Running shoe shopping

On and off, I’ve been a runner for over a decade.  It started with the bizarre idea that I would train to run a marathon, which I did (and hated, and swore I would never do again).  But though I was done with marathoning, for some reason running stuck with me.  I’ve never quite enjoyed the running — not in the way I enjoy many of the other things I do — but I came to love the feelings I have afterwards:  accomplishment, exertion, challenge, and the satisfaction of having put in real effort and finishing what I set out to do.

I don’t look like a runner.  I can neither run very fast not very great distances.  My accomplishments are accrued slowly, through persistence.  But I do get out there and put the miles in.  After a bit of a hiatus, I came back to running last year.  I started in March, and by the end of the year I’d put in over 600 miles (counting both runs and athletic, fast walks).  I was feeling pretty proud, and increasingly fit.

I also, though, was feeling the pain of incredibly overworn running shoes.  I’ve lost track exactly, but I know for certain that I had not replaced my running shoes more than once since running the marathon … in 2001.  I was in dire need of new shoes, and endlessly putting it off.  I did not want to try to buy running shoes here, where I would most likely have to complete the transaction in German.  I wanted to try and wait until my next visit home, where I know a good place, and where I could make my purchase in English.

But I couldn’t hold out long enough.  By late October, my feet and knees were starting to feel sore, and I regularly had to pause during my runs to try and tighten my shoes — and I never could quite get them tight enough.  I had to admit that I couldn’t wait any longer — I needed new shoes.  I debated getting online and trying to choose some, but my previous experiences of being fitted by knowledgable professionals left me all too aware that choosing the “right” shoes out of a catalog was pretty unlikely.  I was left with only one daunting option — to shop for running shoes in person here in Vienna … in German.

After doing a little research, I was happy to discover that I at least wouldn’t have to go far — there is a good running shop right around the corner, on my block (and technically in my building).  One Saturday afternoon, I went for it.  I went to the shop and looked around, disheartened by the expense (and not daring to mentally convert to dollars).  I chose a few that I liked the look of (though I know that’s not the way to choose running shoes — choosing running shoes can’t be done by look, color or brand, you try them, then you know), and found someone to help me (who, thankfully, spoke a little English).

I discovered a few things.

First, I still have an inclination to choose marathon shoes.  Of all the running shoes in the shop, the three pairs I had selected were all more appropriate for long-distance running than for the short distances I do now. I also discovered that shopping for running shoes here is very much like shopping for running shoes at home. And runners don’t judge other runners the way that non-runners do — just like at home.  When I tell a non-runner that I run, they (always) take a look at my physique before uttering a (sometimes surprised, sometimes impressed) “Really?” (often) followed by, “Just jogging, though, right?”  When I tell another runner that I run, they usually don’t react.  No surprise, no nothing.  Just on to the next thing.  When I explained to the young guy at the shop that I was looking for running shoes, he had not a flicker of surprise or doubt, just immediately jumped into questions about distance, schedule and running surfaces … which was pretty great.

From there, he chose several pairs of shoes for me to try (none of which were ones I had selected), and then I tried them on in turn and ran around the shop — which is exactly the process I was familiar with from home.  (I like it — it’s like when Harry Potter goes to Ollivander’s to choose his wand!)

I finally selected a pair — not at all like the ones I thought I would have wanted — and went home very happy (but also a good bit poorer — running shoes are EXPENSIVE here).  But now my feet and knees feel better.

Even introverted mommies need a social life

I try not to spend time on self-pity — not just in terms of writing, but, more importantly, in terms of what I allow to inhabit space in my mind.  I try to focus on what I have (which is a lot) instead of what I don’t.  But, the truth is that living abroad can sometimes be an incredibly lonely experience.

Of course, I have my family.  My children are wonderful, but I’m the mom, and they’re the kids, and they aren’t here to be my companions.  I have Dan, but he’s out of the house for about 55 hours each week, and the vast majority of the rest of the time is taken up by wall-to-wall parenting and sleep (if we’re lucky).  Jo is here, which has been wonderful in terms of giving me tons of opportunities for adult conversation, but in the hours where she isn’t cooking or watching Liam so I can get something done, she takes advantage of the opportunity (as she should) to explore the city unencumbered by kids, to rest and catch up with people at home, and even, on occasion, to be social with new friends.

The schedule of managing the household, keeping both kids on their schedules and getting B back and forth to school each day, plus having only made a few friends here (and they are almost all moms, and are balancing busy schedules themselves) means that I have almost no social interaction outside of my (not quite) weekly dates with Dan.  I go out on my own, twice a week, for an hour each time, but always alone.  I have coffee alone.  I go for walks alone.  I go ice skating alone.

And it’s been getting to me.

