Lots of times, when my friends learn that my after-school plans include 16+ mile runs, they wonder how I don’t get bored. The thing is, I look forward to those 2-3 hour blocks of time once a week when I don’t have any assignment but to jog around this beautiful city and get lost inside my head. A long period of time when being introverted and reflective is sanctioned? Yes, please.
So what I do is think. To get warmed up, I usually listen to music because the first couple miles are always the hardest. Then I just think: about my surroundings, about my day, about the Italians or tourists I see, about things my friends have said to me, about where I want to take my parents in Florence, about where I’ve been the past weekend, about anything bothering me, about anything I’m excited about. If you can release your focus on the physical and any tiredness associated with running, and let your mind take you where it will, it passes the time. And quite productively, I’ve found. I’ve begun many a run anxious, tired, confused, homesick, frustrated, or unsure of myself, and never failed to arrive home with a peaceful, centered mind.
Also I try not to blog or write to my friends/family unless I have something to say, and runs are my time for processing the world and helping me articulate my thoughts and experiences to those who I correspond with. So, here are some of those thoughts, a couple of lighthearted lists (you know I love my lists) that have been adding up in my head recently.
Things I Love About Italy
- The uniformity of the architecture
- Eating dessert for breakfast
- Walking, walking, walking
- The ease and economy of travel
- The beautiful language
- How everyone lives outside because of the premium on space
- Small children speaking Italian
- The things it makes me appreciate about America
- Piazzas <– not pizzas.
- Views of Florence from any high place
- The fruit. Especially the green grapes. Yes, they have seeds. Yes, the seeds are worth it.
- How un-intimidating / un-official-sounding the sirens are
- Being spoiled. My host mom sets out a tray with a mug and breakfast pastries every morning, and leaves French-pressed coffee in the fridge for me to heat up. Then she cooks me dinner every night, cleans my room and bathroom, and does my laundry. She insists on doing all of that too! It’s Italian culture. I offer to help do dishes all the time but have never been allowed. The best I can do is thank her all the time.
- The fact that I’m in Italy, particularly Florence. I get annoyed with its city-ness sometimes, but forget all of that when I can just walk into the Uffizi or Santa Croce or Palazzo Strozzi in my free time.
Things I Miss About America
- My family :)
- Men with manners
- Peanut butter!!!
- Soy lattes
- Screens on windows
- Video streaming– both Youtube and TV episodes online. Netflix instant doesn’t even work in this country! The injustice!
- Cascadian Farm granola sprinkled over WF 365 organic lemon yogurt with half a sliced banana, slivered almonds, and a drizzle of local honey. Specifically. <– you know what I’m gonna be eating as soon as I return to the US!
- Cooking and baking
- Lululemon and yoga classes and my friends at Lotus
- The fact that I’m going to miss Thanksgiving.
- The fact that most of the things on this list are food-related, even though I’m in a country renowned for its food
Things Training for a Marathon Has Taught Me
- Your boundaries are 75% mental. With proper physical training, diet, and TLC for yourself (see #2-3), plus an unshakably positive attitude, you can do anything.
- My body was telling me something by loving dark chocolate.
- When you’re given a day to rest, rest. Take a slow stroll. Watch a movie. Eat a plate of pasta….
- …..Because the next day won’t be a rest day anymore.
- How to listen to myself. To my inner voice, to my body, to my cravings (more for protein and veggies these days… no shortage of carbs in Italia!)
- How not to listen to other people. That sounds odd, but I’ve found that peoples’ inclinations (even my parents) are to tell me I’m running too much, pushing too hard, etc. With peers here at school, it’s usually because if I ran less, they would feel better about themselves. With my wonderful Mom and Dad, it’s because they’re concerned about my well-being. But whatever the reason, it’s important to ignore all of their advice and keep after my goal.
- That around the first 18-mile run, you no longer feel surprised about long distances. The question becomes not, can I do it, but, when will I fit these annoying long things into my busy schedule?
- Uphill climbs make me feel strong.
- Downhill slopes make me feel like I could keep running forever.
- All foodies should be marathoners. It keeps you trim, and knowing you earned your meal gives you a greater appreciation for it.
- I’m more independent than even I thought I was. The possibility of traveling to Greece on my own to run this no longer scares me.
So there’s a peek into what I talk to myself about on long runs. Sometimes I don’t even try to keep up a monologue– I just observe and appreciate where I am. Sometimes those turn out the best and most beautifully surprising, anyway.
Pictured above: View of one of the towns in Cinque Terre; mountaintop yoga; sailboats on the Mediterranean at Cinque Terre