Why Running?

Do you run? I do. And I kinda love it.

I’ve been running for, probably, a decade now. I mean, regularly running. As in exercise. I find it quite surprising to be a runner because I sure wasn’t keen on running before. On the contrary, as a young girl I believed running to be a torturous activity which gave me nothing but pain in the abdomen and was grossly uncomfortable all over (a regular reader might remember for I’ve mentioned it before). Back at school, I excelled in short runs (yep, no stamina) and suffered heavily through long ones (mandatory 600m runs in school seemed like 6000m then).

One of the perks of running outdoors: beautiful roses in the local park

But, everyone can run, right? In my opinion, there’s no reason a healthy individual wouldn’t run. Continue reading “Why Running?”

The First Run of the Year or The Curious Case of Storytelling

Here we are, in the coldest time of the year, and I ran for the first time this year yesterday. The morning was quite chilly with -13 Centigrade and the temperature didn’t rise significantly by the afternoon. Still, I chose running instead of skiing as day’s main activity. For a seasoned runner I consider myself to be the cold isn’t believed a hindrance. And one warms up running much more than skiing.

It’s one thing to be running and listening to music, but it’s entirely something else to be running and listening to spoken word in podcasts. I find that way, to simplify, the whole body is employed: the limbs and the mind. Sometimes I find myself so absorbed in the listening that I either run too fast or too slow. A human mind is a fantastic space. Especially the aspect of telling and listening to stories, which in a broader sense of all beings only humans are capable of, and I mean not only pure (fictional) stories but the act of being able to transform the heard word, the text listened to, to images in one’s mind is fantastic, isn’t it? It’s a complex activity of our brain: making up stories, storytelling, listening to stories and visualising them simultaneously. It is magic. I find it truly overwhelming.

So, where did this ability take me to yesterday on the coolest of afternoons? Sicily. There I was among the heaps of immense heads of green cauliflower in the Palermo’s market. I attended the lavish banquets together with the noblemen of the 19th century Sicily. I watched Garibaldi’s ships land at Marsala. I entered the not-so-secret-anymore chocolate making shops of Modica. Quite a journey. Just before arriving back home I noticed nasty cool wind picked up sometime during my run and if it hadn’t been for somewhat numb fingers I wouldn’t have noticed it at all. I wondered if and how these polar winter conditions are manifested in Sicily. From the warmth of our home it seems quite romantic. Deceitfully so, I know.

 

Related:

In fact, there’s a whole science on the subject: Brian Boyd on why do we tell storiescritics on the subject and On the Origins of Stories via auslit.net

Sicily’s secret chocolate obsession via BBC

Ever wondered what else to use cauliflower for?

The top-selling book in Italian history

Freezing Europe

On Running

My closest friends know how much I resented running as a sport when I was growing up. The annual 600m run for a final mark in high school felt like a death sentence. At that time I excelled at short runs though. My marks at physical education (we used to call it gym class which is apparently obsolete) were improved by decent results in 60m and 100m runs. My man says this is typical of people with no endurance.

Still, someone at my primary school (way before the hated 600m) was brave enough to sent me to represent our school in district competition. Me of all pupils. Even though that was more than 30 years ago I still remember the utter exhaustion I felt when I finished that horror 2400m run (I was too ashamed to quit). Talk about sensible teachers.

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Anyway, I love to run now. I find it uncomplicated since no prep is needed. I change to my running gear (a sophisticated expression for a tee, shorts and sneakers) in the comfort of my home and I’m ready to run. Off the threshold. If packing and driving to a destination for the sole purpose of exercise aren’t your things then you might consider running for the simplicity of it. Warming up and stretching can both be done along the way. No equipment needed for that.

The greatest upside of running for me is being outdoors. I run year-round. When it’s cold, when it’s warm, when it’s foggy, when it’s sunny, come winter or summer, in October as well as in March, when in a good mood, or when blue. Only two conditions stop me from running: when pavements and paths are black iced and during downpour. The rest is a bunch of excuses. I try to avoid finding one.

Some jolly nice and unexpected situations have occurred during my runs, as well as nothing at all. I notice the colours in the woods as seasons change. Or, I see a couple in a loving embrace, or a handful of playful dogs in the meadow. I might notice other runners and feel envious of their stamina. On most days I don’t care about that at all. Occasionally, I meet a lovely fellow like this one:

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My runs have proved to be good time spent with myself. I have never returned from a run in worse shape or mood than upon start. Selectively, I compose a playlist of my favourite songs for my run. When I don’t feel like listening to music, there are many interesting podcasts to listen to during running. All available online in a matter of seconds. Sometimes, I get carried away in my thoughts during a run and when I finish I realize I’ve used my exercise time to plan a meal, for instance. Every now and again, I plainly accept the void. At times, I need a change of route to keep me motivated. Simply starting a run in the other direction can make wonders.

I’m not hiding there come the days I’m dragging my legs behind as if they weighed a ton each, or am in a nagging mood, or am just too lazy to go out. But I remind myself how good a feeling it is afterwards so I try to keep to my steady two runs a week. If I do one more, or something extra like occasional cycling trip or hiking, the better.

