Barefoot Boston 2.0

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

I said these words to myself, eyes closed, palms together and fingertips rested between my eyebrows, as I toed the line of the 123rd Boston Marathon.  It was a moment of calm amongst the wonderful chaos of the starting corrals of the World’s Oldest Marathon.  Reflecting on my training and the reasons why I run, which motivate each step, I knew I was capable of doing some damage to my Personal Best.

But part of marathon running is surrendering to everything that is out of our hands and performing under conditions in which we have absolutely no say.  Adapting, persevering, and enduring are all requirements, but accepting that, while, yes you may be capable of faster and stronger, there are uncontrollable factors that will ultimately determine your race time, is paramount.  It is not your fastest time, but the ways in which you react and adapt to race conditions that determine who you are as a runner.

I can proudly and confidently say that, this Patriots’ Day, I ran the fastest time that my body would allow under the day’s conditions.  And with that in mind, here is a personal recap of the 123rd running of the Boston Marathon:

After a strangely restful night’s sleep, waking up to humidity, pouring rain, and thunderstorms was nothing more than comical.  My friend Kelly (a badass veteran marathoner) and I laughed as the rain poured and thunder roared.  She outfitted me in waterproof clothes and saw me off to Boston Common where my teammate Steve (another badass veteran marathoner) and I boarded a bus bound for Hopkinton.  Along with the humidity, excitement was in the air as we reflected on training, fundraising, and general excitedness for the day.  After a little mix up with the bus taking the wrong exit, we found our team meeting spot and geared up for the race.

Marathons can be broken down in a million ways, but after reflecting on this race for a few days, the 2019 Boston Marathon has broken itself down into three specific parts:

Part I: Humid & Cloudy-  Right out of the gate I was running fast, but it was a manageable pace.  With these conditions, I knew it was a pace I could sustain.  I laughed as I crossed each checkpoint and wondered what my Support Crew around the globe was thinking as they got notifications of my speedy times through the first half.  I don’t often enjoy humidity, but the cloud cover made it pretty manageable for running.  The crowds through this part were epic, as per, and I was happy to completely immerse myself in their energy.  The run was fast, but I felt in control and ready for the hills.

Part II: Here Comes The Sun(burn)- For those of you who know my history with running Boston, I must have been foolish to think Patriots’ Day would let me escape without a sunburn.  The surprise appearance of the sun for miles 10-21 threw me for a loop.  I was able to hold it together through the half but nearly fell apart after that.  It was amazing to see my Crew at mile 17, as that was when I was feeling at my lowest.  I upped my water intake, started feeling sick to my stomach, and ditched my shoes just after the 20-mile marker.  Thankfully Kelly was able to force them off my swollen feet and I felt like a new person.

Throughout this part, I repeated to myself the mantra with which I began the race:

  • Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change– I cannot change the weather, I can only adapt to it.
  • The courage to change the things I can– Taking off my shoes was a change that I could make to help adapt to the uncontrollable weather factor.  It was a risk to run without shoes for that long, but it was a change that I could make in an effort to help the situation.
  • And the wisdom to know the difference– It’s easy to get frustrated by race day conditions when you know you had a strong training season that would allow for a faster time, but, ultimately, that is not what marathon running is about (and I’m glad I remembered that during the race).  I made changes within my control and thought about my people I run for- especially Meme and Tracey, who both showed courage and determination throughout their lives.  I am forever grateful to have had these ladies as role models in my life.  I also thought about the Stepping Strong ethos, which truly encapsulates the spirit of the marathon.  I am honored to run for such an incredible cause that is making an innovative impact on trauma survivors around the globe.

Part III: Washed By The Water- Barefoot and crazy, I beasted up the final hill of the Heartbreak section as rain started to pour from the sky, getting heavier and heavier with each step into Boston (I unashamedly reacted like that scene in Holes when it starts to rain.).  The fresh feeling in my feet, the mid-race motivation from my Support Crew in the Sky, and the cool rain lifted my spirits and my pace- I was back.

