Day #46 15.02.16

Monday again, how do you come around so quick?

How do you make Mondays awesome? Start as you mean to go on. And today was awesome, and actually has 3 photos, although it’s the one at the end of the day which I’m claiming as my official photo a day today. Although I was working, I was working from home so I was able to make Monday a day full of Exercise and the Outdoors; two of my favourite things. Huzzah! What a way to start the week. First, a wake up session of BMF at the new Cheltenham venue of Hester Way Park.  Watching the sun rise while planking on the frosty grass is pretty special (although I appreciate this isn’t some people’s idea of a perfect Monday morning).

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Lunchtime was spent walking up Leckhampton Hill in the blindingly lush sunshine (more of that please weather gods) and enjoying the view and giggles.

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Back to work until the evening then saw me break free from the laptop and go for a jog around Cheltenham. Starting slowly as I wanted to do at least 10K, I just kept running. And running. I figured I’d just keep going until the legs said no. And that happened at around 18km but of course I had to round that up. So I actually ended up doing 20.5km. What a run. Last time I ran that distance I was being chased. Well, not really but it’s been so long since I’ve ran that distance it sure seems like the most logical reason why I’d run that far. My running mojo has been up and down over the last year but tonight I felt like that lost mojo had well and truly been found.

What an end to the day. Well, actually that’s not quite how I ended it. That amount of exercise in one day makes Paps have stiff legs. So the day ended up with a roll around on the foam roller. This evil monster had me in its clutches, yes.  Those things can be pretty damn painful (but help A LOT. And it’s kind of a good pain. Kind of.).

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Runs around the world #20

San Francisco, USA

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Where I’m staying in San Francisco is really close to The Golden Gate Park. As I’ve found everywhere, parks are [mostly] a runners heaven, and tend to be full of people doing all kinds of fitness-ey things. This one was no different; lots of walkers, runners, cyclists. OK, so there were also a lot of homeless people and people sat smoking weed, but this is San Francisco, where that seems to be normal pretty much all over.

If you know anything about San Francisco, it’s probably that it’s hilly. Now, when back in the UK, I didn’t mind hills really. I’d got used to running up them. I used to run home, which was up the top of a hill. I used to do hill sprints up Steep Hill in Lincoln (not easy, but I used to do them). I’m not as fit as I was, I’ve mentioned that before. I’ve not done as much running, and although I climbed a fair few mountains in New Zealand, it doesn’t mean they were easy (or that I enjoyed them). And I certainly didn’t run up any mountains in NZ (although I did run down one). Luckily for this temporarily lazy runner, the park is pretty flat.

So, I did a lovely little round route of 4 miles. From where I was staying, I ran down the hill (oh yes, I’m staying on a hill) to the park, through and round a bit of the park, then back up the hill. I hadn’t actually planned on running back up the hill, but I was nearly at 4 miles and I needed to get to a round figure on my runkeeper stats. I’m sure most runners can identify with this slight OCD-ness.

The famous San Francisco fog was around this particular morning, but there was also a bit of sunshine. But not too hot. Perfect for running really. I’d not run for probably about a week, and I’d been a bit lazy in Auckland and dipped out of going for a run with Ross one morning, and so really had to force myself to go here, but once I’d got going I remembered why I loved running. It felt great and I just enjoyed the pure beauty of running in a new place, not really knowing where I was going, just enjoying the new views and surroundings.

Whenever I run in a place with a lot of other people, especially people going the other way, I always feel tempted to high five them. I thought about it a lot on this run. I was in America after all, surely out of all the places I’ve been, this is the place for it? But, I chickened out, despite feeling mildly hyper/giddy/hysterical (it’s those endorphins you know) as everyone coming the other way just looked SUPER serious. Still should have just done it. I did chat to a bloke who offered to take my picture when he saw me taking a selfie after I’d finished. He then told me about some more trails up in the hills where there was poison oak. Not sure there was the need to lift his shorts up to show me where it had got him, but hey, this is San Francisco. Everything and anything goes.

I’m still surprised I can run 4 miles. I feel like I’ve hardly run at all over the last few months, so I’m glad there’s still something left in there. I feel really quite unfit so it’s always a nice feeling to have churned out just over 4 miles quite easily (including ending a run on a bloody steep hill). As I come to the end of my trip, I CANNOT wait to ramp it up now. I’m chomping at the bit. I do need to sort out my damaged shoulder though, but hey, I can still run, and that’s enough for now.

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Bangkok nights.

