(Disclaimer: Most of the pictures on this post were found and obtained through Google Images as I didn't have the mind to stop and take pictures while I was out running.)
I love to travel. One of my favorite things to do when I travel is to run at sunrise through the towns/cities I am staying at. Sunrise can be one of the most surreal moments of moving through a city. An empty street may look like a scene out of an apocalypse in one hour and then may be bustling with people within the next. Landmarks may appear and disappear as people put up or take down their shops signs. The lighting is usually gorgeous and unique.
It is a great way to experience first-hand a city waking up and people are in their most natural state. The atmosphere is often an interesting dichotomy as the city is just slowly coming alive but, within it, people are starting about their daily lives at their own speed; some hustling and bustling, some languishing. It can be really interesting to observe the culture of people from the way they start their day, whether they are lounging in coffee shops or just standing in line at coffee shops or the concept of coffee shops just don’t exist in that town.
There are several other perks too that must be said for running at dawn. If you are in a very touristy city, like Cuzco, Peru or Kathmandu, Nepal, most shopkeepers aren’t trying to sell you something as they are just setting up shop. I would also like to think you would have a much lesser chance of something happening to you, as the dangerous denizens of the dark are less likely to be out and about. Hopefully, by 6 or 7am, all the kidnappers are done kidnapping and all the murderers have finished murdering.
Of course, running in a structured metropolitan area such as downtown Toronto will be very different from running in, say, the windy streets on the outskirts of Kathmandu, Nepal, which will also be very different from running (or trying to run) at 11,000ft through the ancient cobblestone streets of Cuzco, Peru. Cuzco is veritable M.C. Escher painting come to life, with a billion stairs throughout the city, while Kathmandu has streets shaped like the varicose veins of an old woman with potholes the size of craters, scattered about like pimples on a teenager's face.
One thing to watch out for is the local town fauna and the way people interact with them. Dogs in Kathmandu apparently just sleep where ever they please; most commonly, where you would want to put your next foot.
The socio-cultural contrasts are also the most stark at dawn when the children have to go to school and the parents have to go to work. This is when you see if children take school buses or, more commonly, walk to school or if office workers cram themselves into small mini vans which are already stuffed to the brim like a turkey on Thanksgiving day with stuffing spilling out of its butt.
That being said, while running or just walking, one does have to watch out for narrow streets and drivers with an uncanny sense for squeezing vehicles into spaces which defy the time and space continuum and where only the TARDIS can reside.
While you may be blessed with a superb sense of direction, here are a few tips for running safely at dawn in a foreign city.
1) At the very least, learn the name of the place you are staying at and how to ask for directions in the local language
2) Carry a phone with the phone number of the police, hotel and your traveling companions (if applicable) programmed in as well as a picture of a map of the city with the location of your hotel or street marked
3) Note non-mutable landmarks, or better yet, a series of landmarks and how they relate to the next landmark and your hotel
4) Know where the sun is rising and try to have a good sense of the orientation you are running towards
5) Don't run with music. Be aware of your surroundings and take it all in.
Run free and run far.
Best idea ever.
Trail/ultra runner, Designer, Foodie, Rock Climber, World Traveler, Triathlete, Level 1 RRCA-certified coach, NASM-Certified Personal Trainer (CPT)