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?