For close to a year now I’ve entertained the idea of getting back into the whole running and exercising thing that people do to stay healthy and fit. Last May a good friend of mine asked if I’d be interested in running in what’s called the Frauenlauf (Women’s Run) and I was, but unfortunately (also fortunately) I had to work and was unable to register. Had I been able run alongside hundreds, maybe thousands of women through Vienna, I told myself I would train for it as not to be caught of guard or in severe pain for days following the run, which is also what I told myself when that same friend asked me if I’d be interested in running this year’s Vienna Night Run. The Vienna Night Run takes place in the city, at night, around Vienna’s famed Ringstrasse. Thousands upon thousands of people participate which makes for a party-like atmosphere in the name of running. Registered runners receive a special goodie bag filled with coupons, coupons, more coupons, and a sweet Vienna Night Run long sleeved shirt. (Honestly I ran for the shirt.)
Running isn’t all that foreign to me, though unfortunately it’s not all that obvious. I ran Cross-Country for several years in school before I gave it up to “bring up my grades”, (but really I was this close to failing Chemistry in 10th grade) and never picked it back up again since I never really loved the feeling of exhaustion and that “Can I stop running please?” desire in the first place.
That being said… Guys, I’m getting back into running!
Maybe. Hopefully. The Vienna Night Run didn’t inspire me to get back into shape, though it did inspire me to never, ever, ever run a 5K without training beforehand ever, ever again. I couldn’t walk for a week and was laughed at multiple times by multiple people, deservingly so. (Fun Fact: If your muscles are sore you have what’s called a Muskelkater, which translates to muscle hangover. Ha.) But it did prepare me for last week in which I agreed to be my friend’s new running partner. We both live right next door to Vienna’s largest park, Prater, so meeting up regularly is easy for us. We jogged/power walked for the first time last Monday since both of us had not so wisely eaten too close to running time, but still it was a nice exercise and it felt good to get out and talk with a friend while orange and red leaves fell all around us. Easily something I could get used to.
Two days later we met up for our Prater exercise but decided to join the “Frauenlauftreff” (women’s running meeting, basically) rather than run by ourselves. I was surprised by the number of women who came out for this meeting. There may have been close to 75? Maybe less, but there were a lot of women there of all ages who came out simply to run. My friend and I tried to put ourselves in the slowest group, because if you haven’t picked up on it yet from this post, we don’t run. But the head trainer said there was no way we were that slow, so she put us in a different group. By the time we got started the sun had gone down and the street lights were on, bouncing off the rain-soaked road. We ran 400 meters 8 times at a decently quick pace with small pauses in between each lap. Our trainer was a fit woman in her late 30s and was an excellent motivator and helper. She checked up on everyone in the group throughout the run and gave advice to those who were hurting or wanted to stop. Surprisingly my friend and I ran right by our trainer without collapsing onto the pavement, and equally surprising – I had a really good time.
It wasn’t so much the running that had me in a good mood and weirdly grinning in between wheezes. I grinned because it felt like I had a group. I belonged. The women around me didn’t care that I wasn’t Austrian and they didn’t care that I decided to run in my UT VOLS sweatshirt. They didn’t care that I don’t yet speak Austrian running lingo or that I don’t yet know how to do some of their stretches. We were all there just to run and we had that in common. It felt different somehow from my church and my work – two places where I feel that I belong and know that I am supported in my German learning efforts as well as just living here in general. I love the people within those places with my whole heart and look forward to seeing every one of them each week. But there’s something about belonging to a group without knowing a single name that makes it a different kind of special. I don’t know, I can’t really explain it. What I do know is that I’m looking forward to running again this week among this new group of friendly, welcoming strangers.