I first fell into a steady relationship with running when I started college three years ago. I had taken up running very casually in high school when I befriended a German foreign exchange student who was concerned about America’s stark consumption of sugars. We engaged in combat with the sugars of our nightmares every day after school and then I went home and ate cookies. Now I run for my university’s college team and am hoping to do my first marathon within the next year. I still go home and eat cookies.
Anyone who runs has a very unique relationship with running. Running is very much like having a human companion because it occupies your mind quite a lot, but without the added benefits of sometimes making you dinner or bringing home a pizza. Instead you’re more ravishingly hungry. All of the time. hence the cookies. If you have a regular routine of running almost every day, missing a day because of something unexpected is like waking up and not drinking that expected cup of coffee.
I came to Chile accepting that I might not be able to run here as I do at my home. I told myself that it was just fine to take a break, however this mental preparation was not necessary. Here in Chile, I live impossibly close to the ocean, and I have the freedom to take an ocean-side run whenever I want to. The experience differs from my running in the States, where I grew accustomed to running on city bike trails and when at home with my parents, country back roads.
I didn’t know whether or not running was a popular activity here in Chile. From my observations, it’s not a strange hobby, but it is not nearly as common as it is in the United States. Below are some demographics about the average Chilean runner that I learned in a Chilean culture class.
- Of the Chileans that claim to habitually run, 47% belong to the upper class (known as ABC1 here).
- 3 out of every 10 runners are women.
- 70% of runners here are 21-40 years old while 1 out of 15 are between the age of 16-20. (I’ve noticed this a lot.)
During the summer season here, running is a bit like a game of frogger until you clear the populous beach areas. From any point in the city it is easy enough to find the ocean and run along side of it, where you’ll find many other athletes. However, summer also means loads of stroller-pushing, ice cream-eating beach-goers who like to lazily take up the entire side walk. There’s also solid stretches of vendors selling empanadas, fruit juice, alpaca socks, key chains, jewelry, precious rocks, and homemade sweets.
It makes for fantastic people watching and entertainment, but can also slow you down a bit while running. Here I am finding that it is good to be slowed though. Things should be done and performed for the feeling you get during and after, not solely to “get it done” as we tend to say in North America. Now that the season is changing to fall, the crowds are beginning to ease up as well.
My runs tend to be about an hour long and I run from central Vina del Mar to the Renaca area along the coast. If you like to run longer, there’s opportunity to keep on going and the longer you run, the better the view gets. This is my opinion because I prefer more nature and less urban running environments. I’ve also been doing a lot of trekking which is excellent on the legs too. I recently returned from a 6 day trek in the Torres del Paine National Park.
But if you enjoy outdoor exercise activities without the expense of a plane ticket, the area by Vina del Mar’s Playa Deportes (Sport Beach) has a lot of exercise equipment for the public. Think children’s playground design, but for adults. They also offer free zumba on the beach regularly during the summer, and weekends in the fall, and have beach volleyball as well. My university offers many free opportunities to join in
I have yet to tackle Valparaiso’s hillsides for any intense training, but it is definitely doable for any feeling up to the challenge.