Since I am new to Karakol, I’m still adjusting to running early in the morning here. I have observed a few interesting differences between running in Karakol (~60k people) and running in Bishkek (upwards of 1 million).
First, it is apparent that in Karakol there is proportionally more activity at 6am than in Bishkek. Karakol is much, much smaller, so it really registers when I am frequently passed by cars in the morning. My initial theory was that Karakol is more rural than Bishkek in general, and I’m running on the outskirts of Karakol rather than in the center of Bishkek. The thing is, I haven’t seen any trucks with livestock in them drive by, nor have I observed anything remotely resembling produce headed to market. I’m not sure what everyone is up to; more investigation is needed.
Second, early in the morning in Bishkek, the drivers tend to ignore street lights and race the empty streets like a scene clipped out of The Fast and the Furious. Ok, maybe it isn’t that bad, but I frequently see people in the wee hours of the day flying through red lights without even considering whether a human being on foot might be loose nearby. I feel far safer crossing the street in Bishkek during the day when lots of people are out than I do in the mornings, because traffic lights can be trusted as (generally) good guides of what the vehicles on the road are doing. Caution is required, but not absolute vigilance like at 6am. In Karakol, however, even when dawn is just painting the sky with soft pastels, drivers tend to cruise along at reasonable speeds and to pay attention to intersections.
Third, in Karakol I have only seen people exercising in “Victory Park” (a local city park with a WWII memorial), whereas in Bishkek people are out in school yards, on the tree-lined avenues, and so on (once the snow has melted, at least; 6am in February in Bishkek is very lonely). The only adults I have seen jogging for exercise have been in the park, and all of them have been Russian-looking or extremely out of place (like me!).
Finally, I am used to people staring or laughing when I am running in Bishkek, but Bishkekians don’t touch the level of mirth I see in young people all around me while running in Karakol. All the more reason for summer to end so pre-dawn, empty streets can be found at “reasonable” hours of the day!