Friday, May 14, 2010

Joggers run into hostile park rules

Joggers run into hostile park rules

Ever felt like running with the wind? you may have to head out of the city for that sort of freedom

Team DNA. Bangalore



Alan Sillitoe, who died last month, might have found fodder for another story, a sequel to Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, right here. Bangalore might have one of the most active runners' communities in India, but the city is anything but conducive to running. And joggers face many challenges — from being chased by street dogs, to dense and life-threatening traffic.
While most runners are used to these things, one veteran runner was upset to see a new impediment. KP Suresh, who works with The Marg Foundation, was about to train at the Nandanavana in BTM Layout when he noticed a large sign that said running was prohibited. "I've never seen anything like this before," he said. "If this kind of signage is allowed, it could be put up at other parks too. I'm okay with running on the road, but what about women and children? Where will they train?" he asked.
"There are some people who feel that runners are a nuisance; that running is a violent activity. There seems to be an aversion towards runners. Although I haven't been stopped by anybody, I've seen other runners being asked not to run in parks," Suresh said.
So where can the city's joggers go? Apart from the bigger Cubbon Park and Lalbagh, where can those who wish to jog head? "We've shifted to the outskirts of the city," says Arvind Bharathi, manager of the community Runners for Life, which organises runs. "It has indeed become difficult to organise runs within the city," he says.
"We would organise runs on Sunday mornings on the intermediate ring road at Koramangala and near Sankey Tank, but now that's ruled out. Traffic is heavy here even on Sunday mornings. From 2007 onwards, each time we've had to organise a run, we've had to move to the outskirts," Bharathi says, adding that the city is especially harsh on lone women runners. "They are constantly heckled, and feel uncomfortable running early in the morning," he says.
Veteran athletics coach VR Beedu, however, sees some sense in the restrictions: "It disturbs walkers," he says. "In big parks like Cubbon Park it is okay, but in the smaller parks where older citizens walk, it could prove a nuisance to have runners. I would not encourage my athletes to train in parks," he says.
At the Makkala Kootta Park in Chamarajpet, maintained by the BBMP, around 1,000 people of all ages can be seen walking each day. The park is cleaned twice a day, but visitors complain. Pets are not allowed inside the park; yet there is filth as dustbins are not used, and the park is littered. Shekhar S, a regular walker for about 20 years, says, "There has to be better maintenance. The park is dirty, and where is the space for people to jog?"
The Wipro Park in Koramangla 1st Block gets around 1,500 walkers every day. There are occasions when joggers are told to stop running here; other Koramangala parks too discourage joggers. In a park in the fourth block of Koramangala, maintained by the Swabhimana Initiative, the area residents' welfare association has a list of restrictions: No jogging, no walking on the lawns; walking allowed only clockwise; use only the fountain area for exercises, no pets allowed.

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