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Running in bigger cities can be interesting for those of us used to more space – like in Iowa or other more open areas. I don’t necessarily mind running with a lot of other people around me, but big-city traffic lights can really cut into my actual running and also split time. (Yea, I’m competitive.)
On a February 2016 trip to New York City, I was staying relatively close to Central Park and decided to go on a run there. It was a few blocks from the hotel so I started my run from the hotel. Of course – as it is New York City – there are many intersections and stop lights. That can really cramp the running and while I didn’t always hit this perfectly, here’s how I now try to play the “traffic light game” while running.
I run at my regular speed until I see a traffic light about to switch to “no walking.” I either start sprinting (if I’m close enough) or I start walking (if I think I can’t make it with a sprint). It’s like the two extremes of being on a run are my options here, but I try to avoid to just stand. It’s so much harder to get started again once you are standing. “Running in place” is also standing. Ha.
I do something similar when I approach a traffic light that is currently showing “do not walk.” I glance over at the crossing road’s lights to see how much time before that light turns to “do not walk.” Many lights now give me a countdown, so I know exactly. I try to time it just right and usually start walking so I can avoid the “standing at the light” break. I adjust the speed of the walk (or jog) based on on where all those moving pieces are.
This technique became most clear to me when I was running in New York City. Of course, once I got to Central Park it was all a bit of a moot point anyway. Once there I didn’t have to stop at all and just ran around the park. Great weather, too, for a late February run.
Interestingly, figuring this out also came back to determining my goals. My goal was to not stop. Once I knew my goal it was fairly easy to figure out what to do next. Since I couldn’t just run all these red lights, that was out. I quickly evaluated and tried other solutions and came up with this way of running in big cities. Of course, another option could be to take the subway or an Uber to a park or trail and not deal with lights while running at all.
Recommended reading: Running a ways by mistake