Immerse Yourself in Where You Are!

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When I lace up I immerse myself in who I am, at least that’s what all the running memes say I am supposed to be doing. I go out for pleasure, or maybe I am training for a race, but it is about me. Recently I am learning more and more to immerse myself in where I am. Since moving to New York I have noticed that I pay attention to so much while I am out on a run. When I first began running I started in the city where I lived, but in San Francisco I think I was so used to the places I ran that I didn’t really pay attention. Then when I started running trails I got lost in nature, and whatever beauty was delivered to me that minute, hour, or day. That is a beautiful thing, and I learned to appreciate, and actually crave nature. Now that I am in a city of countless shops, neighborhoods, smells, people, etc…I find myself getting to know the landscape on all levels through my runs. This has made me think of all the great places that I have run, and through that remembrance I realize how grateful I am for those experiences, and how I got to know so much about where I am.

Even though I know San Francisco so well I still had a profound experience getting to know the city though my first ever half marathon. I have put in countless miles in San Francisco. Since I have been tracking I have run thousands of miles in that sicty, plus whatever I ran before that. This also included running back and forth across the Golden Gate Bridge countless times. In July of 2012 I was able to run on the Golden Gate Bridges Road deck. IT WAS AMAZING!!!!! It is so different than the walkway. I remember feeling the footsteps of all the runners creating a rhythmic bounce the closer I got to the halfway point on the bridge, where the curve of the span hits its apex. For those of you that don’t know it, the span of the golden gate bridge is an incredibly long, slow inclining hill – marvelous, but not as easy as it looks sometime. It was a pivotal moment that made the city, which I called home the longest in my life, even that much more special in my heart.

Golden Gate
Not from the run, but even San Francisco’s bridges have hills.

Ah, Paris, the city of lights. It really is one of my favorite places on the planet to visit. Of course there are the amazing museums, restaurants, sites, smells, shear beauty everywhere you look, but there is so much in neighborhoods that people don’t see – at least I hadn’t in all my years of going. In 2013 I decided to run the Paris Marathon, and it has made my love of Paris that much greater. On April 3rd I ran in Paris for the first time and it could have been a scene out of a movie. I started my run in the Bastille neighborhood of the city. I ran down to the Seine and worked my way towards the Louvre. It was about 5:30 in the morning and the smells coming from the bakeries was enough to make me quit my run, grab a coffee, then make myself pass out eating pain au chocolat. It didn’t matter what sort of bakery it was, because they all smelled good. The fruit vendors were also setting up on various corners in the city. April in Paris is definitely not spring, or at least it wasn’t that year. It was 30 degrees and very brisk, but the smells of citrus, tropical fruits, and even things like leeks, became ethereal. Oh how heavenly produce can be… The other thing that I experienced that morning were the night workers that had just gotten finished and were getting their first, maybe second, drink of the day. This also meant they were smoking. For some reason it didn’t bother me as it was just another sight and smell of the city. Along this run I saw a few places that I wanted to stop at later in the day and visit when they were open. It also gave me a few side-streets that look like they were taken straight out of the French Revolution, because of the cobblestone and architecture.

The day of the marathon was also pretty brilliant. If you have ever walked on the Champs-Elysées it is pretty amazing. Even more amazing was being able to run on it for the start of the race. All of the corals back up to the Arc de Triomphe, and it stood gazing over 45,000 people waiting to tackle the city. From there we all passed the Place de la Concorde, the Louvre, the Bastille, and  Père Lachaise Cemetery. I had seen all these places, but now I was feeling like I lived there. I was touring the entire city in one fell swoop…or swoosh if you are wearing Nike’s. The next part of the race I was the most surprised, and that was the hill leading into the Bois de Vincennes. If you have ever seen the Da Vinci Code, then you will remember the mansion in Paris, well that is in the Bois de Vincennes. The forest area is beautiful, as is the château. But, the hill leading up to it, and around it, seemingly never ends. After you hit the 12 mile marker you come around a curve in the park and you are met with one of the most stunning views you will ever see of the city. never had I realized that is view was here. I felt like stopping, because the sun was shining so warmly at us, but I wanted to take it all in. I though the view from the Sacré-Coeur was amazing, but I was wrong. It could not have been a more perfect day. Then it did get more perfect, because then I got to run along the Seine, past the Tuilleries, L’Orangerie, one of the Statues of Liberty at the Pont Saint Michelle, and then we passed Roland Garros as we went into the Bois de Bologne. The forest there was grey, because the leaves hadn’t grown and the flowers hadn’t bloomed, but the elms were beautiful. They made the perfect canvas for the Arc de Triomphe, as I exited the forest and on to the finish line – almost right where I started.

Another place that stands out is Lima Peru. If you are a foodie, you have achieved Nirvana. If you love art, then you have arrived at an amazing backdrop for beauty. And, if you love a good view,then there is no other place to enjoy tall cliffs, blue oceans, mountains, and colorful buildings that rival San Francisco. There are also paths that cater to those that want to be fit and be outdoors. The first time I went to Lima was in September of 2014, one week before the Chicago Marathon. The morning after my arrival I went on a 12 mile run that brought me south along the coast. I started in Miraflores and I worked my way through Surquillo, Barranco, and to the Playa Pescadores – which has an amazingly lit cross at the top of a hill that overlooks the entire city. I stopped for a while and took in the sights and the city was truly spectacular. During my run I noticed how unique the areas were. Miraflores was hustle and bustle and as I went around I passed all the great stores that we see worldwide, as well as a few more. Surquillo was definitely a bit more barrio, but had an amazing feel to it. Also, the smells of the food being made as I came through this neighborhood made my stomach do back-flips. Then I went through Barranco, which is a very artsy district of the town. The colors of the buildings were like a palate of pastels and all I could do was try and focus so I didn’t trip over myself from being distracted. I am not even talking about my meals,  because is for another story…

 

Lima

I will talk a little about one of my meals. I met our host for this trip, Gregory Smith. He is the wine director for Central Restaurant- one of the top spots in the world. We met at a place called Amaz, which focused on local foods from the many regions of the Amazon. As we talked and got to know each other a bit he said he wanted to show me around town. At that time I didn’t know the names of the places that I had run through, but the descriptions of the places he spoke of were ringing a bell. Each time I mentioned “I think I saw that”, but was given a reply “It’s pretty far away”. So I let it go. I didn’t know where the hell I was, and surely there could have been other places that fit those descriptions in Lima. Over course of the week I realized I had been to those places, and in a few instances I new my way around. When I was finally asked how far I ran I told them 12 miles – Greg responded quickly with “Yep you pretty much saw most of the city!”. Granted there is still lots to see, but I got an amazing lay of the land. My subsequent visit since has only gotten better. This time I could walk all over and feel comfortable, even at home. It also gave me a special feeling for the city; a feeling that was not just about the fun part of visiting, but nostalgic – I really look forward to settling in each time I go.

I am not sure if everyone gets these feelings, but maybe some of you have felt something similar? I know that my running shoes and clothes take up as much space in my suitcase as my work clothes do now. I now take in every place I visit, regardless of a domestic or international destination. Running gives me a sense of relating to the people, the culture, the vibe, as well as places I would like to check out. It has helped me immerse myself in where I am, not just who I am.  I wrote this entry the other night on the plane, shortly after reading a few paragraphs from Thoreau. I wanted to be inspired on writing about what I see, and who better to help with that then Thoreau. I will end with this quote that indeed did inspire me…

“It’s not what you look at that matters, It’s what you see.” -Thoreau

 

 

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