Monday, August 27, 2012

Holiday Road

I've had a great summer. Period. On so many levels I am happy, I am truly living life, and enjoying every moment. I've had three long weekends in a condensed amount of time where I've been able to travel and get to know well some new places. I'm very fortunate to have had these opportunities to travel, even though none of the trips have been for very long (nothing over 3 nights), and not far or exotic by how some people would measure it. No, I didn't leave the country. No, I didn't go anywhere I've never seen before. No, I didn't have more than a couple days in each location to look around. But for me, I've always been one (or have at least tried to be one) to appreciate the little things in life. These little trips have been a treat for me, on so many levels. A sweet addition to a beautiful summer.

One of the biggest reasons why this summer has been so memorable has been the running. All of the several hours of exertion, sweat, tears, and hard work. Running 4-5 days a week while training for a marathon can be grueling. But I truly think more so mentally than physically. My body is strong to handle the physical stuff, but sometimes my brain questions if I'm getting bored or not. It isn't boredom with the action of running itself, but with the same old roads and routes close to home that I know and run all the time. They're pretty, but when it's almost everyday, it quickly loses its charm.

But this current season of marathon training has NOT been boring at all because of the holiday road. And really, what better way to see a new place while on holiday, than on foot running. What better way to celebrate my love for running than getting excited to wake up early to run in a city unknown before the city wakes up and see it in such an invigorating way. And what better way to enjoy running than just to go with no goal aside from enjoying the workout and the views along the way.  Who says training for a marathon has to be boring or too much hard work. It's been hard yes, but a holiday at the same time. You'll see what I mean soon, I promise. Keep reading! :)

So yes running is the ultimate way of seeing a city....You cover more ground faster than by walking, but still on foot, and so, still deliberate enough to take in your surroundings. End of July, I was in Kamloops for the marathon weekend. I spent 3 nights there with my friend, Sheila, and made a little long weekend getaway out of it. While I'd seen Kamloops before briefly, I had definitely never seen the parts the marathon course covered. And it was gorgeous! I mean, look at this view (i.e, I don't mean the gorgeous girls running, I mean the water and the mountains....haha!)
21.1km with a great view and a great friend
The week after that, I was away for yet another long weekend, this time with Cam, to visit our family in Victoria. I usually run when I'm in Victoria, but since I'm still somewhat lost when I'm there (no matter how often I go, I'm lost because Cam does the driving so I have no need to pay attention...), I tend to stick to the same routes over and over again to not get really lost. My rationale is that even if the same routes over and again, we're only on the Island a few times a year. So it doesn't get boring; just familiar and friendly to return to. But this time around, I arranged to run with Susan, a Team In Training participant I'd never met in person and was anxious to meet and excited to run with. She offered to take me somewhere new - to Elk and Beaver Lake. Looping around the lakes is a 10km trail, and I was running 25km that day. So I did one loop with Susan to enjoy her company and learn my way around (ie., keep the lake on the same side the whole time and avoid the equestrian trails), and after we parted ways, I continued on for another loop and a bit on my own. How beautiful!!!

Parked at this beach and then ran the trails around the two lakes
The next two weeks' long runs were local in Vancouver, but I made each of them a holiday too. Rather than running the same roads in North Vancouver (albeit beautiful roads...), starting from my front door and looping back to end the run at my front door (or the fridge, rather), I made things a bit more interesting. The first of these was a 29km destination run. I left from home and ran through three different cities, circled right around Stanley Park, and ended at a convenient public transit spot for a lengthy journey home. I loved it because it took well over an hour to get home on transit (some of it was "rapid" transit too), and I kept questioning if I indeed got to where I was solely on foot, or if I'd forgotten that I'd actually parked my car somewhere around the corner. I questioned my sanity, knowing I was likely a bit dehydrated after running that distance in the summer heat.

The Lions Gate Bridge, I love running over this majestic bridge and crossing cities!
Then the following week was my first 20-miler - the distance we all must hit in training for a marathon at least a couple times. That's right, 32km. To treat myself for this distance, I took a trip to my hometown, Richmond, BC. It may not be far, but I almost never go there anymore. While I have little reason to go back, I always enjoy going back, because I did live there about 90% of the years of my young life so far! There are many memories attached to every road. And I will never grow old of the beautiful dyke trails. It reminds me of going for bike rides with my siblings. I can remember walking there with my Dad. Or going out on my own and treating myself to frozen yogurt at Steveston before turning around to go home again. So nice to run there, and run the longest run to date in this marathon's training in Richmond, my hometown.

West Dyke Trail in Richmond, an important destination over the course of my life
Oh, and I just absolutely had to stop for frozen yogurt after. It is tradition after all. And after burning well over 2000 calories that run, I sure deserved every bite!

And that brings us to this current weekend! I'm currently in Montreal, just about to turn in for my final night here. I'd only seen the city briefly previously, one very cold and snowy winter, with one terrible case of the flu. Needless to say, I don't remember much of my previous visit here, and this current visit has been a much different experience. I ran my longer distance on Friday, before getting here at all, so I wouldn't have the pressure of having to run long here and have little energy for anything else. But upon arrival Saturday night, I set the alarm for a first-thing-in-the-morning run with Mary, our TNT Director and fellow running enthusiast.

We discussed running for 40 min, but with a little bit of getting turned around, we ran a bit over an hour instead (woops!) and covered what I believe was just about 10km (Garmin was confused at first, so didn't register for about 20min; it's never traveled so far from it's usual satellite range in BC). While it was a run on about 5 hours sleep and a 3-hour time difference, it energized us. It was a great way to see the city, and my first time ever running with Mary, both factors made it quite a treat. It helped me get my bearings, spot places I needed to revisit after and spend time at, and it allowed me to learn enough that I've barely had to consult a map on this trip to figure out where I'm going. We ran from our hotel through downtown and toward the Old Port, along the river for a bit, and then back. I'm going back tomorrow for one last morning run:

Montreal - Great city for running!
I'm not sure where my upcoming runs on this marathon training journey will take me. But I know for sure that the race itself will take me right to the heart of the city of Victoria, BC!

40 days to go!


  1. What a great post, Zahida! I think you are right, running in a new place is definitely a fun activity! You are lucky that you had locals run with you to show you the nice time, hubby wanted to run while on business in Toronto I think, and when he asked the hotel front desk about running in the area , he was actually told it wouldn't be safe!

  2. Before you even said that you ran at Elk and Beaver Lakes, I was saying to myself, "I sure hope she ran at Elk and Beaver Lakes!"! Another great place in Victoria to run, is actually out by UVic. When I was there, I used to run all around the campus and throughout Uplands. It has some great hills and the scenery is amazing. You can pretty much run from the campus to downtown and not realize that you have done the run b/c of the scenery!

    You have accompllished so much, I hope that you are super duper proud of yourself!

  3. Thank you, both of you! Patti, I never ask a front desk person at a hotel for running directions. I can't believe they said that to Q. There are plenty of great places in Toronto to run! There are great places to run everywhere in the world! Andrea, I'll keep the UVic suggestion in mind for next time I need a route in Victoria. I guess that would be Christmas because the next trip is for the marathon :)