Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Where have all the runners gone? (With apologies to Pete Seeger)

Spent the day in Washington, D.C., with my two teens today and was surprised by the number of runners (and walkers and bikers!) we saw out and about. Granted, the nation's capital also has some 19 million visitors per year while the county where we live doesn't even have 300,000 residents.

Still, it made me wonder: What makes for a running-friendly community?

Lansing, Mich., is steeped in the auto industry. This is a town where we regularly get in a car -- often a truck or SUV -- to drive to the corner store a mile away for a gallon of milk. (Guilty!) The thought of walking, running or biking to work is so foreign that ... well, we just don't do that here. I see people who circle the block during the lunch hour just to get a closer parking spot at the downtown YMCA to go -- wait for it -- run on a treadmill.

Freedom isn't free.
Today, we saw runners at all times of the day. One woman was pushing a double stroller up a very steep hill. Several silver-haired men ran by in groups of three or four. Several 20-somethings ran by with their dogs.

Our town definitely has plenty of opportunities and beautiful trails for running, but, again, we have to drive there. Just this month, I discovered Hawk Island Park, just a few miles from our door. And I've run on city streets near the only running store in the area, on the Michigan State University campus and in downtown Lansing. Drove there, drove and drove.

Seeing a runner anywhere else is not as rare as, say, an open parking spot at Best Buy on Black Friday, but it is not common.

Runners are certainly turning out to the ever-growing a lists of local weekend races, but where are they the rest of the time?

What do you think? And where do you run? What would it take for you to run in more urban areas?

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