Digital Champions Blog: Urban vs Suburban Running

By Charles Minor
Toronto August 17th, 2016

Remember the TV show ‘Green Acres?’ In the show, the two main characters have opposed lifestyle choices- one loved the city, while the other loved the countryside. Watching a re-run of this show made me think: what kind of environment do I like running in the best? The urban hustle-and-bustle or the more relaxed, quiet suburban style? Both have their pros and cons and I’m sure people have their preference, so let’s explore some of the features of both venues together!

I have to admit that running downtown is relatively new for me. As a “Scarberian” I grew up running in the suburbs and similarly, I have spent most of my adult life living and running in Aurora/Oak Ridges. My initiation into downtown running came a few years ago when I joined the RunTOBeer crew and Canada Running Series for a training run in the Toronto core. One of the first things I noticed while running downtown is the “start and stop” nature of running; you are a slave to the traffic lights downtown, and man are they everywhere and frequent! It takes some getting used to waiting at a stop light when you are used to running with little to no stopping in the ‘burbs. I can only imagine what a long run must be like downtown! During a Sunday long run in Aurora, you can go ages without coming near a traffic light and it is not uncommon to not see a car or another person for your 2 plus hour run! Suburban running tip: make sure to bring water, cell phones and money with you on long runs. There are no stores, bus stops or bank machines to hit along the way should you find yourself thirsty or tired!

Another thing that struck me while running downtown is the “Spartan Race” style! There are obstacles everywhere! Garbage cans, parking meters, humans or bicycles, man you gotta be aware of your surroundings or you could get seriously injured. Urban running tip: you have to have your wits about you in both environments but be prepared to dodge hazards downtown! In the burbs, the biggest obstacle is…well…nothing! While running on the sidewalk or the shoulder of a road, the only concern is the local traffic, and maybe the occasional bit of roadkill or the neighbour’s dog).

In both urban and suburban venues, safety is a number one concern for runners! Here are some tips for both types of running:

  • Be visible, wear lights and bright colours.
  • Make eye contact with cars when you enter an intersection, make sure they see you.
  • Bring a cell phone and carry ID.
  • Tell someone where you are running and when you plan to come back.
  • Avoid ear phones. I know most people love their music when running, but it doesn’t allow you to stay aware of your surroundings. If you must wear ear phones, use only one or keep the volume low.
  • Mind your manners. Obey road rules and be polite and courteous to drivers – it’s contagious!

I guess now that I think about it more, I don’t have a preference! I love running downtown as it is so exciting, full of energy and it prepares you for race day, especially if you are running the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon! My downtown runs are like a mini dress-rehearsal where I get to practice getting to a venue, as well as running in a possible new environment. I also love running in my home turf of the suburbs as it is peaceful, quiet and it allows me to focus on my inner thoughts when I run as opposed to focusing on my surroundings! If you run strictly downtown: go to the burbs and check it out-you won’t be disappointed! To my fellow suburban runners: get downtown and enjoy the excitement and energy that can be found running in the city!

About Charles Minor: Hi everyone! Like a lot of people, I started running in public school on cross country and track and field teams. As a kid I always dreamed of one day running a marathon but it always seemed so daunting to me. Completing my first marathon was one of the best accomplishments of my life, something I always look back on with pride and happiness. Now as a busy parent, running has been an outlet for me to unwind and to stay physically fit. Running has taught me how to set and achieve goals, to act as a role model for my students at school but most importantly it has allowed me to strengthen the bonds that exist with my family members and to create new friendships with other runners. I look forward to sharing my Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon journey with all of you! Connect with Charles on Twitter and Instagram