Saturday, August 22, 2015

Run Often and Everywhere. Wear Your Big Girl Panties, too.

Guess what? Big girls ALREADY wear big girl panties--we are already stepping out of our comfort zone every single day we exist. So on behalf of all the big girls and big guys wearing their big boy tighty-whities, thank you.

I have many pairs of big girl panties, and I take them with me wherever I go.

As both a language teacher and musician, I've had many opportunities to travel around the country, to Europe, and to both Central and South America. I love to travel and I love to run. What better way to get to know a new place, to explore without hopping on an annoying double-decker tourist bus? There isn't a better way--(well, maybe except for doing a wine tour. That's the only better way to tour a country.)

The sunrise in Spoleto, Italy.
For me, running in a new place is time alone with a city or with a country before the streets start filling up with people, vendors, cars, noise, grit. In Nice, France you get to smell the pain au raisins, croissants and baguettes baking. In Italy you pass older women and men out for their pre-sunrise walk. In the south of Spain you bake in the sun at the Alhambra after your extreme hill repeats in the Albaicín neighborhood of Granada, while everyone else is eating lunch and preparing for the daily siesta...

In Cuenca Ecuador, I ran most mornings around the big, beautiful park in the center of town that would be full of all types of people running, walking, bootcamping, doing Tai Chi, yoga. All of these beautiful people out, and AT ALTITUDE, doing and being and living.

In Roatan Honduras, before Hurricane Mitch decimated the main road on the North Eastern coast of the island, I ran that road, despite my father's warnings that women shouldn't be walking or running alone. Well, go figure.

I take every opportunity I can to run. Everywhere. No matter who's watching or who tells me not to.

On the aqueduct bridge to the mountain trails in Spoleto, Italy
When I'm in a place that has different body image standards, and perhaps different roles for women in society, running and being outside in my own body allows me to cue into people's mindsets immediately. I know at once by how people look at me (or don't) how people view fat bodies in public. You become very aware of your body and how you're moving it in this new place and space. The feeling can be very disorienting and but also very cool. You also allow yourself to step out of your comfort zone. You're in a new place, possibly surrounded by a language that is not your own, with rules and standards of living that are foreign to you.

Running in a new place, even if it's scary and uncomfortable, allows you to put on and wear your big girl panties proudly. You literally RUN in your big girl panties. When we let go of our fears of being in front of people in our own bodies, life becomes that much easier.

Signs on the beautiful mountain trails in Spoleto, Italy

When I arrive at any particular location, I usually wake up at the crack of dawn the next day (any of my friends can vouch for this) regardless of the amount of jet-lag I'm suffering from, and run the cobbled and hilly streets, splintery boardwalks, dirt roads, and asphalt of many a city or town. Sometimes with a map, and other times with the fledgling hope that I'll eventually able to find my hotel/host-family's apartment/landmark etc before it's too late.

On a trail in St. Johnsbury, VT during teacher training .
Um, at least the tunnel lit up as you approached. 
Last summer, I traveled to Italy for a school-sponsored professional development experience. We were in the Appenine Mountain region, with gorgeous views of green hills and valleys. I got up every morning (except that one morning after that one night in which the local wine was free-flowing and well, endless. I may or may not have also sung a tipsy version of Gershwin's Summertime too...) and explore the trails of the surrounding hills in Spoleto, running towards the next town on the other side of the mountain. Or I would do a hill workout right from the main door of the Hotel Clitunno to the main square, or I would do sets of calisthenics in my room while watching the sun rise from behind the mountains in the east. I even ran into a family of wild boars in Poggibonsi! (Scary and cute and SCARY, in that order.)

Running the prairies in Colorado Springs, CO
a few weeks ago, during more teacher training
On every single run in Italy, everyone would yell a hearty BUON GIORNO or MOLTO BENE, greeting me or saying WELL DONE! There were other runners out too, and we would nod that runnerly nod to each other, simultaneously loving and hating what we were doing at 5am, but secretly really just loving and enjoying the effort.

This summer I traveled to Colorado, for more teacher-training. It was gorgeous. It was hilly. It was at altitude. But I think I was able to adjust more quickly to the energy demands of being at altitude because I dove in head first, running the prairies as soon as I was able. I even met some new people on the trails and we ran together, becoming fast friends.

If you are able to travel abroad, or even drive to a new town that you're not familiar with in your own state, it's an incredible opportunity to put on your biggest girl, grandma, flowery panties--put your hands in the air, and run like you just don't care.

Happy running everyone!