Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The best thing about running is that it can be an integral part of your vacation package....

About a month ago, I flew to France to visit my family. Although I only wanted to bring a small carry-on suitcase, my running gear took precedence over any other piece of clothing I might have needed. Running shoes, check. Running clothes, check. Pair of pyjamas...we'll see if there's room! For someone who always brings extra, just in case, this was a drastic change.

I was really eager to get to my parents' house, three hours south of Paris, as my path to becoming a runner really began along the roadways of Billy Chevannes, 5 years ago, when Tyler coaxed me into running with him...for fun. Now, one thing you have to understand about running around my parents' house is that there is no flat road in sight! It's a very hilly region with many degrees of elevation and very few flat areas. When Tyler took me on our first "fun" run, it was a gentle climb through several villages and up (way up!) a forest trail. Within a few minutes, I was just about ready to kill him and his fun run! But I kept going with his encouragement and what I loved immediately was the beauty of the landscape along our run (chickens freely roaming the road were the only obstacles to manage, not a small feat for me). At the end of that run, I was wiped, felt out of shape (only being 5 months postpartum) and yet triumphant. We went back the next day, and the next and soon I managed to go for 11,5 km runs with Tyler and Sylvain, my cousin's husband and my other running partner.

I have great memories of those first days of running in France and so felt very excited to go back and run there again. I was also a little nervous as I knew, this time, that I would be alone and would probably not venture too far on isolated trails on my own. I'm just not that adventurous.

A few days after I arrived, I laced up my running shoes, plugged my ipod and Nike+ on and was ready to go out when my niece, who will be 14 soon, said she wanted to go run with me. I was so excited and happy to have her join me on my run. She has ran at school as part of her physical education program, and was ready to tackle going around the block. I wanted to run 5 km, which is twice around the block. We started slow and it was a lot of fun to be running with Tiffany. I could see myself back at her age, thinking it didn't seem that long ago, yet it was. I was feeling proud to be somewhat role-modeling healthy living and exercising to her and kept giving her little bits of strategy for the run.

She made it around the block once and decided to stop, which was fine. I continued on, and cursed the steep incline of the hills, knowing that I would feel the effort in my legs the next day. One particular hill was particularly tricky: the higher you climbed, the longer it went on. I couldn't believe how hard it was for me to complete the 5 km loop, and how out of breath I was after the run. It really emphasized the need to mix up the runs with hills training to make sure to work the muscles in different ways.

A couple of days later, I went back out again with Tiffany and my oldest nephew Jeremy. This run with them will remain one of my favourite memories ever. We had so much fun! My nephew, who is a head taller and many pounds leaner was running ahead barely breaking a sweat while I huffed and puffed behind him. It was a sobering statement for my ego.

I would have liked to finish my trip to France with a run alongside my cousin and Sylvain in Ferney Voltaire, near Geneva, but unfortunately, our time together was short and we didn't get the chance. Sylvain has been a tremendous source of support and inspiration and I've enjoyed not only running with him in the past (including once or twice in North Gower 3 years ago) but his many (sometimes teasingly harsh) encouragements to keep me running.

Back in 2006, during one of our runs with Sylvain, I proclaimed I would run a Marathon with him in New York City. I hope that one day we can actually do it. For now, I'll focus on the half-marathon and see what happens from there. As for Sylvain, he has ran a few half-marathons already and will run his third this coming Sunday, May 9th. I wish him the best and can't wait to hear all about it.

Go Kroby Go!

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