As the rain poured, I dug deep, engaged with the lively crowds, and tried to avoid pebbles and uneven bits of the road.  Overall, it was pretty smooth thanks to pre-race street sweeping.  Pro Tip: If you ever find yourself shoeless and in the midst of a marathon, run on the painted lines in the road- it’s a lot smoother than the road itself.  Some spectators questioned my shoeless-ness while others applauded and encouraged it.  I will admit that 10km is too far to run without shoes, but I would not have made it much further with them on.  Running without shoes does indeed hurt, but it hurt differently and a bit less than when I had them on, so I just embraced it.  Let’s be real, the latter miles of any marathon hurt.

 

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It was wonderful to see my Crew again near the end of mile 24.  Everything about that moment was so drastically different from when I saw them at mile 17.  It felt as though it was a completely different day!

The headwind up Hereford Street was strong, cold, and drove the rain into my eyes.  Mixing with the sweat on my face, it burned and made it difficult to see, but the famed Right on Hereford and Left on Boylston was impossible to miss.  The roar of the crowd down Boylston Street never fails to make me cry and, while I’ve never want that stretch to end, I was able to pick up the pace for a strong and fantastic finish.

Almost immediately after finishing, I was greeted with the biggest and best hug from Martha (yet another badass veteran marathoner I am lucky to know) as she bundled me up in a heat sheet to stay warm.  I missed a PB by 4 minutes, but I knocked about 30 minutes off my Boston PB, which is something I am quite proud of.  The challenge of the course between Hopkinton and Boston, the energy of the crowds, and the inspiration of the charity running community is something that I will never grow tired of.  Thank you, Boston for another incredible run.  I said I wouldn’t say it, but I’ll be back.

Thank You Notes

  • Thank you to Caroline and Ali for their hard work throughout the training season and race weekend.  You both make the logistics of charity running so simple and 100% enjoyable.
  • Thank you to Coach John for his invaluable training and racing advice.  You make me feel so prepared for and at ease about the Marathon Quest.
  • Thank you to Daddio for being the rock of the Support Crew (as well as the Crew’s official offline donation manager and Strava analyst).  I know you say that I’m your hero (which honestly, I don’t understand), but you are truly mine.
  • Thank you to my Sister/Best Friend for literally everything.  This woman is the most supportive and prepared human being to grace the planet.  If spectating a marathon was an Olympic sport you’d win the gold by a long shot.
  • Thank you to the rest of the Support Crew on the ground, including but not limited to, Leah, Jaz, and Chris Ray, Debra, Mum, Kelly, & Garrett.  Thank you for helping out with race logistics and cheers.
  • Thank you to Stepping Strong- I am so grateful to run for this incredible organization.  I get chills every time I read about the work and research they’ve been doing and the positive impact they are making for trauma survivors and their families.
  • Thank you to chocolate milk (as always) for that on point carbs-protein ratio, just perfect for kickstarting post-race recovery.
  • Thank you to that lady who gave me that freeze pop around mile 15 (?).  It was everything I didn’t know I needed in that moment.
  • Thank you to absolutely everyone who lined the course from Hopkinton to Boston.  Oftentimes spectators make the race, and this was no exception.  I am so thankful that I saw everyone who said they were going to be there and then some! x
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Do Damage: Dublin Edition

The past eighteen months or so have been stressful.  There has been a lot of uncertainty in my career and personal life.  There has been a lot of frustration and a newly developed disdain for bureaucracy that came along with this uncertainty, and I am grateful that I have running, hiking, and cooking (and a great Support Crew) as releases for that.  It’s safe to say that I was looking forward to this marathon training season to help me navigate this rut.

That is until I ventured back to New England for an overdue visit.  A double-edged sword, it was wonderful to see family and friends, but the training season that I was so looking forward to succumbed to the heat and humidity.  My training lagged and I lost more fitness than I anticipated.  I hoped for the best, but didn’t bounce back quite as well as I had hoped as the season came to a close.  My paces were off and I made the mistake of comparing them, split-for-split, to last season.  Knowing that each season was run under very different circumstances, I still beat myself up over it.

After a quick vent sesh with a friend, I shook it off and adapted my plan.  Reflecting on the sheer exhaustion of the year, I let go of my time goal and switched to an “In It To Finish” mindset, and looked forward to a fun Irish getaway that just happened to include a wee 26.2 mile fun run.

I’d be remiss not to acknowledge the other little thing that has been affecting me and many people that I know: I read and watch the news.

The news has been disheartening lately.  Seeing horrific acts of violence and hatred and watching so many lawmakers vote against logic, seemingly neglect compassion, and attack each other leaves me with the impossible question of “why?”  In addition to several facets of anger, it makes me feel small and a bit useless.  It makes me wonder if we’re still on the same team here.

