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Running Kathmandu

November 7, 2012

in Nepal

It’s been years since I’ve run in Kathmandu. The pollution became oppressive, and I’m usually resting up before and after treks. This trip, however, I felt inspired to bring my shoes…

The best time to run in Kathmandu is around 6am, give or take an hour. Early morning is when the pollution is lowest because there’s been no traffic pouring out fumes and kicking up street dust all night. Early morning is also imbued with a peace and slowness that are gone by 9am. At 6am, fewer people and vehicles are on the small side streets, so I have space to move. However, I have to hold my breath as I pass through the acrid plastic smoke of people burning their household garbage, a typical morning routine. By 9am, it’s crowded and hard to keep a pace while dodging vegetable sellers, bicyclists, cows, cars, old women, small children, door-to-door knife sharpeners and mattress makers, etc, etc.

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By 9am, the streets are too full to run.

It’s a testament to how much has changed that people no longer stare in disbelief as I pass, though I definitely still attract some attention. Thirteen years ago, people were shocked as much by my tight running pants as by a white woman running past. In my village, people would stop me to ask, “Where are you going in such a hurry, sister?”.

“Morning walk” for exercise is now commonplace in Kathmandu. People have wised up to healthier urban living, so they know what I’m up to, but it’s mostly young children and army men who run and sweat, not ladies. I’m a tall, white woman wearing a hot pink shirt. While most foreigners staying around Bouddhanath Stupa are quietly meditating in the morning, I’m out running and sweating on the streets–a bit of an oddity for sure.

I love being out early, passing kids at karate class and women coming from temple and monks chanting prayers. Early morning is filled with peaceful activity and a pink sky. Despite the air, it’s good to be running here. I feel strong and solid. Still and again, inspired.

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