By incorporating pedestrian and bike paths into its transportation strategy, Istanbul can build a physical and social infrastructure that optimizes the participation of all people, regardless of physical and mental disabilities.
Istanbul then would be not simply Europe’s largest and fastest growing city. It would be its model.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Beirut pushes the boundaries of running

Last week, 36,000 Lebanese, traveled from all over the country – from Baalbek in the Bekaa Valley, Tyre in the South and Tripoli in the north – to join the Beirut Marathon. “It’s the only real national day of Lebanon,” says Beirut Marathon Association trustee Fadi Nahas.

Start of 10k fun run, November 10, 2013

Over the course of its 11-year history, the Beirut Marathon, which includes a full 42.2k marathon, a 10k fun run and 5k youth run, has become not only a festive celebration of national unity but also a testament to the vibrancy of civil society movements in Lebanon.

During the marathon, Beirut's streets are wide enough
for all to walk side-by-side

Starting near St. George Bay and following the Corniche to the Lighthouse, back through Hamra and Downtown, and then to the finish line at Martyrs’ Square, the 2013 10k “carnival run” gives people a chance to display the colors of their favorite cause.

Over 114 NGOs participated in this year's marathon, raising awareness about their efforts to fight diabetes and heart disease, to help those with autism or cancer, to protect the environment, and so on. The broad diversity of groups taking part in the marathon has helped make the Beirut Marathon a strong manifesto for peace.  You can see a sampling of peace-making in Beirut in the slide show below.

"Peace-making is not a sprint; it is more of a marathon," says May El Khalil, founder and president of the Beirut Marathon Association (BMA).  In "just" 11 years, BMA has established the marathon as a “platform for hope and cooperation in a troubled part of the world,” as May phrased it in her TED talk in Edinburgh earlier this year.

The BMA has also provided assistance to race organizers in a number of countries, including Egypt, Syria and Jordan, and regularly attracts runners from more than 100 countries to help spread the message of peace and well-being through sports.

Iraqi runners made a strong showing in all events
This year more than 200 runners from Iraq joined the Beirut Marathon, and the BMA has particularly strong ties with the running community in Iraqi Kurdistan. The Ministry of Youth and Culture, the Iraqi Olympic Committee and the Peshmerga Runners each presented awards to May in recognition of the BMA’s contribution to the development of athleticism in Iraq. As an example of this growth, the Erbil Marathon just completed its third annual event earlier this fall, and plans are underway to launch marathons in Sulaymaniyah and Baghdad in the near future.

If you like to push boundaries, come run the Beirut Marathon in 2014 and let’s show the world all the good that comes from running.

Note: Elite athletes and international runners participating in this year’s Beirut Marathon stayed at Smallville Hotel, a stylish family-run boutique hotel located next to the National Museum, with spacious rooms, an excellent bar, and a small restaurant offering traditional cuisine with flair.

For more reports on the 11th Beirut Marathon:

IAAF Beirut Marathon race report

Daily Star race report

Friday, April 27, 2012

Runner's retreat in Upper Euphrates Valley

Eğin is 2 hours' drive from Elazığ, 4 hours from Malatya
Here's the little town of Kemaliye, also known as Eğin, on the right bank of the Upper Euphrates River, in Erzincan Province.  

It is a cool village just downstream from a narrow canyon.  People here are proud of the traditional stone and wooden houses, and they're working to preserve the natural beauty of the area by promoting local agricultural products and eco tourism -- rafting, hiking, biking.

You can rent a bike in Kemaliye

Road from village cemetery to river bridge
Not only have the people of the town produced the funds to complete the road linking Eğin with Divriği (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), but they have also developed walking and hiking paths that make the town and the surrounding countryside the perfect retreat for long-distance runners.

You can also sign  up to work on an organic farm owned by Latif Yalçıner.  It's one of the farms listed in the Buğday Derneği's TaTuTa network.  Buğday Derneği supports the preservation of native seed stock in Turkey, runs a number of organic markets and provides certification to farmers who meet the criteria for organic cultivation.

Latif Yalçıner's organic mulberry grove, Apçağa village
As it happens, Buğday is also one of the organizations supported by Adım Adım runners (and swimmers, bikers, mountaineers, etc.).