I’m going to start this post with a caveat that despite spending 5 nights in Bangkok so far I’ve not really done much, so I’m not sure I’ve got much to write about. My friend Nick is joining me in Thailand in about a week and I’ll be heading back to Bangkok to meet him. So I put off some of the tourist things until he arrives. That and I was also feeling a bit ‘templed’ out after India and China. Oh, and I was also fed up with the heat.

So, I had quite a relaxed few days. I had to sort out plans for getting to Koh Mak where I’d spend a week or so before coming back. Sorting out=researching, figuring out how to get there then going and booking bus tickets etc.

I didn’t want to be in the middle of backpacker central, so the place I stayed in was in a mainly Thai residential area south of the river; nice and quiet and away from the madness and crowds. There was a little night market selling mainly meat, fruit and vegetables (most of which I couldn’t recognise and had no idea what they were) that popped up near there so I spent a bit of time walking round it. It was a hive of activity, with people chattering and cooking, the smells and colours all so strong and fresh. It was a full ‘in your face’ experience, making all my senses feel alive and a great way to introduce me to some Thai culture. It also made me pretty hungry so after a bit more wandering I found a little place to eat in. Nothing fancy; just a few tables and a small kitchen at the back. A proper little Thai eating place, where it kind of feels like you’re sat in someone’s living room. There’s no menu, just a load of Thai writing on the wall. The woman couldn’t speak English; I couldn’t speak Thai. We looked at each other with bemused looks on our faces until a chap sat behind me came to the rescue. After a bit of to-ing and fro-ing I ended up with some kind of chicken fried rice dish. The tastiest chicken fried rice dish I’d had ever. Add in some fierce chilli flakes from the table and it was incredible. Oh, and the best bit? It cost me less than a £1. “Welcome to Thai food, Paps.” I thought. One of the best things for me about travelling is the food. Trying new food, finding different places to eat. And I’m pretty sure Thailand is not going to disappoint. Especially as they also have fruit carts! I am so excited about this. Carts full of melon, pineapple and other [as yet unidentified and untried] fresh fruit. For pennies. I am SO going to eat healthy while I am here. It’s like the melon on a stick snack carts in China all over again. Such a shame England doesn’t have anything like this. All we have is carb-heavy, calorie laden shitty snacks like pastries, crisps and sweets. No wonder people struggle to eat a healthy diet when out and about, the options are so limited. Maybe that could be my new job when I get back? Fruit-Cart Operative. Wonder how many people would go for it?

That night I sat on the hostel roof with some guys also staying there drinking Chang beer from the local 7/11 (taking dibs on who would do the next beer run), making paper aeroplanes to throw off the roof, watching a thunderstorm in the distance and just chatting about travel, life and the universe. It was such a relaxed evening, a perfect way to spend a few hours, although I’d realised my tolerance to alcohol has definitely diminished and I felt more than a little drunk by the end of it (which was around 2am in the 7/11 getting beer munchie cheese and ham toasties and Hersheys chocolate). I wasn’t drunk enough to forget though that it was a Thursday night, which only means one thing: Film Club night back in the UK, and as 2am here is 8pm back there, my Film Club buddies got a drunken hangout call. I can’t really remember much about the details of the conversation but I remember laughing a lot. And them laughing a lot. And getting chocolate all over myself. Love them.

Walking round this area at night (not while drunk, obviously), down all the little streets and alleyways is like having a glimpse into real life for the people who live here because all the houses have main rooms that all fully open out into the street. It reminded me of those kid’s dolls houses where you could open the front and see into every room. Each building houses something different; people making shoes, people’s living rooms, arcade machines, fabric shops, sewing shops. You name it, there was probably someone doing it. It felt a bit voyeuristic, walking round and gazing into their lives. But a smile and a hello is returned with a wide grin and a warm greeting back, which made me feel better.

One day I went to Lumphini Park and wandered around for a bit, looking for the monitor lizards and checking it out as a possible place to run (it passed). It’s a nice place to pass the time and people watch for a bit. That evening I went out for dinner with a woman who lives in Bangkok, who I know through an internet forum I go on. Another meeting in real life of a random stranger that I only know through the internet, but this time no running, just eating and drinking. I had a great time, and she treated me to dinner and wine at a trendy bar which was super generous of her. I love that the world is such a smaller place nowadays, that I can meet new friends in all kinds of ways and that once again I’m reminded that the world is full of kind, lovely, generous people. It was nice to see a ‘friendly’ face while I’m travelling, and find out more about real life in the city, rather than just hitting the tourist spots. That’s what travelling is about for me.

