Let Me Run Free
I closed the apartment building door behind me as the blackened soles of my running shoes met the unforgivingly hard tile sidewalk. A local nearly shouldered me back into the door as he speed walked by, head down, transfixed on his cell phone.
I tuck my keys into my running belt and start to jog. I dodge a puddle of dog urine, slide like Flat Stanley past an elderly couple occupying most of the sidewalk, then slip between dumpsters to run on the street. I nearly get run over by oncoming traffic so I duck between parked mopeds, dart over a pile of dog crap, and return to the sidewalk.
Every one hundred meters the block ends and I need to wait for a light change, interrupting my run, or attempt to cross the street while drivers lick their lips and rev their motors at a chance to hit the moronic runner who shouldn’t be crossing. Exhaust and cigarette smoke cloud my nostrils while noises of honking and construction drown my thoughts.
This is the longest I’ve ever spent cooped in the concrete clutches of a city.
I feel boxed in. Claustrophobic. Like a rat running through a maze who knows it can’t escape.
I’ve only been in Buenos Aires for a month and while the cheap steak, blooming coffee culture, and sprawling French architecture have quickly made it one of my favorite cities in the world, I cannot live here for the long term. I could provide an extensive list of reasons why city life is not for me, but the jackhammering outside my window right now is making it hard to think.
While living at my cottage last summer, which happens to be my home when I’m in Canada, I ran nearly every morning.
The sun rose over dewey farmer’s fields. Stoic cows blinked their stone black eyes at me as I glided by, almost saying “g’morning, how do you do?” I smiled back, returning the sentiment. My eyes soaked in the sunlight across the expansive blue and green horizon.
Neuroscientist Andrew Huberman told me horizons are calming. I agree.
Wild turkeys picked at the earth. I even saw deer and always kept an eye out for black bears as rumors of sightings floated from cottage to cottage. No cars. No people. No stoplights. After my run, I jumped in the lake and waved to the family of loons fishing for breakfast.
Running is my meditation, my prayer.
It grounds and centers me. Enables me to be the best version of myself. But like a monk meditating on the metro, running on city streets feels out of place. The city unnerves and rattles me. It disturbs my running practice and degrades the quality of my headspace.
Running is my measuring stick to gauge whether I’m in the right place.
By going for a run, I not only get a sense of whether I’ll be able to enjoy my running practice — an important piece of my life — but I gather information about the place I’m in that informs whether I’ll be content living there.
What I’ve learned from running in the city is that the quality of my runs are subpar and the rest of my days feel claustrophobic, noisy, and stress-inducing whereas running and living in nature feels restorative and energizing.
The need to be among trees feels as elemental to my being as carbon. My body refuses to have it any other way. I must run free. Into an expansive blue horizon, enveloped in a sea of green, not a skyscraper in sight.
After spending October in Buenos Aires, I’m exploring seven notable Argentinian destinations, including Patagonia and the End of the World City which I eagerly await, before heading back to snowy Toronto in early December.
What makes your home feel like home? Where can you live and run freely?
Practice in Public: To improve my verbal storytelling (there is much work to be done), I recorded an audio version of this essay that you can listen to here: