Can You Run in Cemeteries?

Calvary Cemetery in Queens, New York has more than three million graves, the most in the United States. It is also one of my favorite running spots. At the top of one of its hills, you can turn and look at row after row of tombstones until the slab horizon meets the Manhattan skyline – an intuitive visual collision of life and death. It is breathtaking. (I made the header image above as I ran between the drafts of this article).

But every time I go on one of my graveyard runs, I’m reminded of a scene from Dlini, in which Dliebag’s sister tells her that “it really is inappropriate to run around the cemetery, flaunting my life.” Perhaps you or someone you know was scolded or even shouted at for running through the cemetery. And I can’t help but wonder if I’m not wrong. Is there a congenital disrespect for holding the breath among the breathless?

I’m not the only one running around cemeteries, and I’m not the only one who question his ethics. On Reddit is no shortage of branches, dedicated to etiquette in cemeteries. Especially in places where open space is difficult to find, cemeteries offer a chance for rare moments of solitude and care. At the same time, many feel like Fleibag’s sister; there is a feeling of disrespect at the thought of trampling on the dead. I asked on Twitter and heard from some people who work in cemeteries to find out what people think about the ethics of running through the local cemetery.

A short history lesson in cemeteries

Cemeteries and parks have a long and inextricable history. In fact, cemeteries were among the first parks that Americans gained access to. But somewhere along the way, the cemeteries switched from public to private. (For a more in-depth look at the fascinating history of the death industry, I highly recommend reading ” Smoke in the Eyes” and “Other Lessons from the Crematorium ” by Caitlin Doughty.)

And now, as painful as it sounds, there is not enough space in the cemeteries. This means they will need more resources to stay open and justified. Mark Tresken writes for the Urban Institute that we should uproot our perception of cemeteries as inherently reserved, and instead focus on their role as spaces of life:

In the United States, we often see cemeteries as secluded places for quiet reflection and sadness. But as cities seek new ways to maximize existing infrastructure for the benefit of residents, cemeteries increasingly play a role … by opening their doors to the public, cemeteries “justify their continued existence and relevance in the public sphere and seek additional resources. to stay viable. “

So, can cemeteries be alive? It seems that many runners and non-runners think so.

Rethinking the role of cemeteries

Just as Tresken believed in cemeteries adapting to serve a vibrant community, one of my humble Twitter respondents on this topic shared a passionate view of the role of cemeteries. Ben Silver believes that “a space to live” and that every cemetery should be turned into a park. “I understand the desire to perpetuate the memory of life,” says Silver, “but the best way to do it is not to be held hostage so that the living cannot enjoy it.” Silver continues that “the people who run through the cemeteries are (probably unintentionally) engaging in deep space exploration … in a conversation about reorienting human life as the most important way to honor the memory of the dead.” (I suppose this is what Fleabag wanted to say to her sister.)

Perhaps Emma Stern, program director at Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia, put it best in her interview with Runner’s World when she said her graveyard was “as much for the living as for the dead.”

Experts agree: just be polite

Another Twitter respondent, who asked to visit A. Slinger, had been in the funeral business for 10 years, working in several homes, as well as in the state forensic office. Slinger graduated from morgue school in 2007, lived at a funeral home for a year, and still has friends in the industry today.

In response to running ethics, Slinger says they “have never heard of it being taboo to use graveyards for exercise.” They say that they would not run past the passing service at the grave, but they will not even pass it. As for space-respecting runners, the only problem Slinger had in mind was that people didn’t clean up after their dogs.

I also called the clerk at the Calvary Cemetery Office in Queens (who asked not to be named) who told me that while running “technically against the rules in pretty much all cemeteries,” by all accounts, is generally tolerable. From her point of view, there is no great ethical taboo on runners as long as they are respectful.

The clerk of the Calvary Cemetery also noted that size matters – since Calvary is so large, it is easy for someone to go jogging without passing by another (living) soul. There is enough space here so as not to disturb the employees or visitors to the grave.

What if you are running through the cemetery?

Check out the rules for your local cemetery. As the Calvary Cemetery clerk pointed out, many private cemeteries have signs that running is prohibited (such as the famous Brooklyn Green Wood Cemetery ). Nevertheless, there seems to be a norm to turn a blind eye to these rules. Many cemeteries do not have official positions (at least they don’t publish them on the Internet), but that doesn’t mean that you should assume that you have the right to jog there, especially if it is private property.

Use your usual courtesy. In an interview with Runner’s World, Stern also noted that “all runners remain on the paved road. Not that they ran through the graves. ” As long as you are careful about where you are, walking through the graveyard doesn’t have to be offensive. This means that you can potentially change your route to stay away from mourners, and if you can’t help but take it, consider taking a walk break as a sign of respect.

And my last piece of advice is to take off your headphones while the dead are around you so you can focus on your running as evidence that you are alive.

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