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Urbanism and Athletics : Fix It

Urbanism and Athletics : Fix It

A statistically significant percentage of CEOs and highly-paid creatives are distance runners; yet city planners and mayors have virtually ignored athletics in the debate on urbanism – the discussion about what cities look like and how they should change.

San Francisco, the most desirable city to live in in the United States based on rent cost, has miles of beachfront, waterfront, and mountain-biking territory within easy reach. The “civic resource” of a breathtaking 6- or 10-mile running route or a 45-mile mountain biking route reachable without a car is what kept me living in San Francisco’s Marina District for five years between 2005 and 2010, bike-commuting to the UC Berkeley Campus five days a week and exercising in a “neighborhood” that included The Presidio, Marin, and Tiburon every other day.

Unlike planners, the outdoor magazines get the need for long hard workouts.  The July 2015 issue of Outside Magazine suggests waking up early to ski, trail run, row, or kayak; running bleachers; or staying in the city to run empty streets while weekenders go away. Flip the page and the same magazine conveys more poignantly Why We Run: to “get out the cage”; to purge depression; to prevent bone density loss; to slow down mental decline; to “…[grow] brain cells in the region tied to making and recalling memories.”

But the pictures in the Why We Run article are of beautiful mountain-tops with solitary runners – not of running through city streets or alongside cars chugging in to work on Storrow or Memorial Drive.


Could it be that there is something about the solitary difficult pursuit that hones the resolve of our cities’ most talented and ambitious residents.

Maybe there is something important about these athletes having a place to exercise that provides quiet, scenic beauty, and clean air as well.

Why aren’t planners paying attention to athletes? Let’s fix it.

[Stay tuned. ~SP]