The Everyman: Know Your Running Route

Narrow roads like this one, with no sidewalk and a small shoulder, can be dangerous to run on. Photo: Jason Devaney |

Exploring while on a run can be fun, but make sure you’re smart about it.

As we hugged the tall, ancient stone wall lining the narrow Roman road, I mostly communicated with my wife via hand signals. It was the most efficient method, given that there were cars zipping past at speeds only seen on the European side of the Atlantic.

I reached back with my right hand and swept it in a left-hand motion, as if to say, “Get over to the left!” When a truck was about to whiz past and use most of the lane and the minuscule shoulder we were running on, I reached back again and made another hand motion that meant “Stop!”

After the truck rumbled by, I swept my hand forward as we continued our run on this crazy, ridiculous stretch of road that we had no business running on.

Our brush with death happened during our Monday morning run this week in the Italian capital. We had planned to do about 4 miles, which would take us up the Tiber River and around St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City before heading down some side streets.

We brought turn-by-turn directions and I had my iPhone for its GPS feature. The latter came in handy as we plotted our trek home.

“See this road? We need to get there,” I told my wife. “So we take this left, then a right onto Via Somethingorother and then that main road brings us back.”

It seemed so simple.

But then we reached “that main road” and it was not so simple anymore.

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Startled by the lack of a sidewalk and a real shoulder, we kept prodding along, dodging cars, motorbikes and trucks.

Eventually, of course, we made it back and rewarded ourselves with our daily dose of a cappuccino and a cornetto. It was probably the best breakfast I’ve ever had.

The lesson here is pretty simple: Always know where you are when you’re out for a run. Try to have a planned route and stick to it as best you can. Tell a friend or family member where you’re going, or run with a buddy.

And always bring a cell phone. If you’re in trouble, it’s easy to contact someone. Its GPS capability tells you where you are.

As for running on busy roads with no sidewalk or shoulder, I’d advise against that one. We didn’t have much of a choice the other day so we dealt with it as best we could: By staying visible to the oncoming cars and yielding to them when space was at a minimum.

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As small as most of the cars are here in Italy, I would not win a fight with one. Neither would you. Always respect traffic and be aware of your surroundings.

If there is a sidewalk, use it! It can be tempting to run on the smoother road surface instead of a bumpy and cracked sidewalk, but it’s better to stay safe and not take unnecessary risks.

Exploring while on a run can be fun, but just be smart about it.

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