First, an outing: for decades I have been an early morning jogger. Having lived in different cities, an as an aide to readers, it might be useful to give a taste of what a jogger can expect in a few select cities.
Jogging in the Prater (a large “English” city park), you are never alone. Especially, along the Hauptallee you will meet many likeminded (?) runners. If you jog regularly, after a while you will recognize some of them; you may exchange eye contact and earn a smile – or nothing. Expect – friendly, unfriendly, no response. Don’t be disappointed. If someone greets you beaming, it is likely to be an American.
- Washington, D.C.
As a regular jogger, you will be friends with all the other joggers; the same if you are an irregular jogger. Even now World Bank President Bob Zoellick – not a paragon of social behaviour – greets you along the C&O Canal. Be prepared to smile back at people. If you do not like that, you better go to the fitness studio and look at the TV screen in front of you while using the running machine.
Jogging in either Almaty or Astana (recommended only in spring and fall, since winter sports temperatures of -35 C, summer of +40 C) you will be the only one. People look at you with a gaze which shows you that they think you are crazy, but they do this in a not unfriendly manner. Kazakhs would rather drive a car, or be driven in it. Many poorer ones walk long distances all day long, thus jogging is not really on their radar screen. Apart from joggers, you also see no bicycles on the road, and neither motorcycles: it is 4 wheels, or none.
As lonely as in Astana, but people look at you in a way which shows you that they have seen joggers before. They themselves also don’t indulge.
Even after strenuous efforts for the last 3 years I have not yet managed to obtain a single eye contact from a jogger (let alone from anybody else). Studiously the (rather frequent) joggers look ahead of themselves and avoid any eye contact. Not even the otherwise rather ebullient London Mayor Boris Johnson (normally in outrageous outfits, lately more sober) does not use jogging as vote-getting by beaming at oncomers, but moves his bulk with intense study of the ground in front of him. Thus, if you have expectations of making eye or otherwise social contact, forget it: London is not the place.
Conclusion: if you are a jogger, adjust your social expectation level to the local custom; otherwise you will at best be disappointed, at worst be accosted.