I won’t digress too much into this, because I’m sure you feel similarly and know that finding words to accurately describe your feelings towards the current state of affairs is an impossible task, but this weekend, I remembered that there is a way to restore your faith in humanity: be part of a marathon- run, walk, volunteer, cheer, honk your horn while you drive by- just be part of it.

Okay, so here’s a rundown of the 2018 Dublin Marathon:

“Fresh” isn’t exactly the word I’d use to describe how I felt as I toed the start line of the 2018 Dublin Marathon (although I wore compression socks to bed the night before, so my mind felt like my legs felt fresh).  I’m sure it would be lovely to start a marathon feeling “fresh” and confident in your training and the amount of rest you got in the weeks leading up to the race, but I’d say it was more of a “Here Goes Nothin'” kind of feeling.  The usual nervous-excitement, butterflies-in-your-tummy feeling was there, but I also felt like, “wow literally anything could happen in the next 4.5 hours, and I’m excited to find out what will happen next.”

It was an absolute battle, but I felt strong, physically and mentally, the entire time.  Not once did I second guess myself or question the idea of the marathon.  And for the first time in over a year, I felt in control.

Right out of the gate, I was running too fast compared to my watered-down season of training.  It was a challenging pace, but I went with it.  The fatigue and discomfort that naturally set in every time around mile 16, while incredibly present, were no match for my ability to run on auto-pilot.  I never walked, knowing that if I slowed or came to a stop, starting back up again would be nearly impossible and incredibly painful.

The entire journey from start to finish was entirely renewing.  It restored my faith in humanity, as marathons tend to do.  Seeing human barricades of spectators lining the streets with witty signs, demanding high fives, and shouting words of encouragement reminded me that people are good and we are all still on the same team.

And the encouragement wasn’t limited to the sidelines.  Other runners lifted each other up and pushed each other physically and mentally closer towards the finish line.  I was genuinely asked on several occasions how I was doing, and honestly, I don’t think it was limited to the task at hand.  We offered each other snacks and broke down the course for each other- “It’s just a 10km now, an hour at most!” I said to a runner, struggling as her GPS watch rang in the twentieth mile.  “That’s 5km, two times!” someone else chimed in.  Twenty minutes (but what seemed like three hours) later, we remarked at what seemed like the longest 10km of our lives, but found comfort in the fact that everyone around us was also embarking on what felt like the longest 10km of their lives.

In the end, I pulled off a PB…and it felt good.  It felt challenging.  I finished in the best way you can finish a race- feeling like I couldn’t have gone any faster.  When my legs checked out, my heart took over and persevered onward to the finish line.

No stranger to crying in airports and on airplanes (happy and/or sad crying), I shed an actual tear on my short flight back to Glasgow Monday morning as I replayed the day in my head.  I can honestly say that every moment of the race was enjoyable.  It most definitely wasn’t easy, but the challenge, the pain, and the exhaustion, were all deeply personal and reminded me of my own strength, the strength of others, and the kind and supportive people in the world.

Thank You Notes:

  • Thank you to my Support Crew (near and far), including the four lovely ladies I was lucky enough to spend the weekend with.  It would be impossible to train for and run marathons without a Support Crew.
  • Thank you to Dublin for putting on an incredible race! It was a gorgeous day and the atmosphere and support along the course were amazing.
  • Thank you, as always, to chocolate milk for being the most perfect, immediate, post-run recovery drink.

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The Power of Yet

I believe in the Power of Yet.  Job hunting has been a long, tedious, frustrating, and absurd process this time around.  Despite every rejected application, ignored enquiry, and being strung from one HR “professional” to the next, my faith that someday and in some way everything will work out and I will reach my goals has never wavered.  I’ve put in the work, done the research, written over 40 pages of essays for applications, I’ve prayed, sent countless positive vibes into the universe, and I’ve come up short every time.  But I have a goal, and I’m marching towards it.

Recently, I’ve learned not to listen to people when they tell you to “not worry” about something that means a lot to you.  If something means a lot to you, it warrants worrying.  Faith that everything will work out in the end is constant, but worry and frustration in the meantime only prove that what you’re tirelessly working towards will be worth it.

