This is a travel blog, but sometimes, all the travel I do is around a park. I run the entire circumference of a park, about 750 meters, six times twice a week. For people keeping track at home, that’s 4.5 kilometers, just shy of 3 miles. It’s the “winter” in Taiwan, so I have a routine. On Mondays and Wednesdays when I get home from work, I put on a long-sleeved shirt, socks, sometimes gloves, and a headband that covers my ears, and place a few napkins into my pockets so I can blow my nose on my run. I plug in my headphones and head out to the park four blocks from home. For almost forty minutes, I dodge slow grandmas, people on their bikes, far too many people who can’t be bothered to look up from their phone, dogs, and the occasional corner vendor. Once or twice, I’ve even tripped and nearly fallen on my face. Occasionally, I hate running. Frequently, I think about skipping it. But the general trend is that I’ve come to like this ritual more and more for the endorphins afterwards, and for what it has helped me learn about myself.
This is a travel blog, but travel is about learning new things. When I was in high school, I learned that I was nothing like the girls who ran track. They were fleet-footed, with slim thighs and high ponytails. I got tired after running one circle around the gym track, and hated being goaded by the coach. I was a failure, and I shrank from that. I sporadically visited the gym in college, and decided that yoga and swimming was all I would ever be able to do, and I didn’t ask why. I was a failure at running, and I’d just prefer to do things I was good at, thank you. Two years after college, I started trying a little. I gave myself baby goals: jogging for 30 seconds at a time, and then walking for a minute, and doing that for ten or fifteen minutes. I jogged on the uneven sidewalk in my Chicago neighborhood in hot and cold. Over time, I upped it slowly to 60 seconds, 100 seconds, 300 seconds, and sometime over a hot summer in Chicago, I realized I was jogging for 500 seconds at a time. I discovered another mode, where I pushed through some of the initial discomfort, and that there was actually a trot I could hold for a long time. I stopped running when we traveled, but I kept that knowledge with me, the secret of going from 30 to 500. In grad school, I started running once every two weeks or so, on the trails near my apartment, tugging Stella with me even when it was rainy and I’d have to wash her later. Last May, I listened to friends, and joined for the first time a group run, from a brewery downtown. I discovered that I was not the slowest person in the group, that I could complete a three-mile run, and that I could drink a pint of beer afterwards. I kept that knowledge with me too. Since graduating 8 months ago, I have slowly but steadily kept a twice-a-week jogging pattern. I have slowly, slowly upped myself from doing a 20 minute run to a 40 minute run. I have asked some of our new friends in Taipei about a road race, either a 5K (something I know is doable) or a 10K (a reach goal that I can train for), in the spring.
This is a travel blog, but sometimes, the blogging I want to do isn’t about travel. I want to blog about something important to me, something that no one else can take away. When things get frustrating, I really don’t want to put another thing on my plate, to get home from work and to have to suit up for one more battle. But most of the time, I do it. I fight six times around that park for myself, every step of the way. I know I can win because I’ve done it before, and every time I do, I remind myself that I am capable. Those victories are so important, and I am the only person who can give them up, who can declare defeat. No matter how nasty other people are to you, no matter what discouragement you get from people close and distant, you make your own self-worth. Running is my way of reminding myself of that self-worth, that I have been able to accomplish something through hard work, something I couldn’t or didn’t do 10 years ago. That I can even surprise myself if I give me a chance. That if I did this, I can do other things too. I keep that with me now, all the time, and it lives like something in my chest, a glorious secret that makes me cry and laugh at the same time.
This is a travel blog, and this is a blog post about how far I have traveled.