In the fall I wrote a post titled, “Top Ten Reasons Running in Karakol is Awesome.” I didn’t quit running, and since then have added nearly another four months to my running repertoire in Karakol’s wintery conditions (read: sunshine, cold air, snow and ice). Today I don’t have a Top Ten list, but rather a collection of my observations “on the run.”
Running is a rare activity here. In the more than 200 hours I’ve been out on my feet here, I have passed exactly nine (9) girls and two young men who were also running. In the same amount of time, I’m nearly positive I’ve had over 1000 people burst out laughing, jog with exaggerated stupid antics in front of me, “stealthily” jog behind me while their friends laugh, or otherwise mock me while I was running. The 100-1 ratio is at least interesting.
Children love to run. In Kyrgyzstan, kids come and go from school all day long (some have the morning shift, others the afternoon), so it seems like whenever I pass a school, there are children coming and going. And many of the younger ones will start to jog with me. So I say, “Come on, a little faster,” and pick up the pace. They do as well, laughing and breathing hard. I repeat the speed increase a couple times, and leave them in the dust. It is a fun way to get a stride or two into your run, and it is better than being mocked.
Running terrain is hard to classify. Despite the fact that at least half of my running is on “roads,” the most typical surfaces I find myself on are: mud, snow, sheets of perfectly smooth ice, and (my favorite) 1” of mud over a bed of frozen ground (i.e. slippery and messy). Depending on the day, I can’t decide which I hate the most. 🙂 This is particularly confusing because I use a Garmin Forerunner GPS watch, and it always asks me to classify my runs into categories like “road running” OR “trail running,” and I always want to say, “Yep.”
Running in Karakol is a great way to stick out more than the typical foreigner. Maybe this is obvious from how rarely people run, but I will state it nonetheless. My wife met some people recently who knew me because I run by their house in the mornings. “Oh, you’re married to him.” (I’m not sure if this bit goes with this point or with the point about being made fun of, but when I ran during a snowstorm, people rolled down their car windows to talk to me as they passed, including one guy who called out, “Are you normal?”)