Considering there are years of work and pleasure before me I’d rather be in good shape to grasp it all if I can help it.

 

Related:

The man who popularized running

The first joggers’ club in the world

Running Up That Hill

 

The Weekend of Doing Nothing

I’ve finally warmed up this weekend. Up until Friday I was constantly cold partly because of the weather that stubornly refused to bring the warmth (at least this is a natural fact, something that can’t be controlled, so what the hack, right?) partly because of the office air-conditioning already turned on ignoring the actual outdoor conditions (simply bloody too much). So, a sunny and warm weekend at last delivered the long desired comfort.

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I enjoyed it very much. Contrary to everybody else who’ll be going on and on about what they’d been up to this weekend my reply to the eminent question of What did you do over the weekend? will be simply Nothing.

We drove to the Croatian coast for the weekend, true. Left the town pretty early on Friday, a rare indulgence, true again. We had a lovely late lunch of fresh fish on the way just on the edge of Karst. The nearer we got to the coast the warmer it was getting. The early evening was the colour of antique gold. We had a glass of amaro before we called it a night.

On Saturday we slept late, later than usual at least, and had coffee in bed. We drove to Umag, the nearest town, for breakfast …

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… and shopped at the local market. There are all kinds of vegetables and fruits in season right now, some of them our favourites: fresh cherries, crisp peas, sweetest carrots, young soft cabbage heads, fragrant strawberries, the not-yet-too-bitter radicchio verde, fantastic lettuce and whatnot. After that, we took a short stroll through the old town.

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We stocked up with a stack of magazines and newspapers at the newsagent’s and grabbed a fresh loaf of white bread at the baker’s. The one that we always crave for back home.

Then, we did some work around the house but nothing too exhausting. We enjoyed the sun and the warmth and the calmness of the day. We took a really long walk along the coast and admired the macchia and pine trees and the sweet up-coming smell of the summer.

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Before we turned in we had a glass of local pelinkovac, a remarkable wormwood liquor. One would assume we’re heavy on the alcohol but rest assured the quantities we had were purely medicinal.

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On Sunday, I went for a morning run and when I returned my man had already laid out a sumptuous breakfast. Afterwards, we read. And we read. We lounged in the sun and read. I podded the peas and then read some more. We were delighted by the birdsong and a tender breeze.

We cooked risotto primavera (simplified but nonetheless delicious) for late lunch and watched the tranquility pass us by.

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During our drive back home I watched the moon moving slowly over the sky of dying light. It was huge and deep yellow.

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Come to think of it it was no nothing at all.

The Spring Delights

It’s odd how we all wait rather impatiently for springtime year in, year out although, when it finally arrives, it’s not as pleasant a time as it seems when we’re knee deep in bleakness and greyness and darkness of autumn and winter that seem to last forever.

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First, you’re hit by summer time. Over night, you’re left bereft of one whole hour of sleep.

Then, there’s the spring fever that translates into unexpected loss of energy. Everything around you bursts to life again, revived and all, whereas you couldn’t feel more oxymoronic about it.

And, if you’re lucky, there’s more: a seasonal allergy. (I refuse to refer to it as hay fever: it’s months to the stage of hay.) It’s been a real pain in the arse – for the lack of a more illustrative word, and it’s been my first one, too, so I can’t really imagine how other people cope with it for a lifetime. There’s no other way, I know, but to endure.

In spite of all that, I force myself to go running. Thankfully, I’m grown up enough to appreciate the fact that once I’m out there it’s all good, it’s just the initial push that makes it so hard.

I drag my legs behind me as if they were made of stone. I’m as slow as a snail but I do carry on with it. Kilometre after kilometre. As much as I’m looking forward to finish it off, truth be told, it’s not only torturous. I tend to look out for nice things along the way too. I’m in utter awe, for example, at Mrs Nature’s and her daughter Miss Flora’s capabilities to provide wonders day by day.

I stop to smell this beauty. Pure essence of spring. Makes me feel a tad bit more energetic.

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When I return home I make myself a nice nourishing bowl of yoghurt to replenish. It is not only good for me, my body, it’s a delight for the eye as well.

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This little meal is all I need after a run and it’s easy to prepare. Basically, I add a couple of spoonfuls of yoghurt to a couple of spoonfuls of ricotta and top it up with a spoonful of homemade preserved cranberries. I always have a jar of preserved wild cranberries at hand. I simply love them. I guess it’s a combination of sweet and sour and a hint of tart that makes the preserve special. Apart from the fact that I make it myself. I buy them fresh in late summer when they’re available at our local market. Some are cooked to a preserve immediately, some are frozen and used up throughout the winter and spring when needed.

Depending on the mood (and the amount of hunger) I might add some rolled oats and/or linseed. Since I’m crazy about lemons right now  I add a couple of strings of lemon zest. More colour and more aroma. Yum.

After this I just might feel more in favour of spring.