Small world!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Crisscrossing Istanbul by foot, bike, or wheelchair

In response to the previous post, Freerunner boasts that it is possible to “walk on auto pilot” on the Asian side of Istanbul. Indeed, the paths and parks along the shore from Kadıköy to Pendik are an extraordinary resource. How many cities can boast of a 40-km sea front path? (Photo above: Coastal path, Caddebostan)

Another relatively car-free path (popular with out-of-town guests) passes through the Kadıköy market on its way to Moda. (Children like to hear about the alligators of Chalcedon, and some will even drink pickle juice.)

To the north, in Üsküdar, you’ll find Validebağ (the queen-mother’s grove). Situated between the Koşuyolu neighborhood and the Altunizade Metrobus stop, Validebağ is a large park with fields, trees, paths, a café, etc.

(Photos: Validebağ)

On the European side, paths along the Golden Horn and the streets and sidewalks on either side of the Land Walls (between the Golden Horn and the Marmara Sea) are excellent places for long-distance training.

(Photo: Topkapi Gate, Land Walls)

The waterfront paths along the Marmara Sea and up the Bosphorus can be crowded, but offer spectacular views. The really ambitious and adventurous urban trekkers can start at Bilgi U.’s Santralİstanbul campus at the top of the Golden Horn and follow the Kağıthane River toward Kemerburgaz or follow the Alibeyköy River beyond Gazi Mahallesi and to the park above the Alibeyköy Reservoir.

To be honest, these last two routes are not always so pleasant – dogs can be a problem, so be prepared – but these routes take you from the heart of the city to the edge of the forest in a short 14 kilometers, with glimpses of industrial and labor history along the way.

While the number of places where Istanbullus can run/walk/roll on auto pilot may be limited, these sites do exist. The problem for pedestrians and bikers in Istanbul is that it takes a certain amount of research and planning to identify new routes.

(Photo: Merkezefendi Cemetery, Zeytinburnu)

The point, then, is to identify where the good running is to be found and think strategically about A) how these spaces (like Validebağ or the grounds of the Bakırköy Mental Hospital) can be made accessible to people with all levels of mobility, and B) how to link these spaces with a network of paths.

How much excitement could the city generate if residents and visitors alike could follow safe, wheelchair-accessible and bikable paths from the cemeteries and gardens of Merkezefendi in Zeytinburnu to Karaköy, Taksim and Kabataş in Beyoğlu? And between Kabataş to Üsküdar, why not think of a convenient solution to enable wheelchair users to board the ferries? Then resume work on pedestrian paths to attract people from Usküdar to Validebağ, then on toward Altunizade, and so on.

(Photo: Zeytinburnu Park, near Medicinal Plants Garden)

Istanbul has extraordinary waterfront paths and beautiful parks and forests where people can walk, run and roll. With a bit of determination and planning, the city could develop a network of pedestrian paths linking every neighborhood with nearby commercial centers and green spaces. Ideally, these paths, designed to ensure usability by people with varying levels of mobility, would enable bikers, wheelchair users, baby cart pushers as well as long-distance runners to set out without a moment’s hesitation to run errands, go to work, and explore the city. By incorporating pedestrian and bike paths into its transportation strategy, Istanbul can build a physical and social infrastructure that optimizes the participation of all people, regardless of physical and mental disabilities, in society and their contribution to the economy. Istanbul then would be not simply Europe’s largest and fastest growing city, but it would be its model.

(Photo: Caddebostan)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Run Walk Bike See Istanbul

I walked the 15k event in the 33rd Eurasia Marathon this Sunday in about 140 minutes. This means that Vincent Kiplagat of Kenya followed me into Gülhane Park on his way to first place in the 42.2 km race (2:10:58). Crossing the finish line of the 15k amidst the applause for the world’s best marathoners is like sleep walking onto stage and waking up and realizing you have no script. You just keep walking.

Sunday’s brisk walk has given me the idea to add a couple of long work-outs to my weekly routine. This could mean a 5-6 hour bike ride one week and a 3-4 hour walk the next. The routes for long bike rides are pretty obvious – up the Bosphorus and back, along the Asian and European shores of the Marmara Sea, and up the Golden Horn and the Sweet Waters of Europe (the Alibeyköy and Kağıthane Rivers).

The walking routes are not so obvious to me. I want novelty in each walk. Visually engaging surroundings should distract me (and hopefully my walking companions) from the heaviness in our legs. I want to walk with abandon rather than concentrating on car traffic or other pedestrians. If time passes too slowly, I can focus my thoughts on breath, pace, posture, and any number of spiritual, professional, or romantic riddles.