I’ll be honest in saying this has been a very trying year.  It hasn’t been easy to keep faith and remain positive.  I’ve taken several time outs for warranted break downs. My mental and physical endurance as a marathon runner have been tested, and I owe much of my strength to my Support Crew of family, friends, and ever-wise co-workers.

I’ve heard tales of fellow teachers and their tribulations in finding and keeping a teaching job.  Twistedly, this makes me feel better.  I’ve also been told I’m limiting myself, but I don’t have the energy to tell those people just how many jobs I’ve applied for and my reasoning behind every step I’ve taken.

The color-coded pro-con charts intensified to a new level.  Late nights of immigration research and job applications on top of my full-time job as a first year teacher in a foreign school system started to take their toll.  Countless unexplained rejected applications and outlandish waiting games between interviews and subsequent rejections have kicked what little confidence I started with square in the face.  But again, I run marathons for fun- I’m built to endure and I will.

This, combined with the dwindling clock of another expiring visa, forced me to do a lot of reflecting on my career.  I can confirm that I love teaching and I am still at a point where I really enjoy living abroad.  My current inability to land a job on either side of the pond leads me to believe that now is as good a time as any to go back to school and explore a side of Education that I am less familiar with than the rough and tumble world of High School.

While the plan to go back to school was “sorting itself out,” I made a trip back to New England where I stocked up on vitamin D and quality time with friends and family.  My training took a real hit because of the heat and humidity, the lack of proper long running routes safe from traffic, and a gaggle of friends and family saying, “let’s grab lunch and catch up,” “let’s grab a drink and catch up,” or “let’s grab ice cream and catch up.” While the latter may not seem like that horrible of a problem to face, the temporary loss of control over what and how I was eating combined with my watered down training plan affected my fitness, which is not something I enjoy with a marathon quest around the corner.

Nevertheless, I had a wonderful time with friends and family, got in some good hiking, a lovely beach week, and some long drives with my sister.  And now I’m back in the UK on the cusp of what I hope is a great year.  Quite the detour from where I thought I would be, but I don’t see this negatively affecting my long term career goals in any way, so I’ll continue to meander through life and learn all that I can while living the Power of Yet.  The best teachers are lifelong learners, no?

That’s all for now,

xoxo Christina Rose

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The Power of Yet

History, Beer, & Running (Part III): The Best of the Rest

Traveling to five different countries with five different languages and several currencies is exhausting.  At this point in the Runcation, I knew I would want something familiar.  So I made a stop in Salzburg to take in the views and a few Stiegl.  It was nice to know that I wouldn’t have to plan anything or navigate any new streets.  The thing about solo travel is that you need to be “on” 100% of the time.  It’s all you out there.  You need to plan, navigate, and communicate every step of the way.  Having a travel partner or group allows you to share this responsibility or at least take turns, but on your own, it’s a one-woman show, which is fantastic, but also physically and mentally draining.

It felt nice to go to a few of the old hangouts and viewpoints, including a refueling stop at Stiegl Keller, a hearty bowl of gulasch at Café Central, a solid people watching session in the Mirabellgarten, and a run along the Salzach and to Hellbrunn.  My legs were absolutely beat, but stopping in Salzburg made for a perfect holiday-within-a-holiday!

Just in time for a rest day, I boarded an old-timey train to Ljubljana.  The Slovenian capital has been on my list for a few years now and has been a top recommendation of several friends.  This cosy city didn’t disappoint and is perfect for wanders along the river and nice Slovenian wine.  I definitely didn’t stick to the three themes of the Runcation in Ljubljana, and I wasn’t exactly on my proper planning game, but I walked up to the castle, took a very rainy day trip to Lake Bled, sampled Slovenia’s honey liqueur, and enjoyed some Slovenian wine with a couple other travelers and education enthusiasts.

I was pondering a run one afternoon, but seasonal allergies and tired legs pondered otherwise.  So, I took a vote, and a run through Ljubljana did not happen.  This scenario perfectly captures the beauty of solo travel.

