Archive for March, 2012

I’ve been thinking recently about putting together a sort of extended blog post / mini-article about my experiences running in each places I’ve lived since it has now been a decade since I started running. ┬áThis will partially be a personal project, but I think also it might be kind of interesting for other runners (or endurance athletes) to read, especially those who are hardcore and dedicated to running (or swimming or biking, etc). Also, I googled a bit to see what else exists on this topic, and it seems like what most people have written about running/triathlon falls into one of the following categories:

– elite athletes with entourages or enough money to ship things around and/or homes in multiple locations

– people who, either for business or pleasure, end up somewhere else for a few days or weeks temporarily and bring their running shoes along and/or participate in races around the world

– people who lived one place as an “expat” and write about all the trials and tribulations of one particular place

I think I could offer some different perspectives and funny stories because I’ve lived in several places over the last decade for extended periods of time. In each place I’ve continued to train, run, race, etc, no matter the situation. Some places excelled at certain aspects more than others – for instance, the pollution in Beijing was a huge problem last year, but the people I met were fantastic. In Taipei the weather was a constant issue, but I used to run up a windy, deserted hill, with a Buddhist temple, that had a nice view over Taipei (and Taipei 101 to boot!). The weather in Santa Cruz was fantastic, as were the people and the hills, even if I had to carry pepper spray with me whenever I ran. Berlin offers mellower scenery and a safer environment, with weather and forests that more closely resemble that of the Washington, D.C. area.

With that said, I hope over the next few weeks to take time away from my “thinking” about Chinese history (and rice history…. yes, rice history AGAIN) to write a post on each place over the last decade… First, some background info:

Ten years ago, in mid-spring 2002, I decided to start jogging in my last semester at Virginia Tech. I decided that I was out-of-shape and needed to get some more fresh air. For most of my life, I played softball and/or tennis, but that stopped when I quit the Virginia Tech club softball team midway through my second year. Between then and my senior year, I gained quite a bit of weight and was generally miserable. In summer 2001, I started doing the 30-minute videotapes and I seem to remember sporadically going to the gym at Virginia Tech either for a class (kickboxing? step? I don’t even remember) and/or some light shuffling on the indoor track at McComas beginning that winter semester (2002). The record was 12 minutes without stopping on the indoor track. The crazy part is I don’t think the track was even 400M long – I have no idea how I mentally dealt with even 12 minutes of running on something that short.

So, in spring 2002, I had already been taebo-ing for about 6-8 months when I decided jogging seemed like a better (read: more interesting) activity. At that time, I also knew that my father had started jogging in his mid-20s (and he still jogs), so I figured there must be some kind of long-term appeal to the activity. I didn’t own any decent running shoes or running clothes, so I basically wore the cross-trainers and cotton gap shorts/tank tops that I’d been using for the other classes, plus some old navy-blue mesh shorts from my high school softball team. I lived in an apartment complex that was very close to a 2.5-3 mile loop encircling another townhouse neighborhood in Blacksburg, Virginia. My goal was simple: by the end of the spring, I wanted to be able to run the entire distance without stopping. I don’t remember how long it took me exactly, but I’m fairly certain it was somewhere in the range of 2-3 months of running 2-3 times per week before I could do this. I still have painful memories of having to stop every few hundred meters from side-stitches, but to this day I remember how much better I felt after getting a run in following a long day of work and/or schoolwork. Ten years later, I feel the same way.

Next up: running in Funfax, VA/ DC area and my first race- the Alexandria Turkey Trot 5-miler!

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