I have been a runner for probably 8 years now. It started as a way to get and stay fit (I like to say I run so I can eat and if you have sampled Tracey’s baking you know what I mean) but it became much more than that. It was a good time to work through thoughts and ideas in my mind in the early morning darkness, to listen to some good podcasts during a weekend long run, and a way to stretch my mental and physical stamina. The more I ran the more it became somewhat addictive; in a good way I think. Running became a way to deal with the stresses of life. Normally I am pretty laid back but take away my running for a few weeks and let’s just say other people begin to notice.
One of things I like about running is the ability to easily “transport” my “obsession” to a new city and then the opportunity to run and explore new places. When we moved from the flatness of Sarnia to Woodstock I discovered country roads and river paths as wonderful places to run in quietness. When we moved on to Hamilton there were new streets, Niagara Escarpment accesses and Bruce Trail routes that became favorites to traverse and explore.
Over the past 8 years I have been opportunities to run in places like Houston, Miami, Colorado Springs, Grand Rapids, Banff, Costa Rica, on cruise ships and through provincial parks. Some of these runs have been good experiences and some not so great (some cities are just not designed with the runner in mind). During these exploits I never got lost unlike a relative of mine who found out that in some Japanese cities 3 right hand turns doesn’t necessarily mean you will get back to where you started.
When we moved to Haiti I had no expectations it would be an easy place to run and that exploring this city by foot might not be the best way to checkout my new surroundings. During past visits to Haiti I tried going for a run; however not knowing the city (worrying about getting lost and if I would go where it is not safe) made these attempts short and stressful.
The first weekend we were here I went out for a very unfulfilled run, worried about getting lost and dealing with the poor streets, lack of sidewalks, and the great interest Haitians showed. Imagine running (or going for a walk if that is more your speed) in these conditions:
It took me awhile to overcome the challenges but seeing how not running was affecting my emotional health forced me to deal with some of the barriers I faced to running here. With a better knowledge of the city streets and the language I am now running in Haiti.
Over the past few months I have started to get out early Saturday or Sunday morning for a run when the air is cooler and there is less traffic. I have also gone out to run a couple of time with a group of ex-pats who meet 2 or 3 times a week to run up above the city along some secluded streets and trails. I also finally got my treadmill working and so now there are no excuses. Well maybe just the heat.
If you are not a runner you might not understand but for me being able to run again has been good for my body, my soul and my family and I am thankful to be back at it.
Running here does bring up some deeper issues like; should I be expending all these extra calories when others around me are looking for their next meal? or Is this the best use of my time when there are so many mission related things I could be doing? Living here is not easy and wrestling with these kinds of questions can drive you crazy and add stress to your life.
Maybe I will think about that as I pound out some kilometers on the treadmill.