I am missing my friends at home very badly.  I am missing play dates with other mom friends, dinner get-togethers with friends with kids, weekend days spent with my family, afternoons at the barn, and, most of all, girl nights where I could hang out with a friend or two or seven, and just be me, instead of being me-as-a-mom.

A few days ago, I met up with a friend of mine for a run.  She had her little one (Liam’s age) with her and I had Liam with me (B was at school).  We’d been trying to arrange to meet up for a run for weeks, but stuff kept getting in the way — the weather was awful, Liam was sick, her son was sick, Liam was sick again, it snowed again.  But, finally, we had a day when everyone was healthy and the weather was agreeable, so we met up and went running for an hour.

It was fantastic.  It was just what I needed.  I hadn’t seen them in months, and it was so nice to chat (besides, she runs faster that I do, so it was also inspiring for my running speed).  It was lovely to see them again, and it was great to just have a little friend time.

I think it’s pretty well expected that someone in my situation — a stay-at-home mom, in a new country, where I don’t speak the language — would feel this way from time to time.  So it’s not a surprise.  But still, sometimes, it isn’t fun.  I’m starting to understand why people who had been through relocations like this strongly encouraged me to get involved in “mom groups” when I arrived . . . which I didn’t do, because they really aren’t my thing.  But it’s been hard to make friends on my own, and, more importantly, to make strong connections in this environment of having so little common ground with many of the people who I meet, and not being able to communicate well, even if I did.

As a basically introverted person, I’m not overly bothered by not having a lot of social connection . . . most of the time.  Most of the time, I find my solitary hours peaceful and centering, rather than lonely.  But sometimes, it’s really nice to have some friend time.

Almost a marathon

A few weeks ago, I thought I would try to see if I could walk/run/hike a marathon’s worth of miles each week. Since then, I’ve been making an effort and keeping track, but I hadn’t yet come close until last week.  I still didn’t quite make it, but I did cover over 24 miles last week.

I did some walking, a very little bit of running, and even about 5 miles worth of ice skating.  I’ve found that most weeks, I walk about 6 miles without making any particular effort — taking B to school, going shopping, going to my German lesson — which leaves me just over 20 miles to accrue some other way.  That works out to nearly 3 additional miles that I need to get in each day.  I didn’t quite make it last week, but almost.  (I should have recorded the distance we covered on the dance floor at the ball!)

I’m working on it.  I’m getting there.  I’m going to keep at it, and see where it takes me.  I wonder how far we’ll walk in Italy?

A marathon each week

Back in “the day” (i.e., over 10 years ago, when I was young and relatively slender) I ran a marathon.  Seriously, I did — the Baltimore Marathon in 2001.  I even finished.  The whole thing.  It was the hardest thing I have ever done.  The training and preparation felt good.  There was a lot of camaraderie amongst myself and the friends I made while training.  I (usually) looked forward to my long weekly training runs and got through the shorter ones without a problem.  I got myself all in shape and was ready for the big day.

And, then, the race came . . . and I hated it.  I hated running the marathon.  I hated everything except for the first few miles.  It did not make me feel good.  It took me 7 hours to finish, and there was a stretch in there where I didn’t think I was going to finish, and I wasn’t sure I was going to survive (that sounds overly dramatic, but unless you’ve actually gone out and run 26.2 miles on a 80 degree day in what is, secretly, the hilliest city in America, don’t judge).

I fell asleep in the car on the way home (Dan was driving), woke up later, ate most of a pizza and slept again for about 12 hours.  When I woke up the next day, I swore to myself that I would NEVER do it again.  And I never have.

But, although I hated it, it was certainly an accomplishment, and it’s kind of a cool thing to have done.  And I know that I DID do it, and that conceivably, I COULD do it again (given proper motivation, which truly does not exist in the known universe).  But, I know that I can go that far, and I know that it didn’t kill me (I wasn’t even injured).  I will keep the promise to myself to never do that again — at least, not all in one day.  But, I was thinking about my exercise routine (which I’ve been out of since before Christmas) and the number of miles I do every week, and something occurred to me.  I could walk, jog, run . . . whatever . . . a marathon’s worth of miles every week without really adding THAT much to what I’m doing right now.

And that seems like it’d be kind of cool.  So, I’m going to try it.

I don’t think it counts as a New Year’s resolution, because it’s January 13th.  But I’m going to start, this week, and I’m going t o see how long I can keep it up.  26.2 miles, every week.

This week will be a challenge, because we’re going out of town later this week, and I have no idea if there will be reasonable walking/jogging areas in the town where we’re going.  But, I started today (just 2 miles) and I’ll see what happens this week.  (I’ll call this week a trial run.)

I’m going to let myself accomplish it in pieces (obviously) and I can do it by any means I choose.  I can walk, chase the kids around the park, jog, walk to the store, walk instead of taking the bus, hike.  Whatever.  I’m not going to be picky, but I’m going to see if I can do it.