The Everyman: The Cobbled Runner

These cobbles have led to some good workouts. Photo: Jason Devaney |

Running on cobblestones has taught Jason Devaney the importance of varying your running surfaces.

As I stared down the narrow street lined with short buildings that house apartments, restaurants and cafes, one phrase came to mind: Good thing we left our bikes at home.

The cobblestones on the side streets of Rome are nasty. They would eat my skinny, 23mm road bike tires in an instant. I would need wider tires and probably a mountain bike with shocks to make riding over these pavé comfortable.

That meant my wife and I were left with one option: Running. And that was fine with us.

Since arriving in Rome just over a week ago, we’ve tried to run our way around the city to explore the sights. We usually head out with our Garmins and plan to put in three miles, but lately—such as Tuesday morning—three miles of running turns out to be three miles of running, walking and taking photos as we stop every 50 feet to look at another pile of ruins, a 12th century church or a beautiful marble building.

And regardless of the intensity of the workout, we always reward ourselves afterward with a cappuccino and a cornetto, the Italian version of a croissant. Something tells me the calories eaten vs. spent is well north of zero. Good thing we don’t have a scale in our apartment here.

RELATED: The Importance Of Varying Your Running Surfaces

Since our first meeting, I’ve become good friends with the cobbles. Running over them is a bumpy experience and includes dips, big gaps filled with discarded wine corks, indentations where the tires of tiny European cars have traveled over them for decades and sections that are missing cobbles all together. It reminds me of trail running in that you have to keep your eyes focused on where your feet are landing—otherwise you could fall on your face and give yourself a cobblestone tattoo. There’s never an even cadence or running stride.

Tuesday’s run, which took us past the Altare della Patria, the Colosseum, Circus Maximus and Roman Forum, featured cobblestones, paved roads, gravel and stairs (again with the stairs!). In other words, lots of different surfaces.

That’s a good thing.

Too often, runners stay on one surface. Whether it’s pavement or trails, running on one type of terrain is the easy thing to do—but it’s not always the best thing to do for your body.

Varying your running surfaces not only keeps things interesting, but it helps maintain the muscles, ligaments and tendons in and around your feet. As careful as I have to be while going over cobblestones, the unpredictive nature of each footstrike helps my ankles get stronger.

RELATED: Is There One Best Running Surface?

Come race day, that’s a good thing.

It’s also a good idea to change up your shoes now and then and wear a different pair. Say, once a week. Unfortunately for me, fitting another pair of running shoes in an already overstuffed suitcase holding a summer’s worth of stuff wasn’t possible.

So be a bit more liberal with your training and change it up every week. Wear a different pair of running shoes. Head out for a trail run instead of hitting the pavement.

Your feet will thank you.

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