I like to run the city I travel. This summer is the first in three years that I’m able to start my mornings with a long outdoor run. Here, I’m doing out-and-back runs with branches off to see neighborhoods or parks.
I begin at the edge of Charles Park and run downhill to the Vltava River. I follow the river past the Charles Bridge and take a slope down to a cobbled dock. I run early enough to see the orange and blue suited sanitation workers sweeping up last night’s party near the bridge, but the dock collects a few empty wine bottles too. Before starting their sweep of the dock, a man and woman recline in an old Volvo, smoking. Their two little dogs are nearby, sniffing along the wall.
I am not on the dock long. The riverboats are quiet. I see a couple on a bench; he woofs at me and she doubles over in laughter. A few men are at the edge of the dock, fishing and talking, not bothering to glance up at passersby. There are some other runners out, but mostly bikers whooshing by on my left and dog-walkers on my right.
I find a trail. Crushed rock cutting through a wide field of tall grass and short trees. Other paths break from the main, weaving their way toward a busier street of office and apartment buildings. Homeless sleep in the field at night and we nod at each other in the morning – an old man carrying a back and rolled mat steps out from the weeds and I am one of many striding by in the day, seeing a tree as a tree rather than as a roof.
The trail is short. I pretend I’m in the middle of nowhere because that is where I’d like to run one day. The crushed rock is a break for my legs. The rest of the my run through Prague is on tiny square paving stones, cobbles or asphalt; all of it uneven, sloping or crowned. The trail is a flat, forgiving surface. I hold my gait but there is less work to my running: no curb to hop or stairs to climb. It is perfect, boring trail.
I run back the way I came. Commuters are on their way to early shifts. Trams are fuller. There are more cars at the intersections. I learn which blocks are busy and skirt them. When I reach my landmark, I walk, sweaty, ready for the day.