Runner Life.

“Man, do runners love running. They love everything about running. They especially like talking about running. After running, talking about running is the #1 thing runners seem to like. Also, is it just me or are runners crazily cultish about their running? Like, if they find out you’re a fellow runner, there is nothing you could do to sever the relationship. You could murder an elderly man and the only reaction would be, “See you at Red Coyote this weekend!” In summary: though very clearly insane, runners are sort of adorable and infectious in how enthusiastic they are.”

via JustRun via The Lost Ogle

Remember a little blog post called The Road? This is your update. I was concerned being only on week 2 of Couch to 5k when I took off to Bangkok to pick up my Mom. Turns out, running while traveling can be pretty freaking awesome. The constant change of scenery and overzealous enthusiasm for life led to a constant renewed energy for my hobby. I never got bored because there was always a new route to explore and things to take my attention away from the fact that my mind and body were still getting re-used to the idea of running again.

First of all, the Couch to 5K program. In a word, impressively-doable. The short intervals were easy to keep me in gear, but enough of a challenge that I felt the improvement (ie pain) each week. There was only one week that I needed to scale back and do a repeat of a run, but it was my own fault (running in Thai heat late morning without breakfast and being properly hydrated, not a good idea) not the program’s. It helped that you only run three days a week and are encouraged to take off days/rests when you feel is necessary.

And a side note to myself/any other PCVs thinking about how weird the locals will find you for running… they already think you’re crazy. It might as well be for something that’s good for you. My Thais were surprisingly chill about my running. Mostly a lot of encouraging thumbs up and ‘strong, strong’ comments as they passed me on their motorbikes. I’m pretty convinced the people on The Road were a different species of Thai as no one, not once, called me farang or gawked annoyingly. Which only made me wish I had discovered Road and the people occupying it earlier in my service.

A side note from the side note is how amazing it was to run before the rest of the tourists come out from their hotels and to see a city come to life like a regular citizen of such a place. Even if you’re not running, I would definitely encourage travelers to get up at least once at the crack of dawn to experience a new place this way, like the locals do. One of the most memorable parts of my visit in Chiang Rai was running by a little old Thai granny doing aerobics in her front yard and her telling me how ‘strong’ I was. I invited her along for the rest of my run and her booming laughter had me smiling until well after I finished exercising.

Ok, one more side note and I’ll get back on track. The blog track that is. Running while traveling has to be one of the coolest things. Ever. Over a two-week period, I was running in the fields of Isaan, the streets of Chiang Rai, the mountains in Ban Rai, and the beach in Cha Am. Each time it felt like there was a completely different personality to the run. It was almost like getting to know a fascinating new person at various parties. You might run a little slower getting to know one another at first, but the renewed vigor you feel at the end makes it seem well worth the effort.

I was so amazed and proud of myself for actually finishing C25K in Thailand that I decided to jump into the next step of a 10k with Suz’s 5K to 10K. I liked my C25K electronic/club music, but Suz keeps you motivated with 90s hip-hop/R&B classics like Big Poppa, Baby Got Back, and Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It. There were times this program felt a little inconsistent in the jumps of intervals you were supposed to run week to week, but it did help me get to running a full hour. At this point, I was starting to get a little obsessive, running every other day, and like most new converts to running, took things a little harder than I probably should have. It started with my first bad cold in nearly two years time, then after pulling a hip muscle slipping on some wet concrete and the following severe lower back pain, I fell out of shape a bit as my time in Thailand was coming to a close.

With so much to do before I left and the subsequent transition time in America with family and friends and things to do almost every day, it wasn’t hard to lose my lungs. Well, the cold weather didn’t help either. I was struggling with a puny fifteen minute limp along session on the treadmill and was not happy about it.

Luckily the weather has steadily improved and so have my running times. And there are also these wonderful things called apps and real roads that help me figure out how far I’ve been running and what my mile pace, things I couldn’t quite take advantage of when I was on the dirt roads cutting through rice fields. I’ve been nerding out a bit over it. Enough so to dedicate an entire post to talking about how much I’m enjoying running again.

I don’t know how or why, but running has become a constant in my life as I make my way through segueing myself back to life in America. It’s become a time of meditative reflection that I never look forward to until I’m knee-deep in things and realize how necessary it is for my sanity. Maybe it’s an addiction to the endorphins, but I totally understand and nod enthusiastically at the above quote. It’s amazing the people you connect with when you’re out and about exercising in the world. Maybe even yourself?

With the Pittsburgh marathon a few weeks ago, I saw many former classmates and friends have been taking the plunge into long distance running. I’m hoping to join a race sometime in the fall, fingers crossed for a half marathon! For now, I’ll keep lacing up and taking in the scenery in this Runner Life.

Tuesday Travel Photo

Chattahoochee river walk… that’s a mouthful. With the recent cold snap moving through Pittsburgh and big brother taking a new ladyfriend out there, my travel toes wouldn’t mind dipping in for a stroll along this beautiful Columbus, Georgia river walk.

P.S. TIckets have been bought for one of my American Friday Five places! Travel bug is getting its groove on.

