As bizarre as it might seem, running in India is unique in certain ways as compared to running in the West. So, here are a few tips for people who plan to start running in India:
1. Street Running is not easy: In most residential areas of cities or towns, sidewalks/footpaths are blatantly missing. If there are sidewalks, then they might be potholed or covered with parked cars or stalls. They can start and stop abruptly, and you can't run on the road which takes us to the next point.
2. No runner-friendliness: People are not runner friendly. If you're running on the road, cars will honk at you, they will try to whiz past you and not give you much space. Basically its not a good experience. But there is a rationale to it- running on the road might have been acceptable in a place where there isn't so much of a fight for space. The roads in India are already congested with cars, trucks, autos, bikes, cycles, people and cows. So, everyone on the road is already fighting for their space. Now, you add runners to the mix. Clearly, they will not be welcomed. Now, we can understand not being runner friendly on the road, but we've experienced this in parks also. Walking is a huge health phenomenon in India. So most parks have walkers in them, but many of these walkers are here for a social activity, where they meet friends, family, etc. Since there might be upto 6 in a group of walkers, and talking in the main exercise, they're all grouped up on the running routes and trails. So to pass by them, you would have to break up the group. But then there are many old uncles and aunties who refuse to budge and try to stare you down for asking them to give way.
3. Small Parks: There are few park trails covering significant distances. In Delhi, the longest running park route, is Jahanpanah City Forest- almost 7 km, in the middle of busy south Delhi. Even better about the Jahanpanah City Forest is that since its such a long trail, there aren't too many walkers : ) In Calcutta, the longer running trails might be around Victoria Memorial and the Lake Gardens (again, very congested with unfriendly walkers).
4. Heat: Most of you know this, but it is unbearably hot in the most places in India, for most of the year. Here are running tips for hot Indian weather. Though winters are perfect for running outside.
5. Pollution: Pollution levels are high in the big Indian cities/towns. So, that makes running on the roads even tougher, since they have the highest concentration of pollution levels. Also, running in the day is tough, since pollution levels are at their peak then. Recent study showed that running by a polluted road increases your pollutant intake upto 8 times, as compared to if you were walking on the road. These factors make a difference, but at the end of the day we want to run, so we figure out a way to get around them. We don't run on the streets. We've found good running tracks in Delhi parks. Run to avoid the heat, or just hydrate really well if its very hot. And running in parks, you feel the pollution less. If you have any tips on running, or would like to share your experiences, please leave comments for us and our readers.