Running in Bangalore

|Author: Evan P.|

Whenever I visit a new place I like to go on runs. Running gives one the ability to explore new areas and cover large amounts of ground while still being able to take in the surroundings. In order to get a feel for Bangalore and specifically Benson town I have tried to go on multiple runs a week, each exploring a new part of the city. The goal of my runs while primarily being for exercise has been to experience the neighborhood and get a feel of the daily happenings of Bangalore. Running has been a great way to see the area, and many different members of the GCIL team have run together. Some notable destinations of our runs have been Cubbon Park, the magic fountain in Indira Ghandi Musical Fountain park, Ulsoor lake, and the turf soccer field we rented on Wednesday night.

Running in Bangalore has been a very unique experience to say the least. A simple short distance like 3 miles can feel like a marathon. Things move slower in Bangalore, and it is NOT a runner friendly city. The sidewalks (if they exist) appear to have been an afterthought. Most consist of premanufactured stones placed together, often uneven and unbalanced. Countless times I have stepped to the side of one of the sidewalk stones to find the other side shoot up at the person running next to me. It is common to find gaping holes in the sidewalk, a trap for daydreaming runners. It is also common for obstacles to cover sidewalks, some examples being trees, trash heaps, street vendors, and fences. As a result, I have found that the most efficient place to run is directly in the road, being very wary of oncoming traffic and tuk tuks speeding past in the wrong lane. Running in the road has its own difficulties besides the constant traffic. There are often piles of trash and animal dung lining the road. If not careful, a running shoe can be easily soiled.

One of the most challenging parts of running in Bangalore has been the air pollution. The worst run so far was last week when Evan, Mary and I decided to run 3 miles to the soccer field we rented as a group. We started out running parallel to the train tracks just after sundown, which I have quickly realized is one of the busiest times in Bangalore. Most of the run was on major roads, and due to the lack of suitable side walks we had to run on the road. There was horrible traffic and the diesel made our throats hurt and our eyes sting. There was one section of the run that refreshingly had a large sidewalk that was clear of obstructions and was next to a canal. On the other side of the canal was a large dark space that was hidden from view. After a few hundred feet we quickly learned that this was a large slum, and that the canal was more of an open sewer than a scenic waterway. The odors coming from the canal and beyond smelled of burning trash and feces. The smell got so bad that we had to stop running and pull our shirts up over our noses in the hope that it would shield us from the gases entering our lungs. This was one of the first times that I felt that I couldn’t breath and didn’t want to breath out of fear of the toxic fumes I was inhaling. My goal for the run quickly became to inhale as little as possible until we got to our destination. This experience was the first time that I have felt completely uncomfortable in Bangalore and made me consider ending my Bangalore running career.

Overall, running in Bangalore has been quite an adventure. Even though there have been some bad times it has been a great way to explore Benson town and get a real-time perspective of the city.

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