Run­ning The World

Run­ners on their home cities

Runner's World (UK) - - Contents -

PARIS FRANCE Name Emmanuelle Blanck Age 49 Pro­fes­sion Dig­i­tal art di­rec­tor

I never run in­side, even if it’s rain­ing or cold. Paris is a city of such beauty, there’s no rea­son to be on a tread­mill in a gym. I take my sport out­side.

My favourite place to run is La Coulée verte. It goes five kilo­me­tres from the hip, bo­hemian Bastille neigh­bor­hood where I live to the more sub­ur­ban Vin­cennes area and the Bois de Vin­cennes, Paris’ largest park. It’s a con­verted el­e­vated rail­way – I be­lieve it in­spired New York City’s High Line – and once you as­cend the stairs, it’s like you’ve dis­cov­ered a se­cret realm above the city. You’re sus­pended over bright, grassy lawns and at eye level with many of the old Hauss­mann apart­ment build­ings, with their grand fa­cades of cream-col­ored lime­stone, cor­nices and bal­conies.

I do my long runs on Sun­day. I’ll take the bridge to Ile Saint-louis, the smaller of two neigh­bour­ing nat­u­ral is­lands in the mid­dle of the Seine. In the early morn­ing, be­fore the wind­ing pave­ments fill with res­i­dents car­ry­ing bun­dles from farm­ers’ mar­kets or the boulan­gerie, the nar­row one-way streets are misty and quiet. It’s beau­ti­ful. The is­land is small, just 12 blocks, so it’s a great place to do laps. From the south end, you can see Notre-dame, just across the wa­ter on the neigh­bor­ing is­land of Ile de la Cité.

From there, I’ll cross the Seine to the Right Bank and run to the court­yard of the Lou­vre Palace and around the Lou­vre Pyra­mid; at 7am or 8am in the morn­ing, when the court­yard is empty, it feels like the palace is your own. Some­times, when the sun hits the glass on the pyra­mid, I’ll stop and take a pic­ture with my phone. Af­ter that I'll loop around the Tui­leries, the pub­lic gar­den be­tween the Lou­vre and the Place de la Con­corde, known for its sculp­tures, foun­tains and for­mal gar­dens. I’ll cross the Seine to the Left Bank, where the road along the river is closed to cars, and con­tinue along to the Eif­fel Tower. My long run is any­where from 12 to 30 kilo­me­tres.

Twice a week, I run at the Paul Faber sta­dium with a club called Les etoiles du 8eme, which means The stars of the 8th ar­rondisse­ment. There are 120 of us, aged 20 to 55. We're about 40 per cent women, and a mix of stu­dents and pro­fes­sion­als.

Though run­ning is grow­ing in Paris, it’s still more com­mon to see strolling cou­ples on the pave­ment than run­ners. Run­ning hap­pens mostly at places des­ig­nated for sport, such as tracks or parks. Foot­ball, ten­nis and cy­cling are more pop­u­lar. But clubs and so­cial net­work­ing are mak­ing run­ning more main­stream. I some­times run with a club called Free Run­ners. It started in 2014; we’re a fam­ily of run­ners who meet in small groups.

There’s a road along the bank of the Seine that’s closed to cars on Sun­days for the ben­e­fit of run­ners and cy­clists. On sum­mer nights you can see the docked boats filled with bars, mu­sic and peo­ple danc­ing. We Free Run­ners do a ‘Happy Fri­day Run’. We run eight to 10 kilo­me­tres at an easy pace, then stop at a bar, en­joy a drink and talk about run­ning. Where else but Paris can one so eas­ily pair wine with a run?

BANGKOK THAI­LAND Name Sarun Lim­sawad­di­wong Age 42 Pro­fes­sion Ho­tel pro­pri­etor

It’s not com­mon to see run­ners in Bangkok dur­ing the day. It’s hot and the un­even pave­ments are crowded with street ven­dors, food stalls and stray dogs. The dogs don’t usu­ally bite, but they get in your way. Many peo­ple smoke here, so you have to run through a lot of cig­a­rette smoke, too.

There are plenty of foot­paths and des­ig­nated lanes for run­ners and cy­clists on the streets but the traf­fic is very heavy and there’s no real un­der­stand­ing of pedes­trian laws. Mo­tor­bikes and tuk tuks [mo­torised rick­shaws] are usu­ally care­ful, but cars do what they want, so run­ners have to choose their routes very care­fully.

