Saturday, October 10, 2015

Running in Prague and Budapest



A recent trip to two of the most beautiful cities in the world included a number of nice short runs and one 21km run. Each city has its own special flavor when it comes to running so let me explain a typical run in both cities.

Prague


Joanne and I stayed in the Mala Strana neighborhood just steps from the Charles Bridge. Runs in this area where very nice but during the day and evenings the number of tourists in the area made running extremely difficult, so most of the runs occurred in the early morning. Even then, the pedestrian bridge, the Charles Bridge, had people walking across it so it wasn’t always easy to put the head down and do miles.

The first run was a short 5km along major arteries where getting lost was unlikely.




On a second run the run included a small area of the Old Town, where I passed the Astronomical Clock at the Old City Hall and Wenceslas Square, two of the most popular sites for visitors and residents alike.
As the map shows, the run turned into a bit of a “how the heck do I get back’ run, I did the same thing in Venice a few years ago. This was not a big deal and while I was running it was a bit funny.



One of the biggest difficulties of running in Prague was the road surface. All the runs occurred on cobble stone which I learned are not the easiest road surface to run on. Fortunately the sidewalks where covered by a smaller stone surface and for the most part this was similar to cement or asphalt sidewalks.  


The best run in Prague was an afternoon run up to the Prague castle. Because the route I took would have taken me directly onto the castle square I took a small detour and ran through the beautiful area of the old mote that ran along the great walls of the castle. The one funny part of the route was that along with the castle on my left there was an active military base to my right and a number of soldiers who act as guards along the perimeter stand near the path I took to keep watch of the military grounds.

The run back down from the castle to the hotel was very fast and I stuck to the road way instead of even trying to run on the sidewalk. Fortunately the roads where not too packed with traffic so the run was relatively easy…plus the police seemed to ignore me which was different to what happens at home where running on the roadway is often frowned upon by police.

Budapest

Before I speak about the running in Budapest I want to describe the train ride from Prague, through Slovakia and onto Hungary and Budapest.

We left early for what was to be a 6 hour train ride but turned out to be closer to 8. In part this was due to the recent arrival by a mix of North African migrants seeking a better life in Europe and the growing number of refugees from Syria and Iraq escaping with little personal belongings with the hope of finding somewhere safe to live. Hungary had become ground zero with this mixed group arriving in the thousands causing the Hungarians to place strict border controls to limit the arrival of people not seen since the period when Hungary was under communist control. As our train arrived in Keleti Station in Budapest, other than a more obvious police and military presence nothing looked different. It was only as Joanne and I left the platform that we could see the extent to the arrival of all these people. They lived in every corner of the station waiting for their chance to move along to Austria, Germany or somewhere where they could begin a new life. You have to consider how very lucky you are when for a two week trip you have more on your back than people fighting for a life have in their possession.


One of the weird things about running in Budapest was running along the Danube River. Unlike Prague with the cobble stone roads, Budapest is a modern city with pavement and cement sidewalks.

My best run occurred on a day when Joanne decided she would spend a few hours at the hotel spa enjoying a message and pedicure. For my fun I would go for a nice little 21km run.


The goal was to run up to both the Budavari Palota or Buda Castle Hill as well as Gellert Hill which shadowed our hotel. In addition on the run I took a small side route to run the beautiful 5km running track that wraps around Margit sziget or Marguerite Island. Along with this wonderful track the island hosts a small petting zoo, track and field training center and stadium and the best diving and swimming complex in Budapest.

The run started out in nice enough weather but soon cooled down with a drizzle but even that could not take the smile off my face. Budapest is an absolutely beautiful city to run in.

A Final Thought

I have been thinking about both cities since returning and know I will be back at some point. The Budapest Marathon has become a bucket list race while the opportunity to do some long runs in Prague will also be something I do in the near future.

If I learnt anything about this trip, it is that as a runner you can gain a very special and unique perspective on the places you visit by bringing along your running shoes and in my case that was the Skechers GORun 4's.

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