Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Paris On the Run

One of the changes I've noticed most during this trip to Paris is the number of Parisians who jog. In the past, only the Americans jogged, or if the French did, I only saw them in one place, the Parc Montsouris on the southern edge of the city. But now, I see Parisians jogging in the street and in several parks. I've even seen groups of high school students running laps around the Jardin du Luxembourg urged on by a coach with a whistle. I don't think of Parisians as joggers, so this has been something of a strange sight.

It also reminds me of New Yorker columnist Adam Gopnik's essay in his book Paris to the Moon about joining a gym while living in Paris with his family. After signing up, he did his workout and went home. But when he returned to the gym the next day, the people at the front desk expressed surprise that he had returned so soon. They warned him not to overexert himself by working out every day. Somehow, that didn't fit with the Parisian frame of mind, despite the fact that there are plenty of gyms and swimming pools around town.

Why Parisians seem to be more interested in jogging, I don't know. Their new president Nicholas Sarkozy is a jogger. Perhaps they too are concerned about health issues and youth obesity. The more McDonalds hamburgers they eat, the more they might actually have something to worry about. Either way, now I have to watch out so that I don't get run down by the runners in the park.

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