By Madeleine Cummings
When I was growing up, every winter my dad told me to run in Toronto’s Mount Pleasant cemetery, instead of on the roads or on the trails, which I much preferred. Unlike most city streets, he reasoned, you could always count on the cemetery paths being snow-plowed and salted.
Running there was safer, he insisted. Of course, I didn’t listen, and disasters ensued when snow and ice arrived every year. Once I slipped on sidewalk ice, breaking the fall with my ribs. Another time I fell on snow in a ravine and slid down a steep hill.
The ultimate low came one Christmas Eve, when I set out during a freezing-rain storm. I rolled my ankle on a chunk of puddle-ice, walked the rest of the way home, and spent the rest of that holiday limping. I should have stuck to the cemetery.
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Cemeteries, I’ve come to learn, are somewhat of an urban runner’s oasis. They’re well maintained in the winter, leafy shade havens in the summer, and they’re always quiet and peaceful, no matter the season.
They’re better than paved paths and boardwalks, which are crawling with strollers, bikes and walkers. And they’re safer than roads (with few cars around, there’s little risk of getting hit). Without traffic to worry about, cemetery runners don’t waste seconds stopping at red lights, and loopy paths make it easy to change up routes and run intervals.
One legitimate argument against running in cemeteries is that doing so disturbs the peace of people who go there to grieve. Though a chatty group of runners can absolutely shatter silence, most of us run quietly and respectfully by anyone around.
Since cemeteries are spacious, there’s plenty of room to visit the people we love and log the miles we love, too. And don’t runners help breathe life into a place that’s designed, after all, to commemorate it?
Madeleine Cummings is a Canadian writer currently living in New York City.
Editor’s note: This feature appeared in last year’s March/April edition of Canadian Running.