Anjuna, Goa Tales #23–9 Tips for Running in Goa

I love running.  I do.  It clears my head.  It makes me feel great.  It’s my yoga, my zen time, my reset hour.  It even comes with perks such as allowing me to eat dessert guilt free when I feel like it.  All in all, me and running, we’re BFF’s.

One of the first things I consider when I travel is whether or not to take my beloved Asics.  No, I’m not getting paid to say I like their shoes, but I’ve been wearing them for almost a decade and I swear by them.  I’ve been a runner for the past 17 years and I’ve gone through my fair share of brands and styles to come to this point.  Runners out there, I know you know what I mean.  Once you find a shoe, it’s like finding a solemate that you’ve waited for all your life.  Am I right, or am I right?!

Okay, so when I came to Goa with my husband (aka Magic Man) one of the first questions I asked him was “Can I go running?”  He of course told me it was no problem but I still wasn’t sure that he actually knew the logistics of running in India since the thought of running for pleasure was the weirdest notion he could ever dream up.

I Googled the hell out of running in India, running in Goa, running groups, and could barely find any worthwhile information.  I then found another blogger who lives in Goa and sent her an e-mail asking about tips for running in the area.  Her response was basically that no one runs in Goa.  Hmm.  Great.  That was not the response I was looking for.

So, my fellow runners in the world out there. . .

After countless mishaps, and plenty of miles, I have put together a list of tips for those of you that don’t want to leave your BFF behind when traveling in Goa.  I’m sure this list could apply to other areas in India, too, but since my expertise is in Goa, this is what I know. . .

Tips for Running In Goa

1. Plan a route ahead of time

Goa is a bit like a windy maze with small streets that don’t always go somewhere.  It is definitely a good idea to rent a scooter or a cycle and ride around to check out the surroundings so you can properly plan a good route.  In my experience, it is much better to stick to larger roads.  Most people have dogs and dealing with them gets a bit trickier on the smaller roads.  It is also better to do laps on a small route than risk going on small streets that could give you problems.

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2. Be patient

Running in India isn’t like running anywhere else.  You might have to stop for dogs.  You might have to stop for cows.  You might even have to stop for goats.  It’s a wild world out there and not many people run for pleasure in India, so you will get some funny reflections or obstacles on your way.

3. Wear appropriate clothing

Yes, this is Goa and it is known for being very free, but let’s get real.  This is still India. Cover yourself up.  I’m not saying put on layers and sweat to death, but for the ladies, put a shirt on top of your sports bra and wear shorts that cover your ass.  Dating is still a non-existent thing in this culture and that means there’s a lot of horny people walking around, ya know.  So, maybe running with your lady bits bouncing around like juicy mangoes isn’t the best way to have a good workout.  It is not respectful to the culture or to yourself.

4. Drink a lot of Water

It is tropical jungle in Goa and it is very hot.  Make sure to drink plenty of water, and if you can, carry some with you.  It took me a long time to get used to running in such extreme heat.  Bottled water is offered at most little shops, too, so you can pick some up on your way for 20 rupees.

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5. Early morning is better than evening

After trying all different times of the day over the last couple years, going for your run in the morning is the best.  I don’t really like to wake up so early but in Goa it’s either that or give up running.  I can’t let my BFF down.  Running in the morning means you beat the heat, you beat the traffic.  There’s also less animals on the roads and less dust.  If you’re tired later in the day from getting up so early to do your beloved run, then you’re in luck, because it is mandatory to have an afternoon siesta around here.

6. Do not be afraid of Dogs

This is a make it or break it rule.  If you’re afraid of dogs, give up now.  You won’t survive running in India.  I have run enough miles and kilometers to understand the dog politics around here.  Most dogs are not like how Western people have pets.  They are used for alarm/security systems and they have a fierce attitude.  They will always, always, bark as you go past their turf.  Some of them will chase you, also.  But, for the most part, they’re just doing their job rather than truly wanting to eat you alive.  However, often times, there are groups of dogs and when there’s numbers they can get a little bossy.  Getting to know the dogs on your running route is important.  They also love biscuits!  Once they are familiar with you, it’s not an issue.  I personally love dogs and try to find out as many names as possible.  Over the years, I’ve made so many good dog friends on my runs (like this girl, Ginger, below), but I had the most problems when I didn’t do this. . .which is tip #7.