And just like that, I was onto the final leg of the Runcation and half marathon number two of the trip: Budapest.  This was my second visit to the Hungarian capital and second half marathon along the Danube.  After straying from the themes of the Runcation in Ljubljana, I jumped right back on them in Budapest:

History– I chose to do the Communist walking tour of Budapest.  The guide walked the group through life in post-war Budapest and painted a picture of the current political climate in the country.  It’s always a nice bonus as well, when the people in your tour group ask fantastic and relevant questions.  Speaking of relevance, later that day, I walked into a massive rally protesting the results of the country’s parliamentary election that took place just one week earlier.  It was interesting to see, but it didn’t take long for my fear of crowds to take over and navigate myself elsewhere.

Beer & Food– The last time I visited Budapest, it was Christmas Market Season- a joyous occasion.  This time around, the spring markets were up and running!  Here I was able to refuel with Hungarian gulasch, Hungary’s national dish, chicken paprikash, and what ever they had on tap.  I also sampled Unicum, the 80-proof Hungarian herbal liqueur.  My top recommendation for a trip to Budapest, however, is a meal at Kisharang Étkezde.  This gem in the heart of the city offers inexpensive, authentic, and hearty Hungarian cuisine.  I went for dinner after the race, and I was starving.  I started with csülkös bableves, which is a delightful ham, bean, and dumpling soup.  I then enjoyed hortobágyi palacsinta, which I can only describe as a magical cross between an enchilada and a pierogi but with a paprika sauce.  The combination of the two made for the perfect last meal of the Runcation.

Running– Before this, I had never attempted two half marathons so close together, but figured if my body can keep up with marathon training, then back to back races wouldn’t be the end of the world.  However, my legs wanted absolutely no part of it at this point in the trip, so I ran solely with my heart (15 April is a day where the heart tends to take over).  The pre-race logistics were a bit of a nightmare, and will probably prevent me from recommending this race, but the race itself was lovely (shoulder-to-shoulder for several of the first miles, but otherwise lovely).  Running this race was an absolute battle, and I left it all out there on the streets of Budapest.  Despite a frustrating Garmin malfunction in mile 3 that left me doing mental math for the next 10 miles, I can say with certainty that I couldn’t have run any faster, and that is a good feeling.  The chip time says I ran this race one minute and ten seconds slower than Bratislava, a consistent showing that impressed me.  I then spent the afternoon soaking my tired legs in the Széchenyi Thermal Baths.

All in all, I would rate the Runcation as a challenging success.  Two very consistent and quick races outran my previous half marathon PB, which was set in Glasgow in October 2017, and I am so grateful that this trip turned into an opportunity for several of my passions to collide.  Now that I’m back at work, it’s time to start planning the next adventure!  Stay tuned for that.  Click here if you missed Part I and Part II of this series!

Thank You Notes: Runcation Edition

  • Thank you to ice cream for being the most perfect snack for an afternoon wander.  The best part about being on holiday is that it’s pretty much expected that you break for ice cream around 1500.  No questions asked.
  • Thank you to fellow hostel-goers for plenty of stories, laughs, and travel recommendations.
  • Thank you to travel days for being a built-in rest day with scenic views.
  • Thank you to race medals for being the most perfect souvie.
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Home Sweet Salzburg

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Travel days are scenic rest days

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Rainy day in Ljubljana

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Budapest Half Marathon!

History, Beer, & Running (Part II): Beautiful Bratislava

Based on multiple reviews from trusted travelers, I had minimal expectations for Bratislava.  Not only was I pleasantly surprised by this charming city, but over the course of three and half days, it worked its way into my list of Top 5 Favorite Cities.  A bold statement, I know, so here’s the lowdown:

