks … What? Christmas is over and we shouldn’t be singing carols?

Holiday festivities aside, I’ve been thinking a lot about, well, sidewalks. If you’re a winter runner, you’re probably thinking about them too. Sidewalks are one of the best things about winter running in the city. Followed closely by street lights.

It looks (and feels!) as if winter is finally here, and we have been thrust into winter running mode. Personally, I’m challenged to find ways to keep this treadmill-hater outside as much as possible, a challenge that’s heightened during storms like last Thursday’s.

Luckily, I’ve kept up with the Runner’s Alley Winter Warriors group and they had planned a nice four-plus miler that night. I would be lying if I told you that I didn’t think of cancelling. I mean, the first storm of the winter was a perfect reason not to run, right?

I really, really thought about being a no-show. I even asked my downtown friends for a “sidewalk update” in hopes that someone would tell me it was just too dangerous to run.

But the folks at Runner’s Alley assured me that the sidewalks would be clear and ready for running. They were right. We went about our usual Thursday evening routine - albeit with a smaller group than usual – as if there was no storm at all.

It’s a run, mind you, that I wouldn’t have tried at home. Run in the country in a storm in the dark? No, thank you.

When I moved to Manchester from the Seacoast area a few years ago, I knew I’d miss my Saturday ocean-side routes. I thought I’d miss running on the rural roads near my house, too. I loved the quiet, the almost traffic-less roads, the calmness of babbling brooks and the chirping of birds.

The big city, I thought, would mean sirens and sketchy neighborhoods and battling traffic at every intersection. My running, I thought, would suffer.

While it turned out that the city did have some of those things – sirens, questionable neighborhoods and lots of traffic-filled intersections – I fell in love with city running. Turns out, city-living helped my running and my ability to adapt to a new place.

Each day was an opportunity to learn something more about my new home. I planned routes that would take me on relatively unknown side-streets. I have explored far more of the city on foot than I have by car, when we as drivers tend to stick to the same roads.

Even once I became more familiar with the city streets, my routes were varied and ever-changing. With so many streets in such a compact area, it was easy to map a route of almost any distance. Need to run hills? No problem. Looking for a long, flat route? No problem. It was all readily available out my front door.

Almost a year ago, I made the move back to semi-country living, and while I’m just a stone’s throw from the city line, my running has most decidedly been country-fied. My routes are limited – mostly because there just aren’t many roads. For someone who prefers looped routes to out-and-backs, it’s challenging.

And the roads? Well, some of them are quiet. But the main country thoroughfares bring speeding cars – really, does anyone drive the speed limit? – and blind curves and dangerously narrow shoulders.

When you find the right route and time of day, country running can be wonderful and relaxing. But in the winter, for me, it’s just a plain pain in the neck.

In winter, give me the shoveled sidewalks and street lights of the city, please.

Teresa Robinson is Community Relations Manager for the New Hampshire Union Leader. Her column, NH RUNNER, appears every other week in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Her email address is

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