“A run has never returned me exactly the same. I go. I grow.” Kristin Armstrong
I’m on a family vacation this week. When I started packing for this Italy trip to Rome, Venice, and Florence, what did I pack first…my running clothes, 3 sets. I knew that I would want to run at least once in each city. It’s not always easy to run on vacation, especially at 6 in the morning, with jet lag. But there is something about running a new location, particularly close to sunrise; you get to discover it on foot with your own body moving through it in a way that those sleeping in can’t. Beyonce sings about girls running the world; I’d like to do that more literally.
A city sounds, smells, and feels different early in the morning, and to come all the way to Italy and not experience that through a run is almost as bad as deciding to be on a no-carb diet while you’re here.
And so at 5:30 am on a Sunday morning in Rome, while everyone else in my family was still deeply asleep from the previous couple of days of gelato for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, I got up for my run. I discovered that running over cobblestone streets definitely requires paying a little extra attention to where you place your feet. The fruit vendors are setting up their stands, and the aroma of the summer nectarines and peaches is pretty overpowering. Fruit in the U. S. just isn’t as fragrant, not even in the local farmer’s markets that I frequent. Occasionally I hear a car engine as it drives by…. the city is more awake at 3 am with lots of city noise than it is shortly after sunrise. Most of Rome is still asleep at 6 am. When you run past the Colosseum at that hour, you might just be the only person there, with only the pigeons to keep you company.
Running through the pigeons brought back one of my favorite childhood memories. I think I was about 8 years old, the same age my daughter is now, when we took an extended European summer vacation. Certain scenes from that trip are still very clear in my memory. I can hear myself squealing as my dad holds me in his lap while we feed pigeons in the center square in Madrid. I want to feed them, yet I’m scared at the same time, but in the comfort of my dad’s arms, I feel secure enough to try.
I start reliving my memories of that trip, and I recall walking in the streets of Vienna watching street performers, my dad giving me money to tip them. I remember him buying me what seemed like unlimited amounts of Swiss chocolate. I just remember being so happy to spend time with him. What has stayed with me from that trip, are not the specifics of the sights that we saw, which I’m sure we saw every sight, but the feelings of happiness of extended time spent with my dad. He worked very very hard for many many years, and that summer, I probably spent more time with him than I had at any other time.
While I’m reminiscing on my Rome run, it occurs to me that it must have been a very difficult trip to organize. I don’t even know how many European cities we visited, how many hotels we stayed in, and how many sites we saw. I do remember that the trip was seamless. And I think about how much time I spent looking into flights and places to stay for our little 10 day trip to 3 cities, and the little bumps we’ve had along the way.
Who organized that extended European trip of my childhood. It was my mom. It had to be; I don’t even need to ask her. And that was before the time of internet, Kayak, Air B n B, Yelp, and all of the other wealth of information available 24 hours a day on your smartphone. She must have spent so much time planning, booking, organizing passports and getting Visas (my parents were not U. S. citizens at that time), and yet I remember that as the summer I got to spend time with my dad.
Well, I can’t really change my memories of that trip to somehow include more of my mom in them, and I don’t think that she would want me to. I think she is happy to have given her kids that extended time with their dad, while she carried our passports and water and snacks and kept our itineraries straight. But after 30+years, if I can’t change my memories, I can at least acknowledge and be thankful for what she did for us.
I finish my run, still surprised that almost every run I go on gives me food for thought, and tip-toe into our Air B n B apartment, where everyone is still sleeping. I’m grateful that I got up at 5:30 am to go for this run, so I could be back before any of my kids wake up. After all, I wouldn’t want to miss even one second of this trip with their dad.