Sidewalks can make or break a city in the eyes of a runner. I realized that this morning after a botched run through Charleston that began west of the Ashley River and ended 40 minutes, 1.6-miles later with my friend Jamison and I calling a rescue Uber from the middle of a random residential neighborhood. The struggle? That the sidewalk network in Albemarle Point has no rhyme or reason and you most certainly shouldn’t expect it to take you safely into downtown.
I travel a lot and have had my fair share of struggles when running in a new city. There have been cities where it’s hard to find nearby running routes, or those routes are far away, or they cut through sketchy areas. But there are always sidewalks offering a safe haven from cars where I can log some miles even if its not through the most scenic of routes. Not in Charleston. The sidewalks here come and go indiscriminately, disappearing with little to no notice and giving me a newfound appreciation for their presence. That is, when they’re present.
Downtown Charleston posed less of a challenge. The rescue Uber took Jamison and I to the picturesque coastline of Battery, an area whose availability of sidewalks renewed my appreciation for this city. Okay, so the sidewalks weren’t in the best shape—some leaned at an angle, some were cracked, most were extremely narrow—but at least they were there. We hugged the waterfront, running past historic mansions and the breezy marshes to Black Tap Coffee Shop, where we ended after two short miles. (We wasted a lot of energy in the sidewalk fiasco and didn’t have patience to run any longer.)
I wish we had started our run in downtown because its bountiful sidewalks would have made for a fantastic run. Alas, the sidewalk fiasco occurred and not only made this one of my least favorite fun runs I have recently taken, but it also started my relationship with Charleston on the wrong foot. Don’t take your sidewalks for granted, folks.