Written by Lesley Simmons
for Bridge magazine
Running – or more accurately “jogging” – has been my favorite aerobic exercise for the past twelve years. I don´t always feel like getting out the door and going, but I love how I feel afterwards: less stressed and energetic. I also enjoy being able to consume a rich dessert or extra beer with relatively little guilt.
During the past twelve years I´ve only stopped running for three large blocks of time: during my two pregnancies and after we moved to Prague.
Prague is a gorgeous, interesting city, but it is not a good city for running. First, there´s the cold weather and snow, when all but the hardiest souls have to head indoors to a treadmill. Then there are the cobblestones and the hills. When I finally did attempt a run outside, I discovered that those Vinohrady hills, which looked gently rolling from my car window, felt like the streets of San Francisco when I tried running on them.
Over the summer I´ve gradually started running again and have discovered a few pleasant places to run in Prague. If you are also taking up the sport after a long hiatus, or for the first time, or if you´ve been restricting your running to the treadmill, consider buying yourself a good pair of running shoes and heading outdoors for a run to one of these spots:
Stromovka, in Bubeneč, Prague 6, is my absolute favorite place to run. It is the largest park in the city, most of it is not hilly, and it has a series of soft dirt trails that give my legs some relief from the cobblestones. The quickest route to the flat area of the park is through the Gotthardská street entrance. You can either park on the street near this entrance or get off at the Hradčanská metro (green line) and walk or run the six blocks to the park.
Letná is not as large as Stromovka, but it is also a flat, pretty place to run once you climb the hill beside the Vltava, and it is easy to get to from the city center.
Vinohrady is not an ideal place to run, but if, like me, you live in the area and want to go for a run close to home, try running on Vinohradská. This street´s inclines and declines are gradual, and if you start at Italská and head east, you can run for nearly two miles over only a few cobblestone sections. If you want to extend your run, turn into Olšanské cemetery to run on its tree-lined paths. I was initially apprehensive about running in a cemetery, but I seldom see more than five people there and they rarely even glance up when my pounding feet go by.
Žižkov is another nice park to run in, but it´s difficult to reach. I tried half running, half walking from Náměstí Míru, but by the time I reached the flat area at the top of the hill I was so exhausted from the climb that I didn´t have enough energy left to go for a run. Another easier option to reach the park is to take tram 9, 10 or 16 to Biskupcova stop.
Kunratice Forest, south of the city center in Prague 4, looks ideal for running: loads of paths (some dirt and some paved), slightly hilly, well-shaded, and not too crowded even mid-afternoon on a sunny weekend. I have to admit that I haven´t run here myself, but when my family and I went there in early September for a walk we saw a number of runners, including a whole football team having a group run. You can park near the Globus Hotel or take the red line to the Roztyly metro stop.
If you need an extra incentive to get running, consider signing up for one of the competitive runs held in Prague each year. Running in one of these races will not only motivate you to train more intensively, but you´ll also have the rare opportunity to run through the streets of Old Town without worrying about knocking down a tourist. Runs scheduled for 2006 include:
1 April 2006 – Half Marathon,
14 May 2006 – Marathon, 8 K run, and 4 K family fun run, and
10 Sept 2006 – Grand Prix 5 K run for women and 10 K run for men.
For more information on these races, go to www.pim.cz.
If you are also a runner and know of any other good running spots or have advice for runners in the Prague area, such as where to find running clubs or shops, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. If we get enough new information, we might include a follow-up article in the spring when the snow melts away and a few runners start appearing again in the Prague streets.
For more information on green places to visit, see the list of articles in the expats.cz “tourism” category: