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~ The Street Runner ~

February 15, 2010

I pondered this intro for a day or two.  You may have been wondering what happened to Runnin’ Down A Dream’s guest posts.  Well for the special 10th guest post,  I wanted somebody whom I hold in very high esteem both as a runner and as a friend.  I really didn’t have to ponder this part at all.  Scott has been a true blue friend to me.  Always supportive and always there to help and give me much needed advice.  And all of the advice he has freely given to me, has been spot on.  He is also a really smart runner and I have enjoyed running with Scott, especially our runs through the streets. I really dig the topic he chose to write about because being a runner in NYC can be pretty dangerous but I know first hand that if you are careful and attentive ~ running in the streets is the way to go.  So, here is Scott’s interesting perspective.  Enjoy!!

Hi, I’m Scott.  You can find my blog at  430orbust.wordpress.com.   If you know where to look, you’ll find me on DailyMile, Twitter, RunKeeper, and various other online locales…

I am honored that Michelle asked me to do this guest post, and apologize for taking so long to get it done!  On the one hand, it is hard to the find the time (check my blog and you’ll see what I mean), but on the other hand, I had a hard time coming up with a topic that you guys might find interesting that you couldn’t have done yourself.

The reality is that I’m not going to be able to educate most of you on any particular running related topic, and I’m also not going to take this space to talk about my training, my goals, or complain about the various ills that we all tend to complain about.  I did almost cave in and write an obvious post about the awesomeness of the social network I’ve been a part of over the last year plus, and what a great help it has been to me in my training, and how special it is to have met so many great people (real people, with faces and stories and goals).  It has proven to be so much more meaningful to me than the virtual meeting we otherwise do online.  Anyway, TK  pigtailsflying.wordpress.com”covered this nicely on her blog recently.

Instead, I will talk about something I do in my training that seems to be different from what other people do in their training, namely running in the streets.  I have come to find that several of you run on the sidewalks.  I understand why you do it, but I just want to state for the record that I do not believe it is necessary, and in fact think it can be a hindrance. I understand it is sometimes not possible to run on the street, but if you plan your routes properly, you will find this is not necessary very often.  I rarely ever need to get on the sidewalk in my runs all around NYC.

While it should go without saying, I do need to be clear that safety comes first, and it is critically important that you ALWAYS run against the traffic when you are in the street.  This allows you to see the cars coming, and make eye contact with drivers when necessary.  When you can see what is coming at you, then you can make the determination if you should hold your position, or move off to the side when you won’t be able to get through if a truck or bus is coming.

Of course, my preference is to run on neither the street nor the sidewalk, but in a park or on a greenway.  We are lucky in Manhattan to have the best park in the world available to us, and to have amazing greenways all the way up the west side of town and along several portions of the east side.  However, it is not always easy to get to those areas, and I need variety in my life – I can’t simply run the same route (like East River Park, which is the most convenient park / greenway for me) every time.

One of my common runs is up Essex and Ave A from the East River up to 14th St.  One time, I was running on the street and noticed a guy running next to me, actually passing me, on the sidewalk.  This guy was clearly faster than me.  However, while I was able to keep a very consistent pace between the parked cars and the moving traffic on the street, the guy on the sidewalk kept having to go around all kinds of obstacles, and even had to go in the street once himself.  Over the course of several blocks, it struck me how we actually kept about even, even though he was clearly faster than me.  I strongly believe you have to work harder to maintain the same pace on the sidewalk.

Running in the street also affords more options when you get to intersections.  It is much easier to get through red lights by being able to easily avoid turning cars, and avoiding crowds of people that linger at corners or in the crosswalks / intersections.  The other issue I have with running on the sidewalk is related to injury.  I tend to get shin splints, and the harder concrete surface of the sidewalk is worse than the relatively softer asphalt surface of the street.  Also, sidewalks have lots of uneven surfaces and I have found it easier to lose my footing and trip when on the sidewalk.

