Running in Buenos Aires is curious. Depending on where you run and why, you experiences can range from the monotonous, the life-endangering to the comical and the absurd.
Running in the streets is verboten. Cars won't stop for you and you will surely die.
Running on the sidewalk isn't nearly as dangerous, but it's more upsetting: you will step in dog shit, or twist your ankle on a broken block (that's probably moving right along with you), or trip on one of the dogs running through your legs or get entangled by the construction tape that is quietly pushing you back into the street where you definitely die. And even if Athena casts a protective fog around you, porteños will not get out of your way. Like ever. And it doesn't matter whether you're walking or running; couples will stay glued to one another; large extended families will walk down the block, each of them holding hands like paper dolls; you'll find that porteños are waiting for you to give them the right of away, and when you don't, they will begrudgingly let you pass. Unless they got there first.
This leaves two more options. You can run in a small park and just do 40 circles around patches of dying grass and patches of dirt and sand, as people drink mate, 50-year old women lay in the sun in thongs, moms take their kids to the merry-go-round, dogs urinate beside you, a man tries to sell you icre-cream bon-bons, teenagers make out on benches, and then there's you, sweating your ass off as colectivos surround you, threatening to cut you off even though your feet haven't even touched the street before they fill your lungs with the highest quality carbon monoxide.
The final option, at least for us, was running in a large circle further away from belching buses, ninja taxis, psychopath Volkswagon drivers, dog shit, construction war zones + moving sidewalks. Of course, if you have wheels, or you live near the reserva ecológica or costanera in puerto madero, in that case, all bets are off because you have other options. For for us, we had one final option available, and dammit, we took it. So, to get our run on, we walk for a really long time--in our case a 45-minute walk each way--to La Plaza Italia and run around la Plaza Hollanda. It's not great, but it's definitely the best option we've got it and we're grateful to have just that.
In Chicago, LB + I ran a little more than 100 miles a month. I wouldn't say we're hardcore, but maybe just a little. Well in Buenos Aires, our hearts were broken when we realized how perilous--not to mention unhealthy--running in the city was. But after almost 6 months, we finally broke down. We missed running so much, the way it felt after a good run, the way we could eat almost anything we damn well pleased, we missed how good our sleep was, and the stretching and the meditation we did afterwards, and above all, just the general feeling of healthiness we could take for granted back then. And we wanted it back. Then we started running at Plaza Italia. . .
And it's fine. Well, I should say, it's good enough. If you run early in the morning, they close parts of the park so there's almost no traffic and the air feels almost clean. Not to mention it's cooler and there are less people, incentives in their own right. Beyond that, the show changes depending on when you run. When LB + I run anywhere between 7 in the morning and 9, the paths are sparsely populated, the sun is faint, shade seems abundant. By 10 in the morning, like today, you see a whole different side of Buenos Aires: groups of overweight, half-naked 50-something men striking poses on park benches, a woman figure skating on roller blades, short, awkward gay guys that try to smile at you, macho men who pass every runner because last week they just decided to bring their blood pressure down, only to stop after 400 meters because they don't know how to pace themselves yet, professional marathon runners that zip through patches of human bodies, old women in tight shorts that ride up their asses, dressed in baby bonnets and sunglasses, the flaccid skin on their thighs, literally pouring over the edges of their shorts, then there's random hot women running like little pixies in tank tops, pony-tails, and baseball hats, and army wives (in an ARMY t-shirt, no less), pushing their high-tech baby strollers with amazing dexterity, men dressed up in a button-down shirt and drenched in cologne, strolling with his mistress, a woman running with her dog, a trio, all dressed in matching black spandex shorts and t-shirts, a group of five women, blocking the entire walkway as they chat, infecting the air with their sh's (ah, sheismo), in front of them, a small legion of old people that still know how to shake their ass, move their legs, and make their heart pump furiously. It is everything this city is and everything you never want when you run, all compacted into a parade, an exercise of redemption, and a fashion show. And even when it's ridiculous, it's still amazing.