Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Wednesday, February 25, 2015 - 1 comment

Run, Abla, Run!

I’ve never been a distance runner.  

When I was a kid, if you needed someone for a hundred metre dash, I was your girl.  But I distinctly remember a high school track meet in which someone got sick and I suddenly found myself subbed in for a leg of the 4x400 relay.  By the time I’d passed off the baton, I was ready to collapse.  I suppose 400 meters still qualifies as a “sprint”, but one lap around the track was about all the “distance” I could stomach.

This Sunday, I’m going to run my first 10K.  

Over the last few years, as I’ve mourned the passing of that glorious era of “eat whatever I want and don’t gain a pound”, I’ve focused more time and energy on staying in shape.  Part of this change of lifestyle involved the decision that being “a runner” is something I want to grow into, and I’ve chased after this goal (pardon the pun) in spurts.    I’ve found myself a route that works - little traffic, houses for safety, as much pavement and as few major road craters as I can find around here.  And every other morning, I get up and I run.

In busier seasons, I’ve forgone it altogether.  And living in a climate where, four months out of the year, stepping out the front door anytime after 6AM is the sweat-potential equivalent of walking into a steamy Turkish bath means running is out of the question for a good chunk of the year.  (I’m not hard core enough to sign up for a gym, and besides, treadmills bore me to tears.)  But when the weather and my schedule permit it, running has become an activity that has moved from suck-it-up-and-do-it-cuz-it’s-good-for-you to something I actually enjoy.  

Now, something you have to understand about my neighbourhood is that seeing someone running here for sport is about as rare as spotting a tractor pulling a load of hay through the middle of New York City.  An oddity, to say the least.  We’re talking mainly dirt roads and sheep-poop dodging.  And, as such, I’ve been on the receiving end of a whole lot of amusing reactions.

I’ve had a pile of little boys hanging over their schoolyard fence screaming, “Run, abla, run!”  Minibus drivers are constantly slowing down, thinking I’m chasing them for a ride.  One of the roads I repeatedly cross is a driver training strip, and I am forever throwing those poor student drivers into confusion as we both try to anticipate each other’s next move.  The same goes for flocks of sheep - I try to give them a wide berth, but sometimes they’re still skittish and I’ve had to apologize to a shepherd for causing a riot.  And people I’ve never met have been known to yell from their balconies, “Hey, stop running and come have coffee and cookies with us!”  

It’s become more of a common occurrence to see groups of women out trying to walk off (saunter and gossip off would be more accurate) the few extra pounds they’re hiding under their şalvar.  I always say hello and smile encouragingly, and inevitably their response is “Why are you running?  You’re already skinny!”

The best was last week when a man reversed all the way up a street to check and be sure I wasn’t in danger and running from someone.  

I recently actually saw a guy running (in shorts, no less!) on a road that I frequent, so there’s hope that I won’t be the only weirdo in the neighbourhood for long.  And I know that, come Sunday, all those people who’ve been hiding downtown with their seawall and their spongy tracks with the metres marked out on them will emerge, and I’ll be surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses with running shoes and iPods just like mine.  And there will be no sheep poop and no student drivers and no funny looks - just a voice in my head cheering, “Run, abla, run!”


* "Abla" is Turkish for "older sister"


Since you've come to love running, I believe you will do