Those things aside, the biggest, and best, argument for using the street for running is the recent proliferation of bike lanes.  While obviously built for bikers, to make the streets safer for them (which I appreciate as a bike rider), I do not hesitate to take advantage of them as a runner.  Bike lanes provide clear markings about where we can run, and where cars should be.  Ave A is a fine example of a bike lane making a big difference.  The lower part of Ave A, the section closer to Houston St, tends to get backed up with lots of traffic.  In the past, cars routinely would add a 2nd lane where there was not one, making it harder to get by as a runner.  But, with the new bike lane, cars are not much more likely to stick to the one lane they are allowed to use.  The result is that there is plenty of room for runners to get by, even when the street is choked with traffic.  There are bike lanes all over the place, in all boroughs.  Check out the maps at  http://www.nycbikemaps.com or use “http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/html/bicyclists/bikemaps.shtml” to plot out routes.

Recently, Michelle invited me to run with her one morning.  The plan was to meet at Prospect Park and run to (and over) the Brooklyn Bridge.  I mapped out a route from the park to the bridge that completely consisted of bike lanes.  With that done, we were able to easily run in the street together.  Much of the time, car traffic was light, and we were able to run right in the middle of the street, and when a car was coming, it was easy to move to the bike lane and go single file if necessary.  Without bike lanes available, when with a partner, I would not feel as safe running in the street.

I am a street runner.  Where do you run, street or sidewalk, and what do you think?


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8 Comments leave one →
  1. February 15, 2010 1:20 am

    I am so tired of seeing people running WITH traffic. Just yesterday I went on a “fun run” to collect cards for the best poker hand — the person heading this up gave some detailed instructions and said if we have to run on the road (which we did b/c many of the sidewalks were snow covered) to run facing traffic, and that roads weren’t closed and to pay attention to traffic. So the first group headed out and what did the team behind me do? They crossed the street to run with traffic. I passed by them at least 5 other times during this event. Of about 70 people running, they were the only ones breaking the rules. To add fuel to the fire, it was a dad and a young kid — probably no older than 10 years old.

    Anyway, great post. I say if you can run on the road safely, do so. If not, run on sidewalks if they’re in great shape. It’s all a matter of opinion.

  2. February 15, 2010 1:53 am

    I prefer the streets as well. Living in suburban, NJ the sidewalks are often uneven and it’s very easy to catch you foot and fall. You already know that this happened to me running on the sidewalks of NYC. I fell and broke a rib.

    In addition to running against traffic it also bothers me when people run in the streets with earphones in. To me, this is unsafe. I never run with earphone when I am on the streets. I need to hear what is going on around me.

    Great post!

  3. February 15, 2010 1:55 am

    I’m not sure I’d have the courage to run the streets of NYC, but where I live in Toronto it’s fairly easy to run as many miles as I could want on residential streets. The most dangerous thing I’ve come across has been hostile drivers, who simply feel that the road belongs to them no matter how light the traffic. Canadians are not as polite as you’ve been led to believe!

  4. February 15, 2010 2:36 am

    That’s an interesting point about running in the street and working HARDER to run on the sidewalk because of the obstacles. I don’t live in a huge city like NYC, but have definitely avoided some sidewalks because of the uneven-ness and fear of tripping.

  5. February 15, 2010 12:39 pm

    Thanks for the info on running in the streets. I know that my streets here in Fargo, ND are a bit different from the streets of NYC, and I do feel pretty comfortable running in the streets. The cement sidewalks are very hard on my knees and I take every chance I can to run in the streets.

  6. February 15, 2010 2:08 pm

    I run on the sidewalks early in the morning when there is no pedestrian traffic, and when they are clear. I will run in the streets when there are lots of pedestrians, and also whenthe sidewalks are poorly shoveled, like this time of year. Scott this is a great post, and a great way to remind me I can safely plot new running routes all over the city.

    P.S. thanks for the shout-out!

  7. February 19, 2010 4:04 am

    I run the streets, the country roads and even the highways. I run against traffic and (which where I run, is very little). I often times run right down the middle of the road. 😉 I love the road much better than sidewalks and even the nice trails we have in Lincoln. Great post!

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