I’ve started do­ing night ‘city runs’ with a group of friends. We run 10 to 15 kilo­me­tres and stop for snacks – ba­nanas and en­ergy drinks – along the way. We’ll run through Chi­na­town or by Wat Saket, a Bud­dhist tem­ple, to the royal Grand Palace, and avoid nightlife ar­eas like Khao San Road, where there are more drunk driv­ers. There have to be at least four or five of us be­cause we have to look around – 360 de­grees – all the time; it’s not safe oth­er­wise. It’s im­pos­si­ble to run by my­self at night. It’s re­ally nice with a group, though, and not as hot then, ei­ther – usu­ally about 30C. We like to end at a cafe called Mont Nom Sod, which serves spe­cial milk and sweet bread.

When I’m not run­ning with my group, I run early in the morn­ing in Lumpini Park. Built on for­mer royal grounds, it is to Bangkok what Cen­tral Park is to New York or Hyde Park to Lon­don. There’s shade from the big trees, no dogs or smok­ing al­lowed and no cars. Some­times there are protests or ral­lies, so I have to find an­other park to run in. There aren’t a lot of parks in Bangkok, but there are enough. The oth­ers don’t have big trees, though. Lumpini is the best.

I started run­ning two years ago af­ter six months of chemo­ther­apy (I had lym­phoma). It helped me get back in bet­ter health. At that time, you didn’t see too many Thai peo­ple run­ning. But re­cently there’s been a run­ning boom here. I think it’s be­cause be­ing healthy and fit has be­come trendy in the me­dia and among movie stars. It’s a ‘cool’ life­style and so­cial me­dia has spread the mes­sage. Young peo­ple see celebri­ties run­ning and be­ing fit, and it makes them want to run, too. There’s some kind of race ev­ery Sun­day in the city, and some week­ends there are three or four to choose from. This is the time for run­ners in Thai­land.

I’ve run three half marathons and two marathons so far. Stay­ing healthy for my fam­ily mo­ti­vates me. Ev­ery six months, I get check-ups, and my doc­tor says I’m al­most as healthy as I was be­fore the cancer. Run­ning changed ev­ery­thing in my life – how I look, what I eat and how I think.

On Sun­days, I try to run with my chil­dren. My eight-year-old triplets run in a club at school, and we can do about five kilo­me­tres to­gether. But that’s enough for them! My youngest is four and he has just started run­ning one or two kilo­me­tres with us, too. I want them to ab­sorb the run­ning cul­ture so they come to my races and cheer at the fin­ish line. Some­times my daugh­ter will say to me, ‘This time you were very slow; I’ve been wait­ing here a long time!’


Name Fathia Ali Bouraleh Age 28 Pro­fes­sion Stu­dent, coach of Girls Run 2, Olympian

When I was small, I ran be­cause I was a thief. I stole shoes from out­side the mosque and bread from the mar­ket. My gym teacher knew I was get­ting into trou­ble. He gave me run­ning shoes and said if I ran, he would help me study. That’s when I started to love run­ning.

My mother didn’t want me to run be­cause Dji­boutian cul­ture says women should be in the house. But my fa­ther said, ‘You can do it.’ He gave me bus money to train at the sta­dium.

At that time, Dji­bouti, which bor­ders Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia, hosted track events and road races, and girls like me could par­tic­i­pate. There was fund­ing and hope. But that op­por­tu­nity doesn’t ex­ist now for girls. Events longer than three kilo­me­tres are now only for men. When I ask why, of­fi­cials say girls aren’t at a high enough level to race long, but no­body checks their times. If they had hope, good food and good equip­ment, they could be the best.

My team, Girls Run 2, started in 2008. We fo­cus on de­vel­op­ing strong char­ac­ter and use club mem­ber­ship as mo­ti­va­tion to stay in school. We have 25 ath­letes, aged 12 to 18 years old. We train in the hill re­gion called Tora Bora, on the edge of Dji­bouti City. We are out­side in the dust, sun and heat – it can reach 46C. There are goats, rocks, big hills, boys and men who smoke and take drugs, and no se­cu­rity. The boys throw stones and in­sult us. Some­times I get an­gry and yell, but that makes things worse. We try to ig­nore them.

When peo­ple see us run­ning, some will say, ‘Why is she not in her house?’ Or, ‘She is walaan [crazy].’ But some oth­ers say, ‘Bon courage!’ Ayan­leh Souleiman [the Dji­boutian mid­dle dis­tance run­ner who set the in­door 1000m WR in Fe­bru­ary 2016] has helped peo­ple see that run­ning can bring hon­our to our coun­try, so the sport is alive again, but there is a long way to go, es­pe­cially with those older or less-ed­u­cated peo­ple who say women be­long in the house.

As an ath­lete I ac­com­plished my dreams – I was the sec­ond fe­male run­ner from Dji­bouti to go to the Olympics [Fathia ran the 100m in Bei­jing, 2008]. Now my dream is for one of my girls to some­day race in the Olympics.

