what makes for a good urban running route

In short: anything sorta runnable that shows you the amazing diversity of Singapore’s cityscape, that is enjoyable, that allows you to connect with your environment, that is allows you to keep moving, that has one or more options for lengthening, that passes one or more interesting sights that make for possible stops for more in-depth exploration, that includes any nearby green area, that has options for toilet and cheap food & drink stops, that avoids trafficked roads wherever possible, that includes hills, stairs, trails and other off-road possibilities wherever possible.

That this list by defintion requires compromises, that these compromises have a personal element to it that may not be aligned with what you would have chosen, that there is room for some substantial improvement, all of this doesn’t need spelling out.

The sights/diversity are largely to be found on Singapore’s busy streets, but wherever possible I try to find ways to get away from thoroughfares and use walkways through HDB compounds, pedestrian shortcuts, neighbourhood parks, tracks lining canals, etc. etc. to get from A to B, anything to avoid car dominated environments. For my thoughts on Singapore being a car-centric city, see here.

The routes I design are sometimes great for training, but that is not their underlying design principle. I look for ways through this very car-centric city that avoid waits at traffic lights to the max extent possible, including any possibility (using foot bridges, metro stations, etc) that allows you to sorta keep moving, even when that means diverting from the natural/logical route. I have shared my perspective on embracing stairs  as great elements of any run here and here. For my thoughts on the importance of unimpeded connectivity, see here.

Nparks’ park connector network is fabulous, and is often a great way to get from A to B, but the above means I regularly divert from the ‘official’ PCN route. The PCN links up parks and as my routes try to include as much green (and off-road – see for my thoughts on that here) this means that my routes include lots of the network, but Singapore is way more than its parks. Lots of what I consider stunning sights are bypassed by the PCN. Another reason why my routes regularly divert from the ‘official’ PCN course.

The routes I design try to make the most of the city’s architectural history, and ethnic diversity. Any cityscape is like a palimpsest, layers of time, one on top of the other, and while going on a guided heritage tour with an expert will open your eyes to all those details you’ld otherwise overlook, and get immersed in the stories attached to the build environment, I know of no better way than running – with a regular stop to take in a particular view – to be overwhelmed by the full extent of of all these layers. And for me that includes Singapore’s incredible public  housing, its heritage beyond the Victoriana of the Central Business District and the (in themselves incredibly diverse) shophouses of its heritage precincts (Chinatown, Little India, Kampong Glam, Geylang, Joo Chiat,….), from the pre-war colonial style black and whites, to post-independance brutalist beauties. And it includes those other ‘tribal’ enclaves, from Philippino Lucky Plaza, Burmese Peninsula plaza, and Thai Golden mile, to hipster Tiong Bahru, blue colour Jurong or the little arcadian Kampong gardens hidden in Bukit Brown, or Chestnut.

The ultimate aim is to create connections between all neighbouring routes, aiming for a fully connected network that allows you to pick and choose at will, depending upon time and interest. Wherever possible I take MRT stations as starting points and try to include sufficient toilet and food centre possibilities to allow you to carry as little as possible even on full-day outings.

Great cities embrace diversity and the unique fusions that will naturally emerge. Each ends up with lots that feels both familiar and like one of its kind. Enjoy this beautiful example of musicians from differenttraditions meeting and  ending up with just that kinda beat:

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