Photo: The Bosphorus, north of Tarabya

We all know, of course, that it’s impossible to find a path in Istanbul where you can “walk on automatic pilot,” but surely we can trace a route that will offer an acceptable balance of physical obstacles and open spaces.

One goal of my new “endurance walking” regimen is to follow the ridge that runs parallel to the Bosphorus. My guess is that it’s about 20 km from Taksim through Levent and Maslak all the way to Çayırova (just south of Sarıyer, where Büyükdere Street ends). The ridge has a “spur,” which extends from Mecidiyeköy to Hasköy via Çağlayan and Okmeydanı. Urban trekking.

But why should the urban trekker’s path always be linear? Why not a series of concentric circles spiraling out from Taksim?

Photo: Taksim, early on a summer's morning

How tight can the spiral be at its core? Taksim Square-Taksim Gezi (Promende) Park-Talimhane-Kazancı Yokuşu-Gümüşsuyu-Taksim. Gradually the spiral will expand to include Okmeydanı, Eğrikapı and Karagümrük in Fatih, Harem, Salacak, and Üsküdar. In principle, each circuit should be completed within a single walk. Some walks could last 8-12 hours. Preferably at a good pace. It’s good to feel tired!

Photo: The view from Okmeydanı

Anyone who runs, walks, or bikes knows that the city looks different from the street. In a certain sense the city becomes more visible with each person who abandons the automobile for the pedestrian way. The more pedestrians, bikers, and wheelchair rollers there are on the streets, the more people actually see the city, its composition and the big picture.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


Türkçesi için

In 2011, there will be a new trail run event in the Belgrad Forest: The Deers on Trail Run.

This trail race will take you deep through the Belgrad Forest on forest trails and paths. The race is set up in two different courses - 14 kilometres for seasoned runners and 4 kilometres for newcomers to trail racing and less experienced runners. Want to test your limits off the beaten track and enjoy the beautiful, unspoiled forest where the deer still roams free? If yes, come along!

Deers on Trail Run I (14k and 4k ) Sunday, January 16, 2011
Deers on Trail Run II (14k and 4k ) Sunday, March 20, 2011

Race Programme for January 16, 2011
08:00 - Start of Registration. Distribution of bip numbers and chips (personal ID required)
09:30 - Close of Registration.
10:00 - START for 14k and 4k races.
10:30-12:00 Runners that have completed the race will hand over their electronic chips.
12:30-13:00 - Award Ceremony

What’s a trail run?
A trail run is an off-road running race held typically on trails on varied terrain, taking the runners around lakes, through forests, mountains or deserts. Courses are sign-marked.

Trail runs can be just a few kilometres long or take the form of an ultra-marathon or week-long trekking tour. Trail runs have become very popular throughout the world as more and more people prefer to run and work out on the relatively soft surface of trail courses (they put less strain on the joints), while enjoying the fresh air and beautiful natural surroundings.

The 14k Deer Trail Run

The 14k course is one of the most beautiful trails in the north-eastern part of the Belgrad Forest. It starts on a relatively wide road and then continues to wind along forest trails and paths, sometimes only shoulder-wide, and across hilly terrain. Green valleys and challenging hill climbs, gentle descends and breathtaking surprise views - you’ll want to run this course again again. The soft forest ground requires a steady step and can be quite muddy on wet days.

It’s quite a challenge! In fact, the 14k course can be as strenuous as running a half marathon distance in a road race - you’ll need to adjust your pacing strategy and energy requirements accordingly. Total elevation gain and loss along the course is 350 m.

Pictures below show the course layout, the satellite view (with the 14k course marked red) and elevation gain/loss (measured via Garmin Forerunner).

On the 14k course, medals and awards will be given to winners in the Men’s and Women’s categories in the following age groups:

18-29, 30-34, 35-39, 40-44, 45-49, 50-54, 55-59, 60-64, 65+

The 4k Deer Trail Run

If you are relatively new to running and less experienced on trails, the 4k course will be just right for you. This course is a gentle trail run with some hilly parts. The effort required to complete it is comparable to the 6,5k lake course in the Belgrad Forest. Although relatively short and easy, the ground can be slippery and muddy on wet days. Be prepared for many shades of green and a fast beating pulse!

