Garmin Free Zone?

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Yesterday I decided to venture off the trails and battle the streets of Las Vegas. As I was trying to figure out my route for the day, I saw there is a small weekly farmer’s market in our downtown area. So, the plan was for me to run downtown and meet my wife at the farmer’s market. The route for the run is one I have been on literally 100’s of times but never on foot. The first six miles or so are in my usual living zone. This includes my usual grocery stores, restaurants, and where I do most of my road running. The next nine miles felt like a different world. Sadly, this stretch of the route would be one that many people may try to avoid unless driving through to get to the highway. The route includes many weekly motels, graffiti on the bus stops, and our version of homeless skid row. Like I said earlier I have driven this area many times but never really saw it until yesterday. It’s like how you can see Angels Landing in Zion National Park from the road, but you will never feel it until you’re on it. As I was running through I felt like the uninvited guest at a neighborhood block party. This is not to say I was bothered by anyone, everyone pretty much ignored me and went on with their lives, except for one woman. I popped into a gas station to grab a quick drink. As I stood at the counter she approached and gave me props for my choice of drinks. I told her thanks, and for no good reason explained to her I rarely drink sports drinks. I told her I was getting it due to be in the middle of a run. To this she asked, “Why?” I replied with an intelligent “Why What?” She asked, “Why are you running?”. I laughed and told her I had no idea. I missed the opportunity to tell her about this amazing blog on WordPress that explains all the amazing reasons to run but I didn’t want to get pepper sprayed. I chugged my drink and headed off, which got me thinking about a conversation I had with a friend about Las Vegas’ Garmin Free Zone.

A few weeks back my friend was playing around on his Garmin Connect App and located a map of the city. This map overlay’s the routes of all Garmin users in the city. He called me over to show me the map. It was interesting see all the routes laid out on top of each other. He then asked if I saw something unusual. It took a minute and then it was painfully obvious. The north, northwest, south and southwest parts of the city map were covered in running routes. The map looked like a crazed 3-year-old got a Sharpie and lived out a scribbling fantasy. The interesting thing on the map was the central and east part of our town, was barren. I mean zero running routes. Why? Are the residents of this area loyal to Fitbit and Suunto watches or is there really no running happening? I think it’s the latter. This would explain my gas station conversation. She was truly curious why I would be running. I wasn’t chasing anyone, nor was anyone chasing me. This would explain one gentleman’s reaction when I ran by and waved. He immediately looked ahead of me and then behind me, I assume looking for whoever I was running away from or after. This got me wondering my favorite question, why? Why was there no running happening in a certain area of town? To get a few obvious answers out the way. Crime rate? Maybe, but I never once felt like I was in danger. Weather? It sucks everywhere right now. Accessibility? I will concede that the sidewalks can be less than desirable in these parts of town and running trails are non-existent. Income? If this is the case, we “runners” are doing something seriously wrong. Running is a sport that is essentially free. Though, if you see commercials, read magazines or even talk to runners, this sport has become insanely expensive. As this thought passed through my head yesterday, I realized from headphones to feet, I probably had four hundred dollars of gear on my body. I once walked through an REI with my brother. He was on the phone with our dad at the time and I heard him say, “I am at REI and I just realized, I’m too poor to run”.  I should have realized at that moment something was seriously wrong. Is there a solution?

Would it benefit people in these areas to run? Physically, yes. Mentally, yes. The question is how you introduce a sport that has been around since the dawn of man to people who think it not there for them. Wouldn’t our sport be much improved with the inclusion of people from every walk of life. During trail races I’ve noticed everyone knows everyone, except me, due to my social ineptitude. Wouldn’t it be great to see a few people each race that weren’t there at the last start line? The question is still, how? As usual I am full of a lot more questions than answers. If you have an answer please share it, I don’t want to be the only squiggly line on this part of the Garmin map.

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