  • History– To get acquainted with this small city, I started with my go-to: a free walking tour.  This three hour lay of the land was fantastic, and easily one of the best walking tours I’ve been on to date.  The passionate guide walked the group through the history of her city, including its medieval, WWII, and communist histories.  She gave the history of Bratislava a very human emotion and bridged the past to the present while explaining the current and growing political unrest in the country.  She also gave an incredible recommendation for high quality and inexpensive Slovakian cuisine.
  • Beer & Food– Let’s start with the tour guides recommendation- Bratislava Flagship Restaurant.  This seat yourself, beerhall-style eatery offers scrumptious Slovakian cuisine and local beer.  Based on the tour guide’s recommendation, I had bryndzové halušky, which is a dish of gnocchi-like dumplings with a sheep’s cheese sauce.  Sprinkled with bacon, this national dish of Slovakia is an absolute delight.  I dined with a couple lovely Canadians who, together, sampled the bryndzové halušky, garlic soup, and potato pancakes.  They recommended all of it.  For beer, we had Kláštorný ležiak, which perfectly balanced out the richness of my meal.  The other food-related experience that pushed Bratislava higher and higher up on my top list of cities is Konditorei Kormuth.  For €15, you get 3 courses of dessert: a specialty coffee or hot chocolate, a piece of cake of your choosing, and a spirit of your choosing.  The decadent hot chocolate rivaled that of E. Wedel’s in Warsaw.  For cake, I chose the Esterházy torte, a favorite of mine from my studies in Austria.  And finally for the spirit, I chose Slovakia’s famous Tatratea.  The original tea liqueur boasts 104 proof, and the entire line of Tatratea ranges from 44 proof to 144 proof.  The entire dining experience at Koditorei Kormuth was complimented by the atmosphere and artwork of the cafe.  I definitely recommend everyone carve out a couple of hours of their time in Bratislava to enjoy this gem.
  • Running– Here we go, the moment we’ve all been waiting for.  The first half marathon of the Runcation.  My only goal was to finish.  I had been loosely maintaining my base of 10 mile long runs since February, but this trip came together fairly last minute, so I didn’t have time to properly train.  That being said, about 4 years ago, I made it a goal of mine to always be in reasonable fitness to complete a half marathon, and I suppose this was the first real test of that endeavor.  The race was fantastic and the course through Bratislava and along the Danube was fast.  It was my warmest run of the year to date, but I still managed a pretty sizable PB.  It was definitely a battle, but I felt strong.  My performance in this race was so unexpected that it made the victory so much more enjoyable and justified another serving of bryndzové halušky.  Also, the medal is of a fine quality.  The evening before the race, I went on the complimentary history run of Bratislava, which was one of the events of marathon weekend.  Talk about passions colliding!  This run reminded me of how strong and fantastic the running community is.  It was so nice to explore Bratislava with other runners.
  • Bratislava Bonus– Sculptures are scattered throughout the streets of Bratislava.  “Man at Work”, or Cumil as the locals call him, is a sewer worker who watches passersby in the heart of Bratislava’s old town.  According to the walking tour guide, many lighthearted sculptures like Cumil were added to the city to make the streets “more fun” after the communist regime.

Overall, I was impressed by my visit to Bratislava.  I went for the history, beer, food, and running, and all were met to the highest degree.  The next leg of the Runcation: a trip back to Salzburg, my home away from home(s).  Click here for Part III of the Runcation.  Click here if you missed Part I.

History, Beer, & Running (Part I): Easter in Poland

Life is funny.  Remember how I mentioned in my previous post how time is something we cannot control?  Well, roughly a week after moving back across the Atlantic, starting a job in Massachusetts, and publishing that post, I was offered a job in Scotland.  The color-coded pro/con flow charts made a resurgence, I consulted my Support Crew, I cried a bit, I accepted the job, I booked a flight, and the rest is history.  Well actually, I suppose the rest is History as well as Modern Studies, the two subjects I am currently teaching to the U.S. equivalent of grades 6-12.  A fantastic range of ages and part of the reason I was so keen to accept this position.

Alright, you’re just about caught up, so now I can move on to my 18-day solo adventure around Central and Eastern Europe.  I turned my school’s rather lengthy Spring Break into a little something I like to call the “Runcation”.  The first step in planning this trip was to look at the European half marathon calendar and connect the dots.  I chose two half marathons one week apart from each other and planned the entire trip from there.  Planning this adventure was an elaborate and exciting puzzle: linking one city to the next via bus tickets that could literally be paid for with pocket change and using hostels as a home base that offered free meals, free laundry, and a steady stream of fellow travelers to swap stories and travel recommendations with.  The Runcation had three major themes: history, beer (plus local cuisine), and running.

In each city, I had three goals:

  1. Explore history– this was usually done through free walking tours.  I didn’t do too many museums, as they were either closed for Easter, or the weather was too nice for me to want to go inside for longer than need be.
  2. Indulge in local beer and cuisine– I was incredibly strict on not letting the half marathons affect my eating and drinking game.  I thought of it more as a refueling strategy for all of the running, walking, and backpack carrying- averaging about 10 miles each day, sans running.
  3. Run– If not racing, just run and take in the sights of a new city.