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7. Carry a Stick

A stick?  Yeah, that’s what I said.  I know it looks ridiculous to go running with a stick in your hand, but that little stick is the magic wand that will save you from a pack of aggressive dogs, and possibly, having to get FIVE rabies injections.  I made a mistake running several times without a stick and once got surrounded by a whole pack of dogs that ended with one of them nipping my ankle.  Yes, I had to get the rabies vaccination, and yes, it totally sucks.  Good news is, it’s quite cheap in India and available everywhere, so you don’t have to worry.  However, had I been holding my glorious and all powerful stick in one hand, I would’ve never had to get those dang shots.  Lesson learned.  I never leave my house without my stick.  Never ever.  No dog wants to come near you when you have a stick in your hand.  Period.  (Btw, don’t bother getting a rabies vaccination pre-traveling because you’ll still have to get one if you ever get bit anyway).

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8.  Ditch the music

Forget about your Ipod or whatever device you use to listen to music with.  In India, it’s much better and safer to listen to the sounds around you. . .whether it’s an unfamiliar dog coming to bark at you, traffic coming from behind, or a coconut falling from above. . .just take a break from technology and enjoy what Mother India has to offer.  I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.

9. Have FUN

I originally got a bit stressed at the thought of tackling the pavement in Goa, but now, my morning run is so very special.  I get to meet the locals, make new friends with the dogs, and enjoy the lush surroundings.  It’s an adventure every single day I hit the road and I can’t wait to do it all over again the next day.

Happy running, family!

If you’d like to read more about my running experiences in Goa, check out my posts The Stop and Go  and The Canine Revolution.

Do you have experiences with running in different countries?  What are some things you’ve learned?

 

Anjuna, Goa Tales #1- Running in the Hood

It took me a couple weeks to work up the courage for a run in the neighborhood.  I’m not usually a person to let any kind of weather or terrain to get in between me and my passion for a good, long, hearty run, but I quickly realized the stakes were much more complicated in this little tropical paradise than what I usually encountered.

First, there’s the sun.  The glorious, hot, garish sun.  Though it is luxurious to live in a place so warm and rich with Vitamin D, the intensity by the magnificent Arabian Sea is very, very hot.  I mean, not hot like the Australian sun…..which is so dry it makes you feel like everything is cracking.  The hot here is an intensely humid heat.  It’s more like suffocating. . .in the sense that the air is so thick with moisture.  The plus point:  it’s super good for your skin and your hair, kind of like a daily sauna.  However, that means a run early in the morning or early in the evening were my only options, unless a heat stroke was my main goal.  Locals say that November and December get “cooler” so I’ll be curious to see what that means.

Then, there’s the dogs.  Dogs?  Yes.  There’s a lot of dogs here.  A lot.  Most of them are not domesticated, per se, and most likely don’t have “manners” like dogs in other countries.  Oh yeah, and for the most part, they never see anyone running.  And, well, I’d put my money on that most of them don’t have their shots.  Okay.  So now, that means there’s a gauntlet of wild, rabid dogs out there.  No problem.

There’s also tons of cows.  Everywhere.  While they move slow, and pose little threat, I’ve never really hung out with many cows.  I don’t know what they think of runners.  They don’t seem to notice anything else on the road–cars weave around them like they are invisible–but still, they are an unknown variable to be considered.

Lastly, the cars, mopeds, people walking, and a few goats.  Motor vehicles are a bit suspicious because most drivers get really close to everything around here.  The roads are small and drivers’ slide by things with only an inch of space sometimes. . .traffic depending, of course. The people walking and the goats get a ‘pass.’  At least there’s something ‘safe’ out there.

So one morning, I went for my first run at 9:30am.  There’s a soccer field about 3/4 of a mile from my house which seemed like a good option.  I put on my shoes with glee and confidence, made sure to wear my sun hat just in case, and set my gps watch.

A couple minutes down my road, I got accosted by some random dogs.  Since I felt rather prepared and confident for this scenario, I decided to use my lifelong animal skills to let them know who was boss. . .so I stopped and screamed in a loud, demonic voice expecting them to shiver.   HEY!  Nothing happened.  Then I yelled a second time.  HEY!  Finally, they did stop barking and left me alone, but they weren’t exactly scared like I thought they would be.

