from mile to marathon

The journey of a thousand leagues begins from beneath your feet.

Friday, November 10, 2006

breakfast at Tiffany's

When I went back to Eastern Europe in summer, the most peculiar thing about running on streets was the reaction of people. Staring, sarcasm, spite.

We are not talking narrow, crowded city streets where my running would have interfered with pedestrian traffic. We are not talking slums. I mean quiet residential roads in a better part of town, large tree-lined sidewalks along boulevards, even park alleys. I got hateful looks, snide remarks, foul jokes, poisoned jabs. Mostly from groups and men, but also from single women. Often from children (ten-year-olds with colorful backpacks, and ribbons in their hair). Once even from a couple, in a park, as if the romantic feel of their togetherness was not enough for them to ignore a lonely runner. They all felt obliged to let me know, in as vulgar a language as they could manage, they took no pleasure in my passing.

We used to be proud of our athletes. I could not understand how we had become a nation so rude.

Until one day it occurred to me they envied me. Well, maybe not for the running per se. But because I could invest time, energy, and resources in running, an activity that doesn't make money.

Do not judge them. In a country frustrated for decades, materially and spiritually, within a society fixated on catching up with the West, to a population obsessed with profit, my running signified an unaffordable freedom. They envied me the leisure to run, the Nike gear evidently designed for running, the mindset able to focus on something other than material worries.

To them, my running meant luxury, like diamonds and pearls.

I am so lucky, I am so fortunate, I am so humbled, I am so grateful.


At 5:51 PM, Blogger backofpack said...

That is a powerful insight. I've never thought of running in those terms...and I've never thought about what it means to have the freedom to run in quite that way. Thanks for sharing.

At 10:26 AM, Blogger Black Knight said...

I am sorry for your "adventures" in Europe. Here the runners are part of the city, I could say "part of the landscape". I travel a lot and everywhere the runners don't have any problem (I mean western Europe and USA).

At 9:22 AM, Blogger traveler022 said...

I'm back in the Bay Area. You can email me at my blogger name @yahoo. I'll make copies of the exercises. I can either mail them to you or meet at Fleet Feet Sports Albuquerque since I'll be there next week to pick-up my race packet.

You are a strong woman regarding your post about your visit with your parents. I know they love us, but sometimes they say the most discouraging things. Thanks for the reminder not to take their comments to heart. I'll have to figure out how to sneak out of my parents' house Thanksgiving morning to do the Turkey Trek race:).

At 5:09 AM, Blogger Lora said...

Great job understanding that culture instead of basing thoughts on American values.

Glad you're back to running!!

At 6:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are right... you were the rich and spoiled "runner".
I totally agree with what you said:
"I am so lucky, I am so fortunate, I am so humbled, I am so grateful."


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