Running in Xela
By James Gray
Coroner’s report: the young victim’s organs were essentially healthy, except the lungs, which were coated with a 5-cm layer consisting of black phlegm enriched with diesel soot and car exhaust. How did the poor victim manage to breathe for so long?
I fear that this may be my own coroner’s report in the not too distant future. Why? Because I go jogging in Xela, almost daily. Nut job, eh? Our fair city is a gem in so many ways, but as a place for outdoor fitness, paradise is not the first word to come to mind.
The same issues that affect you as pedestrian – the vehicle exhaust, the crumbling, narrow sidewalks and mean-ass drivers – plague you as a runner, too. Since running the streets is more convenient, though, the hazards are multiplied. There’s the random street boulder (really, I’m not kidding!). Grates. The route for the half-marathon goes right over 2x2x2 meter length/width/height drainage hole with bars that leave just enough space for a leg to pass through. And other hidden hazards. On a recent run, a car was approaching from the rear, and off to the side was a grassy stretch with what appeared to be a grassy trail. As I moved onto the grass I tripped and flailed and after regaining my balance, tripped and flailed twice more. “What the fudge!” I screamed in rage. It turned out the grass was just long enough to covering these stones that were intentionally put there but who knows for what purpose.
Nevertheless, fellow nut-job fitness buff, I offer you strategies for making your urban running experience a bit more enjoyable. Strategy 1: quick turns. Spot a sputtering, never-had-maintenance ’84 Toyota pickup coming your way? Exit, stage right, even though it changes your route. Strategy 2: loops. Xela is very small area-wise, so it’s hard to avoid the streets with lots of diesel belchers. Get yourself to the quieter, outlying neighborhoods and…round and round, baby! Strategy 3: timing. Weekdays before 7:30 am and evenings around 8pm are more tranquilo, as well as Sundays. I enjoy running at night but beware that hazards are less visible and some dogs are aggressive. Get yourself a dog repellent device should you be as loco as I.
Some of my favorite areas to run are the road leading to Cerro Baúl, Colonia Molina (just below Baúl) and Zona 2. The latter is above Calzada Independencia and La Rotonda. It’s the epicenter for car repair so it’s very quiet at night though there are some noisy junkyard dogs.
Finally, please add your observations and favorite routes in the comments section below!