So those were the parameters- a trip for passions to collide.  I put the necessities in my backpack and flew to Warsaw, where I was greeted with bitter cold, wind, and museums closed for Easter weekend.  Thankfully, this New Englander could handle it and did three walking tours in two days.  Here’s the breakdown:

  • History– The Old Town walking tour is a great overview of Warsaw’s history from its medieval walls to its WWII ruins and rebuilding.  I also enjoyed a few more specific walking tours, including Warsaw at War and Communist Warsaw- the former walking through Warsaw’s occupation and resistance during WWII, and the latter showcasing Warsaw’s post-war history through communist-style architecture.
  • Beer & Food– To escape a rainy afternoon, I went to a craft beer bar called Jabeerwocky.  Here they had about a dozen choices of craft beer on tap, many of which were local.  I also enjoyed Poland’s popular orzech laskowy, or hazelnut, wódka.  As for food, I ate my weight in pierogi.  Finally, I recommend a trip to E. Wedel Chocolate Lounge to sample Poland’s oldest brand of chocolate.  It was packed, so I got a takeaway bitter hot chocolate and it warmed my soul as I wandered the rainy streets of Warsaw.
  • Running– I didn’t want to, but I ventured back out into the rain and wind for an Easter run to Łazienki Park, home to Łazienki Palace.  The park was lovely, and the palace was fairly easy on the eyes too!  As always, I was glad I went for that run.
  • Pro Tip– Ask your walking tour guide for their top notch recommendations for places to eat.  They tend to point you in the direction of authentic and inexpensive local cuisine.

Then, after a couple hour’s bus journey, where I powered through some marking (need to maintain that work-life balance, right?), I arrived in sunny Krakow.  Of course, I was ravenously hungry, so after settling into the hostel, I went for a wander to find a late lunch.  I stumbled into the final afternoon of Krakow’s Easter Market and stepped right up to the pierogi booth.  Here’s the breakdown of my time in Krakow:

  • History– A couple walking tours helped me to get acquainted with this lovely city.  Krakow’s Old Town walking tour showcased, well, its old town, including Wawel Castle.  The WWII walking tour was an incredible look at Krakow during, well, WWII.  I suppose these are pretty self-explanatory.  My top recommendation for a trip to Krakow, though, is a tour of Auschwitz.  This history teacher was left speechless and reminded of the importance of studying and remembering the past. I’m not going to even attempt to capture it in words.  (Logistics: You can get to the site via public transportation or through a tour operator.  If navigating your own way via public transport, you will have to wait in line for a tour and are not guaranteed entry.  Going through a tour operator is more expensive, but guarantees you a tour and minimizes waiting time.)
  • Beer & Food– When traveling, I think it’s important to try the cheap beer that’s served in mostly every restaurant and bar and packs the shelves of convenience stores, AKA the “Local Bud Light”.  The hostel I was using as the home base offered free dinner every night, which included a free beer hour.  This was a fantastic opportunity to meet and share meals with other travelers and indulge in the local brews.  Poland is in no short supply of Tyskie and Żywiec, both of which can be found on tap mostly anywhere.  In terms of a local craft beer, I made a refueling stop at Ursa Maior during my afternoon wander through the Jewish Quarter.  Finally, I have to recommend Wódka, a cosy little vodka bar in the old town (Shout out to Babs for recommending this establishment for the past 4 years).  Here you can build a flight of six shots of vodka from an overwhelming menu.  The difficult part is narrowing down your choices.  My favorite was chili chocolate, but I don’t think there’s any surprise there.  Other than enjoying quintessential Polish beverages, I continued to eat my weight in pierogi for lunch, as breakfast and diner were provided by the hostel.  I really enjoyed this time to connect with other travelers, especially other solo travelers.
  • Running– I took advantage of a sunny afternoon and went for a run around the former moat of Krakow’s old town and up to Park Jordana, which was honestly a bit underwhelming of a park.  There were also a lot of youths there.  That’s okay though, I suppose they’re allowed to go outside too.  I digress.
  • Krakow Bonus– Spend a few hours wandering the Jewish Quarter.  There you’ll find street art, vintages shops, and a market.

