A year measured in exercise

• ~700 words • 3 minute read

I'm amping-up my training this week for the Shamrock Run next weekend as part of my resolution to participate in a run every month in 2014 ((So far it's been... not so good! The idea came to me in January, so with the idea of using that for training. Then unexpected snow in February canceled my only scheduled run for that month.)). I figure that a week of accelerated training is about the minimum required to keep it from being more of a Shamerock Run ((A terrible pun I generally reserve for a certain, seasonal McDonald's promotion.)).

Today I did more training up on Mt. Tabor and found myself reflecting on the times I'd gone running — or otherwise deliberately gone out of my way to exercise and work up a sweat — over the past year. Perpetually traveling made my exercise routines a bit unpredictable, but I was pleased to realize I'd done so in 10 of the 18 countries I spent significant time in, looking aside the fact that nearly everyday included vast amounts of walking and exploring and that regular routine I had in Peru carrying two 16-liter jugs of water about three-quarters of a mile back from the grocery store.

There was running in Buenos Aires, past the graveyard in Recoleta and along Avendia del Libertador. Running to and alongside the Atlantic ocean on la Rambla in Montevideo. Something like running — with frequent interruptions to go dip in the ocean and lie in the sand — along the Portuguese pavement near Ipanema and Copacabana beaches in Rio de Janeiro, and running along the same limestone patterns again months later when I'd find myself in Lisbon. There was running through Casa de Campo during the early summer in Madrid, catching glimpses of brown rabbits in the underbrush and civilization off the distance. Running in Zanzibar was truly the most exotic of them all, through humid, spice-soaked air, past scuttling crabs, seaweed farms and jumping over handmade boats to be taken out in the sea. In Thessaloniki I ran through the ruins of Ano Poli, at the top of a hill overlooking the city and the Mediterranean ocean. Through Bulgaria past gypsies with their goats in the forest of Zapaden park with the picturesque Mount Vitosha in the background. Less scenically on the treadmills, the pools and the covered basketball court in Bangkok as I watched the monsoons and thunderstorms pass overhead. A 40-mile bicycle loop around George Town, Penang — a destination chosen entirely because it was less then two days away by train and bore my namesake — where I nearly collided with a monitor lizard on the shoulder of the highway, past the pungent durian farms, through a yet another monsoon. Around the track in circles in the neatly-planned municipal exercise park where mostly old people hung out near Sham Shui Po in Hong Kong. An almost-daily excursion to the neighborhood sentō in Tokyo — not exercise, but certainly a deliberate sweat between the sauna, the hot pools, the cold pools and the odd pool that shocked you with electricity. The last place? Five in the morning runs ((I was still on Tokyo time the first week or so; 5am was just another number on the clock.)) around Diamond Head crater, down the path to the beach to watch the surfers who'd spent the night wade out into the waters to meet the morning waves, past the occasional sleeping monk seal, meeting the sun in December and reflecting on a long, long year. Resting before coming home, not even fully knowing how well it would serve me.

And that brings us all the way to yesterday. And now. Up to the volcano, a place positively teeming with memories from every stage of my life I've come to realize, around  and back down. On the backside I see Mount Hood, majestic as ever on the clear, cloudless day I can see it. And on the other side, from the top of the reservoirs, a beautiful view of Portland. My city. The place where all the people I know and love are. I go on these runs now unsure of if or when something might take me away again. It's an adjustment.

God, what a beautiful year I had. Did I fully appreciate it as it happened?

I think I did. The memories taste just as sweet and seem just vibrant now as they were in the making.