Dji­boutian peo­ple are Mus­lims, al­though they aren’t strict. At the Olympics, I wore long pants, a longsleeved shirt and my scarf. Not as an obli­ga­tion, but be­cause I’m not com­fort­able out­side with­out long clothes. My girls and I don’t care if some­one cov­ers their head or not.

Run­ning has taught me that be­ing a woman is a beau­ti­ful thing. We can do more than sit at home. In a fam­ily the girl gives the boy wa­ter, brings his food, washes his clothes. The boy gets new clothes, new shoes. Not the girl. Once we were go­ing to a race and a coach said, ‘Why are you bring­ing these girls and tak­ing so many seats on the bus? You should all go home and work in your house.’ That was hu­mil­i­at­ing, but I’ve learned from run­ning that I am strong and can reach my goals. I’m tak­ing night classes. I tell team mem­bers that women can have more. They can pro­vide, they can get a good ed­u­ca­tion. I never used to think girls could dream. But now I know. Girls can study. Girls can drive. Girls can run. Girls can do any­thing.


Name Fabio Iskan­dar­ian Age 33 Pro­fes­sion Per­sonal trainer

Peo­ple here have al­ways been into out­door sports and stay­ing fit. But run­ning has boomed since Rio was cho­sen to host the Olympics. We were the first South Amer­i­can city to host them and there’s a lot of pride here about that fact.

Rio de Janeiro is crowded; we have more than six mil­lion peo­ple and lots of traf­fic. But there are plenty of places to run. You can go to the beach and run along the prom­e­nade. Ipanema and Copaca­bana beaches are full of run­ners, walk­ers, cy­clists and peo­ple of ev­ery age work­ing out or play­ing footvol­ley [a blend of foot­ball and vol­ley­ball]. The beach is like an out­door gym. It starts to get hot around 7:30am, so most peo­ple pre­fer to run early.

You can also drive from the beach to the Ti­juca For­est in the hills west of town. It takes about 10 min­utes, and it’s about 10 de­grees cooler up there. The trails pass wa­ter­falls and are full of mon­keys and other wildlife. On the for­est’s east side, you get re­ally nice views of the city and the Christ the Redeemer statue on Cor­co­v­ado. You can run from the trails here to the base of the statue, but the route be­comes very crowded with tourists. The for­est is a re­ally chal­leng­ing, hilly place to run – run here for a while and when you go back to flat ground, you rock!

As a boy I was more in­ter­ested in swim­ming. At the be­gin­ning of the swim sea­son, we did run­ning work­outs and I was al­ways first to fin­ish. Now I do triathlons. Stay­ing in shape is a very big thing here. We have a beach life­style and peo­ple like to show off their bod­ies. Ev­ery­one wants to wear swim­ming trunks and tiny biki­nis. It’s part of the cul­ture. You see very fit peo­ple run­ning. Ev­ery week­end we have 5K and 10K runs. Rio also has one of the only marathons in the world [the Rio de Janeiro Marathon, in June] where you can run mostly along the beach.

Rio is a big city and it does have prob­lems with crime. It’s a com­bi­na­tion of beauty and the beast. It’s cru­cial to keep your eyes open and run in places where there are lots of peo­ple, and not on dark streets.

I own a busi­ness help­ing clients keep fit, and I’m al­ways work­ing. So run­ning is a chance to re­lax. I run around the Lagoa [a la­goon in­land from Ipanema and Le­blon], or in Flamengo Park, our big­gest park, which is all grass.

What I like about run­ning in Rio is the con­nec­tion be­tween the moun­tains and the wa­ter, which are very close to­gether. You can see the birds, the na­ture. The weather is per­fect. It’s a re­ally vi­brant place. I hope that the Olympics have in­spired even more Brazil­ians to take up run­ning. Then we’ll have traf­fic jams with run­ners and not just with cars.





1/ Coach Fathia lead­ing her team near the Tora Bora neigh­bor­hood 2/ Draw­ing at­ten­tion from some of the lo­cal chil­dren 3/ Go­ing for postrun bread 4/ Don­ning abayas af­ter train­ing 5/ Run­ner Amir Moussa walks to her home in Bal­bala 6/ In Bal­bala, the...

1/ Lim­sawad­di­wong run­ning through Lumpini Park

3/ Stretch­ing out be­fore an evening run in the city 4/ An un­usu­ally quiet time in the city’s old quar­ter

2/ Lead­ing a group run in Rat­tanakosin, the his­toric cen­tre of Bangkok

1/ Run­ning along the Seine

2/ Pass­ing the Lou­vre

3/ Early morn­ing is the best time to run the nar­row streets of Ile Saint-louis

4/ Get­ting in a light stretch, with the Eif­fel Tower n the dis­tance



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