I tried my best to go for a run frequently in Russia, and I am a little disappointed with how infrequent it actually turned out to be, but the times I was able to were extremely memorable. In Moscow, all my runs were along the Moscow river, and I usually would run northeast toward Gorki Park. I would run at different times depending on how my schedule turned out, but the bank was either devoid of any people or packed with people.
A couple of my runs were rather early in the morning, starting before 7:30, and they were definitely my favorite because they were stress-free. The sun wouldn’t be too strong, I would see very few people along the path, ans it was never too hot. I didn’t really have to pay attention to anything, and I could just run with my music and a clear mind. When the weather was bad, the path was quite empty as well.
A rainy day with no one on the path
Running at any other time of the day was usually pretty terrible, especially on weekdays. Bikers would speed from both directions completely ignoring the bike paths clearly marked on the road and would often just graze by me, despite me being nowhere near where they should be biking. Rollerbladers would stretch out across the entire bike path to gain maximum speed. Squads of people riding scooters would take up half of the road. This, combined with the constant construction that seemed to be going on along the entire path, was not what I wanted to be dealing with. I basically had to have complete 360 degree awareness of who was to the sides of me, who was coming up behind me, how I was going to weave through the mass of people coming towards me, and when to move off the road because a giant construction truck was plowing through the one side of the road it can drive on. I even tried going for a run on a weekday night, starting at 10:30 pm, and the crowds turned out to actually be just as bad as they were in the middle of the day. All these people have a right to be there, but the problem was I just wanted to run while listening to music, and that really wasn’t possible unless I wanted to wake up early every day, which I didn’t.
Picture of Sparrow Hills lookout crowd
I only went for one run while in Siberia, but it was one of the greatest runs and experiences of my life, because it was a complete contrast of everything I had to deal with in Moscow. While we were in Ust-Barguzin, I woke up early and couldn’t fall back asleep, so I thought I would just go for a run. I downed my cup of coffee, looked at the map on my phone and took off trying to get to the shore of Baikal. It took less than 5 minutes to find a path away from the town and into the forest, and instantly I knew that I was going to have to deal with absolutely no one, and it was amazing. Running on the sandy path was pretty annoying, but not having to worry about my surroundings made that insignificant (though I did look around somewhat frequently to make sure I wasn’t being chased by a stray dog or bear).
I simply kept running and knew that I would eventually hit the shore, and when I did, I basically stopped in my tracks. The view of the lake was enamoring, but I stopped mostly because I realized this was the first time in probably forever that I truly was alone. I was over a mile away from the town and I saw absolutely no one on the coast or any boats on the water. I honestly cannot think of a time when I actually was that far away from any other person, by myself and not with someone else. I continued to run along the coast up toward the mouth of the river and still saw no one, only the town in the not-too-far distance. Remnants of the ocean and boats were scattered along the shore, but overall I was pleasantly suprised by the lack of trash.
I wouldn’t say this run was a “life-changing experience”, but it certainly was something I didn’t know I needed. Being able to be completely alone gave me an hour to be completely free of any concern, whether that meant worrying about obligations or simply other people. After 8 weeks straight of class, excursions, and the constant feeling to have to be out and about in Moscow doing something, it was refreshing to be completely separated from any of that, albeit for a small amount of time. I now know that back at home I am going to drive away from my neighborhood and go to somewhere more natural when running to, so that I can try to replicate this sense of removal to some degree.