Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Running the Urban Jungle of Buenos Aires

You want to give your heart rate a nice jump to break a sweat and kill some stress or maybe you just have too much damn energy. Many prefer the gym, treadmill, or a nice run at the park. Yet, there are times when you're trapped in the center of the urban jungle and find yourself a bit too frugal to shell out extra cash for the gym membership. At times like these, you must face the sheer excitement of running the urban jungle.

And this is no normal jungle, Buenos Aires delivers some personal characteristics no other urban landscape provides in the same volume, dog crap

For anyone who has walked or ran this particular urban jungle, you may have noticed the massive amount of dog droppings on the sidewalks, don't blink or you might step in the landmines. This obstacle is the most known and feared in this urban landscape and calls for full attention when striding in your daily run. What is a run through this commotion and chaos like?

Strap on your shoes, prepare yourself to run through the jungle. You take your first step out to the streets and instantly smell the exhaust fumes being spit at you by the city buses-colectivos. Then the smell of pastries and empanadas take over from the nice lady across the street, at this point you know you better start jogging or you'll be derailed for a quick empanada stop. One block into it and the first obstacle comes, crossing Avenida 9 de Julio which happens to be the widest street in the world. You wait for that green light and do your best Forrest Gump impression to get across the 18 lanes in one light, first task accomplished. Now the fun begins, as you start the 11 block run down Ave. Mexico towards Puerto Madero. You take a deep breath then hold your breath for several seconds to avoid inhaling fumes as buses pass you by. It's sometimes like doing tantric breathing exercises while running, quite a difficult task. You hopscotch a nice dog dropping here, one there, you weave between the little old lady leaving the market and the kid innocently running along side of you. At this point the sidewalk is at full capacity you take the run into the cobblestone street and focus your steps one by one as to avoid twisting the ankle on any loose stones.
BEEP! A taxi goes whizzing by you from behind warning you to get back on the sidewalk as if this small one way street has no room for crazy runners. Back to the sidewalk to go for more spin moves, side steps and long strides/short strides to avoid adding dog crap to the soles of your 'jungle kicks'. You've broken a sweat now, breathing harder and harder only to hold the breath again as two more colectivos spit fumes in your face. You cross two more big intersections to arrive at Puerto Madero, ahhhhh. Observe the beautiful sight the port offers, for now, you're out of the chaos.

Take a deep breath, you've now arrived at a point of some fresh air and space to run a straight line along the river. The stretch along this beautiful river provides a literal escape from the jungle. You find yourself humming 'Break on Through to the Otherside' by the Doors. Now, the muscles are getting tired and the sweat beeds down your forehead and you're ready for the return home. Take three very deep breaths for you are about to enter the urban madhouse once again. Eleven more blocks of human weaving, jucking, jiving and dog crap hopscotching brings you back to the front door in sheer exhaustion. Congratulations! You've completed the urban jungle, a clearly spontaneous form of cardio exercise that somehow makes you keep coming back for more. Not to worry, the dogs will continue to plant more unexpected landmines for the next 'jungle run.'

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