Friday Five

Five Things I Learned in Peace Corps– And it’s more and more evident the more time I spend in the US in my post-PC life.

Being a Minority
Being a tall, white women doesn’t quite put me in the majority in the US, but it’s not like you’re putting a round peg in a square hole. In Asia, this round peg would never fit in. I never truly considered how difficult life can be to not be a part of the accepted image or norm of a society’s makeup. And it’s not like Thais were ever really that mean to me about it! When I think about the civil rights movement of the 1950s, the open hostility some still display for those not of the pre-accepted standard of what we should look like and how we live our lives, I feel like I’ve taken a bite from the knowledge and empathy tree and relate a whole hell of a lot better with them. And realize we are them just as they are us. Even if someone is a different skin color, sexual orientation, or intelligence level, we are all people and deserve the love and respect of one another.

Seriously though. I know people joke about ‘first world problems’ and every person  deserves to feel what they want about their issues, but the times I would think about how incredibly lucky I was for being an American and having all these rights and hopes and possibilities for my life… I can’t even count. We have life in our bodies. A plethora of obscenely delicious foods to consume. And even, hot showers. I think we, as a country and a generation, need to put things in perspective a little bit and realize, we have it pretty fucking awesome. And that’s enough to put a smile on anyone’s face.

Life Is Really Unfair
This is one of those ‘real world’ lessons that our Moms always tell us, but you don’t fully realize until your most hardworking student still doesn’t do as well as her peers despite all her effort and desire to learn. Not to mention the five brothers and sisters she’s helping raise, get to school, and manage allowances for all of them. The most she expects from her life is to be the wife of a rice farmer. And then I think of all the people who don’t take advantage of all the advantages we have or abuse the system we have in place to give a hand up to those in need… the inequality of the situation is like a slap in the face. And never has that stung so much as it does after seeing it with my own two eyes.

Get Over It
We, as Americans, get really worked up about things. Road rage, cursing out Mother Nature (true story, someone went on a rampage the other day at work), bugs in your life, someone leaving the coffee filter full instead of dumping it out… these are not things that should not produce a very large reaction in someone. At least it didn’t in Thailand. But I’ll let you in on a little secret, all problems, big and small, will eventually work themselves out. I don’t know if it was the ridiculously relaxed atmosphere in Thailand or if it comes from seeing all kinds of Peace Corps projects/ideas being a complete and utter failure, but I’m finding it’s really unnecessary to get stressed out over things that will eventually be fine. So the next time you feel a wave of worry or stress or anything in that family, take a breath, realize you’re doing pretty great considering the circumstances, and take a leaf out of the Thai book and have a beer. Even if it is nine o’clock in the morning.

America Isn’t Perfect
In the dark, lonely ‘I’ve been cooped up by myself in the village for too long’ days, memories of America and the possibility of spending time there again in the future were like a shimmering mirage of paradise. I mean, do I need to write another paragraph of how great life is for us? But if living in another culture teaches you one thing above all others (outside of a renewed appreciation for your home) is that there is a different way to do things. Some things are better, some things are worse. And while this RPCV feels an immense joy every single day spent in the US of A, there is a lot of ugliness in this magnificent place. Maybe it’s changed or maybe it’s my eyes that have been forced opened after an experience like Peace Corps. I tend to lean towards the latter. Still, I love you America, for better or worse.

Friday Five

Five More Photos from April– I know, I know. Another Friday Five photo post, but given it’s the first Friday of the month, I thought I would do a few more photos from April. Next week I’ll get back on the writing train.

I couldn't help myself... it's American Street. How amazing is that?

I couldn’t help myself… it’s American Street. How amazing is that?

Another photo from Phipps

Another photo from Phipps

Tyler entertaining a class of third graders, most questions started like this: 'Excuse me Mr. Army-man'

Tyler entertaining a class of third graders, most questions started like this: ‘Excuse me Mr. Army-man…’ This was a good introduction back into how American kids are compared to Thais

My best friend's bachelorette bridal bonanza

My best friend’s bachelorette bridal bonanza… yes I am the tallest in the ENTIRE bridal party

Tyler thought it best to censor this baby's awkward nudity

Tyler thought it best to censor this baby’s awkward nudity… can’t say I disagree with him

Tuesday Travel Photo

Appreciating America and the sites close to home is high on my list of activities since completing my Peace Corps service. Falling Water has been a TTP destination before, but after watching a documentary with my Mom at the local library, I can’t wait for the weather to warm up for us to make our way  to the most visited art exhibit in the region. Even if it happens to be a house. One thing  the documentary makes you notice is the inside is as much of a must see as the scenery surrounding it.

In Transit to America

I’ve been back in the U.S. for a little over a month now, but I haven’t had time to edit this until now. I hope I’m able to look back one day and enjoy the thoughts and feelings I had while coming ‘home’ again from this great adventure of mine. I miss Thailand quite terribly and think about it every single day, but I can’t put into words the immense joy and happiness to be back in America. And it’s not just because I have the 27 hours of travel behind me either.