Running in Pune, India

Running in Pune, India

I’m currently in the enjoyable position of frequently travelling to India on business. While I spend 99% of my time in the office (or hotel), and therefore don’t get to see as much of India as I would like to, I do make every effort to get out and about as often as I can. And the best way to do this is almost always on foot.

Average daytime temperatures on my latest trip were close to 40 degrees Celsius (if not more in the concrete jungle). Thankfully it did cool down in the evenings which gave me the perfect opportunity to head out for a run the one day we made it back to the hotel before dark.

On my previous trip I had run towards the office, down the main road, knowing what lay ahead as we drove it every day. This proved to be rather boring as the life of the city is most certainly not located on the main road. So on my latest trip I instead took a quick look at Google Maps in the hotel, and then headed into the “suburbs”. It was literally chalk and cheese from my previous runs and I enjoyed it from the very first step.

Whilst there was just as much traffic on the main roads (I was running in peak hour traffic after-all) it felt distinctly different thanks to the ambience of the street-side shops and food stalls. The sidewalks were exceptionally busy, or non existent in places, so I was often forced to run on the road in amongst traffic. It was not as simple as running off to the side, and I was often forced to run between vehicles, or to dodge motorbikes heading in the wrong direction or even on the pavement.

Running with headphones is not advisable as you need to be ever vigilant of the hooters being sounded all around you. There is no such thing as running towards traffic in India, as vehicles approach from any and every direction.

My first stop was at a park called “Joggers Park” and I was immediately impressed. The park wasn’t large with 2 tracks (one dirt and one brick) running around the perimeter and measuring in at 320 meters on my Garmin. What impressed me was how alive the park was. There was a kiddies playground in good condition and flooded with kids. While for the adults there was an outdoor gym which was fully utilised and just as busy. There were also grassy areas where adults were playing with their kids, reading or meditating. And there was a central “boma” for shade during the heat of the day. But what impressed me the most were the number of people using the track, mostly walkers, of every age, male and female, wearing sports kit or sarees.

Having done a few laps I headed off in another random direction where I found the Udaan Biodiversity Park, which was sponsored by Zensar. It was roughly the same size as the jogger park and was equally as impressive. Again there was a path around the outside, although this time I stopped my watch and walked the path, reading the signs and interacting with the plants. It was much like a small botanical gardens with signs giving information on the local plants and landscape. You were encouraged to touch, taste and smell the plants, and it was an incredibly interesting 10 minutes (I rushed around in order to get back onto my run before I cooled down).

Back on the vibrant streets I was amazed to see the number of small shops and food stalls. They varied from the expected curry shops to the most quaint and first world cupcake shops and milkshake bars. There were also a surprisingly large number of coffee shops. And restaurants ranged from what appeared to be 5 star establishments to roadside carts selling local cuisine. Everything was packed despite being midweek.

Then there were the roadside vendors selling everything from fruit to garlands. As for the smells, it’s probably best you read my blog on India! A Sensory Extravaganza!

As darkness fell I arrived back at my hotel hoping I’d get another opportunity to take to the streets and discover more of urban India.

A lady marking garlands on the streets of Pune, India
A lady marking garlands on the streets of Pune, India