I pontificate on trail trends, self-define as a trail runner, but for quite a while now have spend nearly all my time in mega urban environments. So with the occasional exception of a holiday or work trip run all of my pedestrian exploits are city runs. figuring out what kind of city running I like has illuminated my perspective on cities (did I really have one before?), and as civilization and the wilderness are intimately intertwined concepts, on wilderness too. My observations of urban running trends are still very much those of a trailrunner for whom the environment holds pole position. I’m not interested in phenomena that may be urban, like the color runs, but not ‘about’ the city. So what triggered this post? Racing the tube has reached Shanghai. It took a couple of months but it shows how fast my new home is catching up.
Unfortunately I cannot show the video that was posted on the Chinese equivalent of youtube. The invention of the challenge of man versus subway is claimed by Frenchman Francois de Lataille, turned viral after it was done in London with a sprint and an endurance version mid-2014, and has now been repeated in plenty of especially European cities, but also Hongkong and Singapore.
In the meantime the London guys have added a race-the-boat challenge to the urban possibilities:
What I like about this approach to urban running is that it shows the coming of age of cities as environments to be explored, wildernesses with their own specific difficulties and dangers to reckon with, landscapes that offer the opportunity to dream up, design, and complete habitat-specific challenges. It’s less ‘marginal’ to the world of running than parkour/freerunning (some more thoughts on that here and here) which takes the city-as-an-environment-with-its-own-qualities to its limits. It doesn’t require a whole new set of motor skills. Just a new way of looking at one’s surroundings.
What this new way of looking is ultimately about is a shift in focus from the running to the environment. Rather than being the background to what really matters its features become possibilities to explore. And the features remain prominently present when they are being ‘used’, acknowledged for what they offer, compared to their peers, etc.
Obviously, urban running has always had some elements that were more about the city than the running as a sport. The prime example for me being the way many city marathons like New York and Berlin reclaim the street for pedestrians, especially some of those iconic thoroughfares and squares, for that one day in the year. But they were never foregrounded.
Only very recently was the city discovered as its own habitat with potential by a first mainstream actor: Salomon and their city trailing concept.
But it still seems nothing more than a bridge to the ‘real’ trails and the great outdoors. And that attitude doesn’t give the urban specifics their due. It’s about enjoying your running even when you have to do it in the city, and what you can do to have more fun running cities. It’s not really about what unique opportunities urban running offers. Not in the way racing the tube is. Which is not to say that it doesn’t matter. It makes a difference when trail promoters start acknowledging the reality that many runners are not able to do much running outside the city. It’s a start, a turning of the key in the door of perception, doesn’t throw it open yet, but a first crack is always hugely important.
But is it legit to include this in a post with the term trend in its heading? FKTing a round of city summits, racing city horses, finding the aesthetically , most beautiful line from A to B in a city, etc. Not a trend. Will it ever become one? No comments.