The 4k course is marked in blue on the map below.

On the 4k course, medals and gifts will be awarded to the winners in the Men’s and Women’s categories without age group differentiation.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Can I beat a 9-minute km in Beirut?

There are nearly 3 million university students in Turkey, and this year more than 6,000 of them applied for a TOG scholarship. In the end, TOG selected 184 scholar-volunteers. (TOG, or “Community Volunteers,” is a Turkish abbreviation for Toplum Gönüllüleri Vakfı.)

In the October 17 Istanbul Eurasia Marathon, I walked (and took photos -- see previous post) the 15km course in 2 hours 34 minutes. Step by step, mile after mile, I hope to raise 2000 Turkish lira (approximately US$1500) as part of my preparation for the Beirut 10k (November 7). This amount will help a TOG scholar-volunteer meet his or her university expenses during the academic year. To reach this goal I need a support team of 100 people each contributing on average 15 dollars for TOG scholarships. Will you join us?

Since 2003 TOG has provided financial assistance to more than 600 qualified scholar-volunteers enrolled in a Turkish university degree program. Scholar volunteers receive a stipend of 2000 Turkish lira (nearly US $1500) for one academic year and are selected on the basis of 4 criteria: financial need, academic ability, volunteer service and hobbies/interests. In order to maintain the scholarship, scholar-volunteers must make satisfactory progress toward completion of their degree and work 4 hours per week in an approved social service project. This means real life experience in project planning and management. Volunteer activities include tutoring, working with senior citizens and/or homeless children, developing social acitvities to attract people to the local library, reading for blind students, etc.

In addition to the scholarship program, TOG manages more than 700 service projects all over Turkey, giving 23,000 youth ages 15-24 an opportunity to volunteer and make a difference in their local community. This age group comprises 18 percent of the Turkish population, so TOG’s combined focus on higher education, problem-solving and community service strikes me as a pretty smart way to work for a brighter future. For more on TOG, please take a look at their English-language pages:

If you would like to join TOG’s effort, you may a) make a payment via PayPal, b) send a check (payable to John Crofoot with “TOG Scholarships” on the memo line, please ask me and I'll give you my USPS address!) or c) make a transfer directly to TOG from a bank account in Turkey. For bank transfers, please use the account information below and remember to add the explanation “AAO,JCrofoot,YourNameSurName.”

TOG Bank Account Information

  • Beneficiary Name: Toplum Gönüllüleri Vakfı
  • Bank Name: Garanti Bank Baglarbası Branch (422)
  • Turkish lira Account Number: 629 7467
  • IBAN: TR 180006200042200006297467
  • Explanation: AAO,JCrofoot,Your name surname

My sincere thanks to the visionary and hard-working leaders of the Istanbul running and fund-raising group Adim Adim (Step by Step) for selecting TOG after a rigorous review of TOG's impact and its accounting procedures. (I wrote more about Adim Adim in my post of October 16.)


  • My actual pace in the October 17 Istanbul Eurasia Marathon: 5.8km (3.6 miles) per hour.
  • My target pace for the November 7 Beirut Marathon: 6km (3.7 miles) per hour.
  • The average yearly disposable household income in Turkey: 19,300 Turkish lira/13,800 USD (according to TurkStat, the Turkish Statistical Institute).
  • The total annual estimated expense to study at a public university in Turkey: 7,000 Turkish lira/5,000 USD (food, housing, books, fees, transportation, clothing).
  • In 2010, more than 6,000 students applied for a TOG scholarship; of these 280 students were finalists and 184 students received scholarships.
  • TOG scholarships provide 2000 Turkish lira (nearly 1500 USD) to a financially needy and academically qualified student for each year of a degree program.
  • The winners of TOG scholarships are selected on the basis of four criteria: fiancial need, volunteer service, academic ability, and hobbies/extra-curricular activities.
  • In order to maintain a scholarship for the during of a degree-program, a TOG scholar-volunteer must work 4 hours a week in an approved social service project AND be academically successful.
  • 200 TL (nearly 150 USD) supports a TOG scholar-volunteer for a month. 2000 TL for the academic year.
  • There are nearly 3 million university students in Turkey. Since 2003, TOG has awarded scholarships to more than 600 students.

Join our team! Sports, health, education and creative problem-solving. It’s an exciting mix and participation with any amount would provide energy and inspiration for Turkey’s scholar-volunteers.