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And what visit to a big city is not complete without going to Chinatown (via boat)? Now I’ve actually been to China, it’s a bit of a different experience for me. I like it. The one here had lots of small streets with markets, food stalls and everything in between. I’m pretty sure I’ll probably go back again with Nick so didn’t really do much else apart from walk through. Oh, and stop for something to eat at a street stall. Everywhere you go there are little carts that serve up mainly a kind of noodle soup with some kind of meat or meatballs for tiny prices. They quite often have a few tables to sit at nearby so I got my bowl of noodle soup and sat down, adding in chilli flakes to make it a bit interesting. Probably added in a few too many but that’s by the by. They had chopsticks. Oh how I had missed chopsticks over the last few days; forks and spoons seem to be the utensils of choice here. I’d spent a month in China mastering my own special way of using a pair, and really enjoyed it. Now, granted, my method is probably not the same as the ‘proper’ way of using them but it does the job. The chap at the food stall obviously didn’t think so as he came over with a fork as I was halfway through. Hmm. I didn’t think I was that bad. I waved him off with a smile, he returned it with a confused look and a grin.

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I’ll probably go back to Chinatown as I’m pretty sure Nick will want to go there. Nick loves trying new food even more than I do, so I can’t wait for more street food adventures. Mmmm. All that fresh food, packed full of flavour and more heat than you can handle (if you want). Oh, I’m sure we’ll do a bit of sightseeing but it’s the food. It’s all about the food.

Runs around the world #9

Beijing, China

My first run in China. It’s been nearly a week since my last run in India and my legs were getting twitchy. I start to get a little bit grumpy if I don’t get to run, or at least do some kind of exercise. So I don’t like going that long between runs but I didn’t really have a choice. So, I was itching to get out there and get the legs moving.

First things first. I’m in Beijing, capital city of China. Probably the most polluted city in the world (I haven’t checked that for exact facts but I know it’s pretty high up there). I’ve been here for a few days, and have been checking out places to run and the conditions. The first day I was here the sun was hidden behind this thick layer of what looked like cloud but what I actually knew to be smog. There was a haze to everything, like those summer days back in England, only this wasn’t an innocent sunny haze. I wasn’t quite sure at this point whether I wanted to run in that, although I know people do. People live here, there are running clubs, life has to go on. But I also know that runners here have apps on their smartphones to check pollution levels. If the levels are too bad I know some runners don’t run. Some runners wear masks. So, it is a problem. But I’m only here for a few days so maybe less of a problem and more just something to bear in mind.

I’ve done a lot of walking, including spending an afternoon at the Temple of Heaven Park. It’s a huge, huge park in the middle of Beijing, probably the biggest and most popular. It’s got lots of walkways, trees, grass, toilets (handy to know after my last run) <link to last runs around the world> and, here’s a great thing, it’s FLAT. Oh, and there are also OTHER JOGGERS HERE. This is Wonderful. I can run here. I will no longer be looked at like a strange phenonemon. I will fit in. Ok, only fit in as much as I can, westerners still stand out here. But still, I will be able to run and feel much more comfortable. Again, this excited me like a kid at Christmas.

Now, it’s really hot here. And quite humid, although still feels a million times better than Delhi. Must be a different kind of heat. I’ve already accepted I’ll be a red-faced sweaty traveller trying to escape to air conditioned places for most of my trip, but when it comes to running I’m not great in the heat. I find it really hard work. My favourite running conditions are slightly cool, maybe with a bit of drizzle. So, it seems it’s early morning runs again, only this time it’s to beat the heat.

This is my first run where I’ve 1) had to get a metro to get to it and 2) paid to run (apart from a race). I’m used to just chucking on my gear, stepping out the door and going, so it was a bit different. But, alarm set, trainers on, metro navigated (without a map, no pockets) I arrived at the park at around 7am. I was surprised to see that it was actually just as busy as when I had been the previous day in the afternoon! But, this time it was filled with loads and loads of older Chinese folk there for their morning exercise. It was great to see, because there was all kinds of different things going on, all around the park. Tai chi, jogging, dancing, keep fit, badminton, tennis, stretching, walking (forwards and backwards). You name it they were doing it. I even saw a man walking in circles round a tree, and a woman polishing a tree stump (not sure this was exercise though). How nice to think for that morning I was a Part of It.

My run was ace. Yep, still slow (although not too bad, given that the temperature was already in the 30’s that early in the morning) but it was a lovely, long plod of 7 miles. My longest run in over 2 months, it was truly heaven. My legs felt the last mile again, but I have done a lot of walking over the last few days so I’m not surprised. It was nice to know the legs have still got it and I’m not back to 2 mile run fitness! AND I went for a 2.5 mile post-run walk to ease the legs off. And it felt great. And no aching the next day! I am liking Beijing, I am liking being active. Now, if it could just cool down a little bit please that would be nice. I know I went travelling to get a bit of sun but this isn’t quite what I meant….

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