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  • Jen Bloss

Beach Running in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh

People walking on the beach in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh
The world's longest sea beach: Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh

Over time, I’ve figured out that when I’m traveling, there are only a few things I need to make me feel centered and like “myself”. The first thing is finding a good cup of coffee (nearly equal to the need for oxygen). The second thing is getting some exercise- particularly running. Going for a run abroad is freeing and explorative, and feels so good after long travel days and poor food choices. I braced myself for a 10-week running hiatus in Bangladesh, figuring that it would not be safe or culturally appropriate to run there. I lied to myself saying things like “this is a great opportunity to cross-train” and “off seasons are good for injury prevention.” The first week, I attempted to enjoy bodyweight strength and HIIT routines, but let’s be real- no runner wants to do those things exclusively. But upon hearing that another volunteer in the house was running at the beach, I saw the storm clouds clearing and rays of hope shining through… maybe I COULD go for a run during my time here!

And I did. Although I only had time for one or two runs a week, it was still brilliant. Pure happiness! Getting a run in was not without effort, yet not lacking in amusement. Running may be very different in other parts of the country, but I’m going to share with you what it’s like to go for a run in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.



No shorts. No running tights either. No tank tops. Bangladesh is a conservative Muslim country- people even swim in the ocean fully clothed. So, loose travel pants and a short sleeve shirt, even in 80+ degree weather must suffice.

girl standing on a beach in hat and sunglasses
Culturally appropriate running gear, but very hot weather


Although it was not even a mile from my guest house to the beach, the roads are pretty dangerous and not pedestrian friendly. The roads are uneven, with holes, no sidewalks, and pretty negligent and crazy vehicles (and an occasional cow or two). I knew people who had been injured running on that short stretch, so I didn’t want to chance it. So, I’d grab a tomtom for the 5 minute ride to the beach. Sometimes, it was a challenge to find one, especially on early Friday mornings when there wasn’t much traffic. Negotiating a price was part of the fun part here- on a good day, I’d find a ride for 10 taka ($0.12), and other days I’d get taken for a ride with a 50 taka ($0.60) fare.

tom tom and rickshaw in bangladesh
Tom tom. Tuk tuk. Auto. Whatever the name, it’s the most fun mode of transportation in the world!


At 120km (75 miles), Cox’s Bazar boasts the world’s longest sea beach. Need to get in a long run on vacation? No problem! The beach itself is actually quite nice- there are stretches of hotels with umbrellas and lounge chairs, and not as much trash as you’d expect if you’d just been walking through town. However, running on this beach is a bit different than back in the US…


shipwrecked boat on beach
This shipwreck was my turnaround point on most runs


Much to my surprise, as early as 6:45am and there will be large crowds of people on the beach near the hotel zones. That most definitely does not happen in the United States. These crowds are often groups of families that were walking, taking pictures, or even jet-skiing at this time! Bangladeshis eat dinner very late, like 10pm- yet they’re out on the beach before 7am? I’m convinced that they don’t need sleep.

people walking on beach in burkas in coxs bazar bangladesh
Just a fraction of the crowds seen near the hotel zone


There are packs of stray dogs that roam the beach. It seems like a good life at times- snoozing in the sand, scavenging for leftover snacks from the beachgoers, etc. It did freak me out a bit when I’d run by dogs growling and barking at each other like I’d interrupted a turf war, or when they’d come up and sniff me. I did have a situation where few dogs got way too close for comfort, but that is a story for future blog post!

puppy on a beach
I’ll take this little guy for a running buddy any day!


Dogs aren’t the only animals on the beach- there are beach horses too! Some horses are sadly there to ride as a tourist attraction, and others I saw roaming freely on the sand.

a horse looking at his reflection in water on a beach
A majestic horse and his reflection


Fridays are the main weekend day in Bangladesh, and this means that groups of boys head to the beach for morning soccer games. I often had to turn around when I got to a section of the beach that was one game after another after another. I have a strange fear of getting hit by soccer balls and definitely didn’t like running through an active game!


Ohhhh… the beach photographers are one of my favorite things to watch on the beach! Young men with large cameras around their necks walk up and down the beach offering photoshoots. Watching these photoshoots are hilarious! You see people standing in the surf, crouching in the surf, facing the surf, and even pulling out the classic “sunglasses tilt” look- with all seriousness. Facebook profile pics are no joke, my friends.

photographer on a beach
Care for an early morning photoshoot?


Want to buy a necklace? Are you sure? How about tea? Coffee? Vendors (usually young boys) roam the beaches, particularly near the hotel zones, and can be persistent in their attempts to sell. Usually I’d just say “No taka” and get met with disappointed looks.


One thing that is obvious in Bangladesh is the lack of women exercising in public. And, a deficiency of foreign tourists. So, a young American woman running on the beach was definitely an anomaly that invited much staring, and often comments. I’d get the “hello sister” shout out when running past a soccer game; or sometimes guys would run a few paces with me, say hello, and then drop off. Or I’d get people asking to take selfies with me. Once I even obliged a guy who wanted me in a photo with him that he’d hired a photographer to take. I was a disgusting, sweaty mess and he was paying for it- I figured that the joke was on him! Overall, it was hard to go unnoticed during my runs- but if anything, I hope that women I ran past would be inspired and one day try it themselves.


Running in Bangladesh was highly entertaining, and something I am so thankful for being able to do. Having the freedom to run outside is a privilege that women in many places around the world do not have, due to safety concerns or cultural norms that frown upon it. Even in much of Bangladesh, that is true- I saw some local men running, but never any local women. And knowing the joy of running, and how it has changed my life for the better, that makes me sad. I hope that one day all women will have the opportunity, freedom, and choice to pursue sports, and create a healthy and rewarding life for themselves.

Awesome drone footage of me running on the Cox’s Bazar beach, taken by the talented Nihab Rahman

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