Monday, December 29, 2014

We remember

Berkin Elvan
Uğur Kurt

... and far, far too many more.

May the coming year bring more peace and less heartbreak.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Guts, grit, and grime

Marathons, triathlons, and ultra-marathons no longer seem to be enough to satisfy runners in the US, UK, and elsewhere around the world, who are signing up by their tens of thousands to crawl under barbed wire, slog through mud, jump into freezing water, avoid electric shocks -- and pay dozens, even hundreds of dollars for the privilege. You don't need to spend a penny, or fill out a registration form, to experience obstacle racing in Istanbul, though. Just lace up your shoes and steel your resolve to face these heart-pumping challenges:

What Nike wants you think
running looks like in Istanbul
The Bridge -- Struggle to maintain your footing as you speed across cement slick with fish guts, bilgy seawater, and soggy cigarette butts, dodging fishing lines whilst they're being cast, and coughing on clouds of smoke emanating from small but pungent coal-and-trash-burning fires.

Adrenaline Rush -- Run on the narrow shoulder of the road and thrill to buses flying by at top speed less than a foot from your face. (Caution: Their mirrors may be even closer than they appear.)

Morton's Fork -- Vault over a cable barrier into oncoming traffic or take your chances with the pack of snarling street dogs on the sidewalk.

Dodge 'Em -- Pick a sidewalk, any sidewalk and try avoid running into people talking on the phone, taking selfies, strolling arm-in-arm three abreast, stopping abruptly right in front of you, walking dogs they don't know how to control, pushing vending carts, unloading trucks, hooking up generator cables, or pulling their car up onto the sidewalk so their passenger can fling the vehicle door open into your path and disembark.

What that same location
actually looks like.
Stumbling Block -- Bounce off of loose tiles that spurt up black water as they wobble under your feet, crumbling curbstones, and patches of missing brickwork -- all without turning an ankle.

The Gauntlet -- Keep your cool and avoid eye contact as touts step out in front of you to point the way into their restaurant, nargile cafe, or carpet shop, waving menus or doing mocking impersonations of someone running in order to try and get your attention.

The Scorcher -- Get those fast-twitch muscles firing by leaping sideways out of the way of nargileci toting hot metal tongs and pans of glowing coals. Who says running doesn't involve much lateral movement?

Wet 'n' Wild -- Start your run during or after a heavy rain to experience the excitement created by the city's poor drainage system: Plazas and squares become ankle-deep pools and hills turn into rushing streams. Just try not to look at all the trash being swept along with it.

Bonus Round (female racers only) -- Extra points go to any woman who can don a modest-enough wardrobe and tough-enough attitude to silence the catcalls. (Disclaimer: This one's impossible.)