On a Saturday morning in Central Park, joggers made a Lycra rainbow as they stuck out their elbows to claim a spot. I turned up my "pumped up for running in New York" playlist and jostled my way among them. On advice from my host Jack, I'd chosen the Jacqueline Kennedy reservoir for my virgin Central Park workout. On the right day the water is a brilliant turquoise and the view of high rises towering on all sides leaves you gasping.
Each person I passed spurred me on; each one who passed me left me a little flat. But it was motivating to be back in the running community after traversing America's streets alone for so long. Do you exercise while travelling or am I weird and alone in this pursuit?
Strange as I may be, running is my favourite way to orientate myself in a new place. And by "orientate" I mean, "get hopelessly lost but chance upon cool stuff". I do take a map with me in case of complete confusion. It doesn't help, because I lack the gene required to read maps, as well as any sense of direction, but it fools me into false confidence.
I have traversed what I'm sure would be multiple half marathons had I counted up the kilometres I've pounded trying to find my way back to my starting points. In Salzburg I ran off my map, in circles for two hours. I nearly cried when I saw a familiar street. I did get a spectacular mountaintop view though, albeit through gaps between the city's most exclusive homes.
Hills are my favourite because running up them a) gives you a vantage point from which you can find your way home b) makes you feel good about yourself, hence c) the views from the top become that much sweeter. And you see the scenery at twice the pace, which leaves you more room in your day to tick off other sights (yes I'm one of those annoying tourists.)
The problem is, I've stuck to America's flat areas (bar San Francisco). And now I've (stupidly) agreed to sign up to Edinburgh's Speed of Light performance. It's part of the International Festival, is a little over a month away and I'm under-prepared. Hundreds of us will strap light suits to ourselves, and run in the dark up Arthur's Seat, a particularly brutal mountain atop the city. It'll create a magical light show for the audience who'll be looking down on us from above.
The reason I'm concerned is because I've run up this mountain before and she broke me. Real good. I did not "knock the bastard off." No, the bastard took me in her mouth like a limp rat and left me shaking and saliva-covered at her peak. Also because the man on the training video told me: "Even if you can run 5 to 10 miles on the road, you WILL FAIL if you haven't done any hill training."
I am afraid. I shall keep you posted.
But tell me of your runs abroad - do you do it? What are your favourite running haunts? What's your advice on how to train for hills when there are none around?
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