SOMETHING TO DECLARE
In praise of the holiday jog: there’s no better way to find your bearings in a new city
It was first thing on the first morning on my very first trip to New York City, so one might reasonably expect it to have involved a lie-in of sorts, followed, perhaps, by a visit to the brunch joint next door for that all-American experience: a wobbly stack of fat, syrup-doused and sugar-powdered pancakes. But instead, awake early with a befuddled body clock, I slipped on my trainers and took to the streets of Manhattan, led by my phone’s GPS past herds of commuters and bumper-to-bumper traffic towards the East River Park path that passes under Brooklyn Bridge. It was a similar story on a disgustingly windy, rainy March morning in Copenhagen, when my friend and I set out from our hotel, shivering in our vest tops in the frigid air, for iconic Nyhavn, where the only people about were café owners propping up sandwich boards on the cobblestones for the day ahead. In Lisbon, we discovered just a little too late that the streets are far too hilly for anyone to sensibly run on them – but run we did (after a fashion), puce and sweating, up and down the narrow streets with their painted tile walls. Sheets, hung from windows, billowed above. Before the accusations of sanctimony reach my ears, let me defend myself thus: it’s not about being healthy or staying trim. An athlete I am demonstrably not. That would require a focused self-application, whereas this, frankly, is all about impatience. If I walked instead of jogged, I’d either see half as much, or spend twice as long seeing it, and that’s just inefficient. If running is what it takes to capitalise on limited time, so be it. Like many, I like to absorb the geography of a city: where I am within it; how its parts fit together to form a whole. During warm-up stretching, I pinch and swipe on my digital map, hunting for patches of green, ribbons of blue, and the streets that connect them. Tiny lanes win out over main roads. I take mental note of possible detours to landmarks. Generally, I’ll get a little bit lost at least once.