Running in Phoenix
My alarm rang at 6:00 AM. I drank a cup of coffee in the sun, laced up my running shoes, and hit the pavement. I was headed to downtown Phoenix to take a running tour. I had traveled to Phoenix for the National American Planning Association conference and was excited to learn all about the economic development efforts that were transforming the downtown.
Recently the city has started reinvesting in the downtown area, and this has increased the number of people using that area during all hours of the day. Once a place where people only went during the day for work, downtown is slowly becoming a nightlife destination. A new park near the Conference Center hosts frequent concerts and a row of renovated historic buildings now house restaurants and bars.
To my surprise, my running partner during the tour ended up being a planner from the Portland area who had gone to school in Phoenix. We chatted the whole time about what it was like for him to be back in the city and how it had changed, for the better, since he had graduated. After our tour, I ran back through the streets of Phoenix toward our Airbnb. I ran along streets lined with palm trees, past yards filled with gravel and cacti, and over a pedestrian sky bridge. Traffic zoomed past me and the sun beat down making sweat drip into my eyes.
Phoenix isn’t the most walkable of cities, especially the streets along my route. This didn’t surprise me. Before coming to Phoenix I knew very little about the city, but what I had heard wasn’t promising: traffic jams last for hours, everybody drives, and there are no bike lanes. I was expecting the worst, but even though I was hot and tired, I was pleasantly surprised during my run.
I passed yards full of flowering trees, birds chirped above me and cars sometimes even stopped for me at intersections. I ran along several bike boulevards, waving to the other joggers and cyclists I saw along the way. After eight miles, I was thirsty and my socks were sweaty, but the 80-degree weather and heavy traffic hardly bothered me because Phoenix was full of friendly, active people and it was a beautiful day.