I managed to get to the soccer field in one piece.  But, lorrrrrrrd have mercy, the sun was already way too hot.  Note to self: I must leave earlier.  Anyway, I decided that since I actually made it to the soccer field, I’d at least get some laps in.

On my way back, almost collapsing from the heat stroke I tried so hard to avoid, I passed a cow.  It was a cute cow eating grass outside a pretty pink gate.  I didn’t think twice about my pace and just whizzed by. . .but, in a split second, the cute cow in my vanishing peripheral quickly became a RUNNING cow behind me.  AHHHHHH!  I need to run, I thought to myself, but then remembered I was already running. . .So I picked up the pace and left the cow in the dust.  Whew!

A few minutes later, I never felt so happy to see the Chill-Inn.  I survived and I rewarded myself with an entire litre of water.  Go me!

Amit’s mom, Jean, was outside on the terrace when I returned.  She asked me how my run was and if any dogs had chased me.  I told her, to my surprise, that the only animal that actually chased me was a freakin’ cow!  “A cow?” she said.   “I know, right?!”  Then we both laughed.  “Do know what to do when a dog chases you?” Jean said.

I thought long and hard about this.  The way she asked me seemed like she knew something that I didn’t, so I said “tell me.”

“Bend down to the ground and act like you’re picking up a stick,” Jean crouched down and demonstrated her words.

“Any kind of stick?” I said.

“No, just pretend you’re picking up a stick,” Jean said.

“Oh. . . .really?” I was dumbfounded.

“Yes.  All dogs are beaten with sticks, so they will run away real fast if they see you do that,” Jean said with a slight bobble.

I stashed her words in the forefront of my mind and headed to the shower.  A few days later, I put on my shoes and hit the road for my second attempt.  But this time, I went at 5:30 pm to try out the early evening obstacles.  While my first run only had a couple dogs in my way, this time of day seemed to be popular with everything.  Traffic, people, cows, and so many dogs–multiple gangs of dogs.

The first group of terrorizing canines approached me and started to chase.  Jean’s words lit up in the lighthouse of my mind.  Maniacally, I stopped running, bent down, and grabbed a really huge, invisible stick.  The pack of wannabe wolves vanished immediately.  Gone.  Poof.  It was like magic!  Hahaha, I laughed to myself, and kept running. A few minutes later, another pack of dogs was on the chase.  I grabbed the same stick, and Poof!  It was incredible!  It was amazing! The power of the invisible stick was so profoundly awesome, I felt like I just learned the secrets to the universe and I could do anything.  Mwah ha ha ha!

This second run was going swell.  I hit the main road to the soccer field and was about to pass a cow.  It started running but at least this time I was paying attention.  So I stopped, again, and walked slowly–as if not to bother the shanti bovine–and it started to charge me.  For a couple minutes, I played sideways ‘chicken’ with a cow on the opposite side of the road.  I didn’t think it was going to allow me to pass, but by some kind of mental power, I made it far away from the big beast.

To my distaste, the soccer field was filled with kids, and dogs, and guess what?  Cows!  It must’ve been prime time for their delicious grass dinner and the worst time for my run.  Ugh.  Note to self: never again at this time.  I didn’t even bother with one lap and headed back in the direction of the Chill-Inn.  Haylo McFly:1 The universe:1.

Two days later, I went out for my third run.  This time, I left at 7:30am AND with a camel pack of water strapped to my back.  To my surprise, not many dogs challenged the size of my invisible stick, and most of them were still sleeping as I passed through different territories.  There were no cows in sight, although I did hear a random ‘moo’ in the distance every so often, but so far, this time of day seemed to be perfect.  The sun was just right, too.

I got to my precious soccer field and enjoyed the interrupted terrain.

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A little slice of obstacle free heaven, isn’t it?  Except for the occasional child cutting through on a mission, I didn’t have to dodge anything.

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On my last lap, a guy riding a bike selling bread yelled in my direction, “Good for health!  Good for health!”  I smiled and bobbled my head.  It is, indeed.  At 8:30am, I headed back to the guesthouse and heard a rooster crowing.  Wait a second!  A rooster is like an alarm clock for the day.  How could this be?   I guess that proves EVERYONE sleeps in around this funny village–cows, dogs, roosters, and people, too.