Saturday, December 19, 2009

Chiang Mai Run

“Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.” Buddha

I woke up this morning at 6:15 (a huge improvement over yesterday,) and decided to go for a run. The morning sun was just beginning to turn the mountain pink and purple and the city had a misty haze of fresh rain from a torrential tropical downpour in the night. We had the windows open so the sounds of a few scooters and people beginning their day drifted in, a lovely change over the midday din of thousands of trucks and motor bikes.

I dug around to collect my gear and get out the door without waking anyone else and headed for the Chiang Mai University campus about 1.3 miles away. By the time I had dressed and reached the main street then traffic had already quadrupled! Fortunately, this main street has a sidewalk. Unfortunately, that is where everyone parks their scooters so it was slow going as I picked my way around vehicles, damaged cement, trees, dogs, and business signs.

Finally I reached the University and lost most of the traffic. There I found lovely paths that were much less treacherous and lots of other people walking or running. A couple of times I let my mind wander, enjoying the beauty of the lush greenery and interesting surroundings, and nearly collided with another pedestrian because I had forgotten to keep left instead of right.

After I had run about 3 miles, I set my Garmin for “back to start” hoping to retrace my path. Having no information on the streets though, it tried to take me back as the crow flies. By the time I realized this I was totally turned around and had no idea where I had turned to get where I was. I knew I was still on the campus, so not too terribly lost, and the Garmin does have a compass (a feature I had never had show up before.) I also had my parents address and enough money for a Tuk-tuk to take me home if I got to far afield.

I worked my way to the corner of the campus, headed back towards the main street, and found myself up against one major obstacle, the City Moat. Ooookaaayy. I ran along the moat, running parallel to where I needed to go, trying not to get run over on a street with 4 lanes of traffic each way and no sidewalk. The neighbor that will be running the full marathon next week told me always to run WITH traffic in Chiang Mai. He said he knew that it was totally counter intuitive, but that all the cars and scooters are used to dodging obstructions in the road and your best bet is to be headed in the same direction so they have more time to spot you and go around. That is the huge difference between Chiang Mai and Naples, Italy. In Italy they TRY to hit you! In Chiang Mai, Thailand, they try to miss you.

Eventually I found the bridge that the marathon neighbor had told me about. It is totally crumbling and blocked off for car or scooter traffic, but is apparently deemed perfectly safe for pedestrians. Unfortunately, as far as I could see in either direction it was the only way across the moat, it was starting to get hot, and my lungs were beginning to protest about the car exhaust which was getting so thick I was affecting visibility. I said a prayer and ran over the bridge. I probably would have shut my eyes too, but if the cement started to fall away, I wanted to know when to jump!

At that point I could see the high rise my parents condo are in, so I wound my way through little side streets, packed full of homes and business with everyone sweeping their part of the street and setting up their shops for the day. Humorously, NO ONE noticed my VFFs. I was just another crazy Farang in weird clothes (Shamrock Marathon tech shirt, running skirt, striped socks, and 4 bottle Fuel Belt.)

No, I was not running barefoot. Even the Buddhist Monks do not go barefoot in this city. So far I have seen a few barefoot early in the morning when they go begging for their breakfast, otherwise they are in flip-flops (if they are young) or very nice hiking sandals if they are older.

By the time I finally arrived back at the condo, I had run 7 miles (two more than planned) and walked up 9 flights of stairs. There is an elevator, but unless I’m laden with groceries, I’ve made a habit out of taking the stairs in order to speed my acclimation to the heat, humidity, and slight altitude. We shall see how effective it has been on race day!

Despite the traffic, winding alleys, and chaos, my run relaxed me and really helped me shake off the last of the jet lag. I was refreshed and ready to begin the adventures of the day and I know I will get a great night’s sleep tonight. Running is where I find peace in the land of Buddha.


Rich said...

Awesome post. Your reporting brings a longing in me to run in foreign lands. Thanks for the inspiration...again.

Sarah said...

Loved reading your post! Will you post some pictures? I would love to see what it looks like there!

clare said...

Fantastic Wendy!!
how long are you there for?

robison52 said...

Fantastic! I'm living precariously through you, what an adventure you're having!!

diana said...

I'm enjoying your posts and pictures about Thailand! How wonderful for you! Looking forward to more. How long will you be there?

WendyBird said...

we will be here until January 9th and have many adventures planed. My mom is running us ragged, LOL

Tanya said...

Nice post, Wendy. Thailand sounds like an interesting place to visit.

Scott said...

I don't understand. What's the reason you and the monks would not run barefoot in this particular city?