After a wonderful few days in Krakow, I boarded a bus bound for Bratislava.  I didn’t want to leave Krakow, but I needed to get some more marking done!*

Teaser: What happens when you eat pierogi the entire week leading up to a half marathon that you signed up for with only a few weeks notice?  Read on to relive the magic of Bratislava with me, and the first race of the Runcation!  Click here for Part II and Part III of the Runcation.

*Denotes sarcastic tone

 

Seasons of Life

To every thing there is a season.

I find comfort in these words as I overstuff my suitcase for yet another transatlantic move.  The past six years since starting university have been full of many short and long-distance moves.  These moves tend to mark the end of one season of life and the beginning of another.  The seasons have different schedules, locations, responsibilities, people, and goals.  Though many of them have been short, the seasons of my life up to this point have been accompanied by many lessons.  These lessons have helped to shape my outlook on life and help me to navigate the seasons (whether they be welcomed seasons or not).  While difficult to explain, these three lessons attempt to sum it up:

  1. Take chances– It might work out.  It might not work out.  Either way, you learn a thing or two in the process.  In actions big or small, I have learned the importance of taking chances.  Do the research, weigh the pros and cons, make color-coded charts, consult your Support Crew, and then take the chance.  Two of my most incredible seasons of life (Austria and Scotland) were the result of chances taken.  It can be scary, and it can feel as though you’re being pulled in different directions, but that’s okay.  It’s okay to have no idea what you’re doing.  It would be boring if we had it all figured out, right?
  2. There are things you can control and things you can’t– This can be difficult to accept.  My current season of life is coming to an end because of factors I cannot control.   Unfortunately, I cannot outrun an expiring visa, nor can I topple the bulwark of bureaucracy that is preventing me from landing a job in the place I want to live.  When working towards a goal, I have learned to identify factors that I realistically can and cannot control.  On the way to achieving said goal, it is my job to take care of the factors that are in my control.  If I’ve worked hard and done my part and the goal is not achievable because of the factors I cannot control, then that goal is not meant to be reached…yet (I sometimes struggle to remember that time is a factor that I cannot control).  Side Note: For those of you who are aware of my ability to persevere and endure, I am not giving up on my goal of living and working abroad- I’m just taking a detour on the construction-filled, pothole-ridden, winding road of life.  “It’s exciting!” “I’m too blessed to be stressed!” I repeat to myself as I frustratingly shove everything I own into a suitcase, pretending that 20 kilograms is more than it actually is, and wondering why I collect rocks as travel mementos.
  3. Home is not a place, it’s a feeling– Since 2014, I have been fortunate enough to call three different countries home.  The northeast of the States is a place I call home because it is where most of my family is, it is where I was raised, and it is a region of the country from which I am proud to say I hail.  Austria is home because it is where I met a few incredible friends, took big steps out of my comfort zone, and became comfortable with my independent self, which gave me the confidence to find home in a third place, Scotland, which has been home for the past year and a half.  I initially embarked on this adventure to earn a Master’s degree.  Not only did I accomplish this mission, but I’ve also met some fantastic people, run some incredible races, and learned how to look the proper way whilst crossing the street (more or less).  Some people think that because I enjoy living abroad, I don’t miss “home” (aka the Northeast).  But I am here to report that this couldn’t be further from the truth.  While I am quite happy living abroad, I do miss friends, family, and familiar places from all of my homes.  These are, after all, the things that make a home.  It certainly isn’t easy to miss holidays, birthdays, weddings, funerals, and impromptu get togethers that turn into the best nights, but through all of this,  I have gained so much appreciation for my family, friends, and those familiar places.  I have learned to cherish them more, and  I have learned how to balance both forces of missing one home and being happy in another.  This balance is something that was difficult to strike at first, but understanding that it is possible to feel at home in more than one place has helped me to manage these forces.  This couldn’t have been more evident than when I was on the bus to the airport earlier today- a woman wearing a Red Sox hat sat down next to me.  Upon seeing this symbol of one of my homes, I got excited for my return, until .03 seconds later when I looked out the window of the bus, the only view in sight being Edinburgh Castle.  The forces battled and neither won out.

To every thing there is a season.  Taking comfort in these words brings peace to a move that is not exactly on my terms.  Luckily, seasons come back around, but in the meantime, it’s time to yield to the forces I cannot control, take a few chances in my career, work towards my 2018 goals, and spend some quality time with one of my other homes.  Ready or not, I start my teaching career in the morning.  All the best, Christina Rose.