Studying abroad in Europe this fall, I’ve had to navigate quite a few things for the first time – fitting three months of life into two bags, flying internationally, at times communicating with only my hands and eyebrows, etc. Most important of these adjustments, however, has been incorporating my longtime running routine into my new traveler’s lifestyle.
First there’s the packing of the running clothes. Non-athletes don’t need to account for extra socks, t-shirts, shorts, running shoes, zip-ups — essentially an extra outfit for each day. More clothing to sweat in equals more clothing to be cleaned, and since my host mother only does laundry once a week, I wash quite a few things on my own.
Other relevant matters include safety and schedule coordination. I’ve had to accept days off due to nightfall and unfamiliarity of a location. No need to be foolish. Finagling runs around classes and meals can be a source of frustration at times, but I’ve learned to be flexible, open-minded and to prioritize. Sometimes foregoing a run in exchange for a cultural experience is best, but nothing beats the satisfaction of fitting a couple good workouts into the week.
Since establishing somewhat of a routine in Salamanca, I’ve designated 7pm as “my running time” to explore and recharge. I usually run along the Río Tormes, across the Puente Romano (how many centuries of feet have crossed that before me?! So cool), to Salas Bajas, the athletic facility at the University of Salamanca. A large gravel trail encircles fields, courts and even a building with a small weight room which university students can access for free with their ID.
Possibly one of the better aspects of running abroad is finding others who share your passion and having awesome adventures with them. For example, entering a half marathon in Tordesillas, Spain with two other ISA students under the pseudonyms “Luna Lovegood,” “Cedric Diggory” and “Hermione Granger” from the Harry Potter Series was a ton of fun. And spending a weekend in a pretty little town you never would have visited, discussing philosophy with a friendly shop owner you never would have met. And racing against amazing international athletes three times your age across landscapes you never would have seen. And, to your own astonishment, winning your age/gender division and receiving flowers and a trophy to proudly show your host family upon return.
I like to think I haven’t experienced a place until I’ve run at least a mile there, and I believe I’m starting to realize what makes a true runner. Not how fast or how long or how far, and certainly not where, but why. I run because I love to. Because I take initiative in seeking out the opportunity wherever I am, adapting my running to my traveling or my traveling to my running. I don’t know. Either way, it’s pretty neat.