Monday, October 6, 2014

The Half-Marathon and The Birthday

Mr. Lenin got the best view of the finish (Statue on right)



That's me - heel-strikin' it up!

This is me in a lot of pain getting dropped before the half-way mark

The leaders. The eventual winner, smartly, running at the back

See, he won!

And this girl is pretty fast too.
Once a Runner, eh? I think it's about time for Again to Carthage. One book is about a young runners pursuit of glory, and his sacrifices to the get there. The second book is about giving it all up... and then doing it all again. It's almost time to go back...

So while I still may be only running three days a week, and averaging 20 miles a week, I decided that this former runner could still find his way through 13.1 miles of main street, Novosibirsk. And, amazingly, I could, to the tune of 5:30 a mile. They say you lose fitness pretty quickly without training, but darnit, 9 years of a professional training program has a way of sticking with you, mentally and physically. And while if I had stuck with it I could probably be running something closer to 1:02:00 than 1:12:00, I have other things to do with my life now.

On September 13th the city of Novosibirsk held the "Siberian Running Festival," which is held every year on one of the last decent weekends in Siberia. Summer is over here. Winter is coming. The leaves started dropping from the trees at the end of August and the weather has been either crisp or rainy for weeks. This is the weather I missed last year by arriving at the end of September. I thought Fall in Siberia was awful because I actually missed it. October-December is more or less brown winter, not Fall.

There's a joke in Siberia that there are 2 seasons - white winter and green winter. But no, there is a real summer, it's just short. A a short summer, a short fall, a brown winter, a white winter, and a long cold spring.

The marathon was held on a cold, cloudy day and I met with some friends after the race in complete exhaustion, cold to the core. I went home, managed to eat some food and took a 2 hour nap. I couldn't sleep forever though, because I had to celebrate my birthday!

I guess in Russia you're not supposed to celebrate your birthday before your actual birthday. But the 13th was a Saturday night, and the 14th was a Sunday, and where I come from we value practicality more than superstition, so I said to hell with that and asked Christian to organize a party.

He didn't disappoint. The wine, steak, and cheesecake was abundant, and Jean Marc managed to make sure there were a good number of friends and old acquaintances there. He did fail to tell them that it was my birthday, which tended to leave them in a state of shame, more than I would have expected, had I known. My friends even got together and bought me a tripod so I wouldn't have to borrow Lena's anymore and forget the mounting plate. And all of the Russians at the party refused to wish me happy birthday until after midnight had struck. Of all the parties at Christian's this Summer, this was one of the finest.

Unfortunately, since then the weather has gotten colder and rainier, the parties have been rarer, and my running has suffered due to some accumulated fatigue. I have yet to get sick (knock on wood - hey superstitions!) but my life here is fast and busy, and I spent most of my free evenings comatose on the couch in front of the computer after eating a pound or two of pre-made plov (rice pilaf with meat) from the grocery store).

One astute observer with a grudge recently compared me to Dorian Gray from Oscar Wilde's one and only novel. For those who aren't familiar, Dorian Gray is the ultimate anti-hero, embodies extreme hedonism, and makes a deal with an artist to maintain his youth and beauty and let his sins and age be endowed upon his portrait instead. He goes on to live a life of extreme debauchery, break lots of hearts, take a couple lives, do lots of drugs, and otherwise be a miserable human being, and his soul is only saved when he (maybe accidentally) kills himself.

I consider this comparison a little harsh (come on, I ain't in no opium den!!), but I guess some people think it's a crime to enjoy yourself and not dig deep emotional roots. I still have my mission and I am still pursuing my goals. But haters gonna hate.

That said, I do feel as though that when I settle down in a place, I tend to settle into the same bad habits. I waste too much time. I can become anti-social. I can withdraw into my own space and start missing really important communication. My energy and motivation suffers. Time passes and my productivity is crushed. I can feel the stagnation creeping back into my veins. I still haven't found a good way to fight it. It's like I need to constantly be moving or else my habits catch up with me. But you can never really outrun yourself.

At some point, you have to learn to change. A change of scenery might help, but it's something else that makes you really change. I keep thinking a girl will make it happen for me someday, but it hasn't happened yet. But in general, girls keep me shaving, and showering, and washing my clothes, and cleaning my apartment. Without girls I would have a beard to my armpits and live in something resembling a sewer with a mattress.

Or I could just live a life of moving to a different country every 2 months. That sounds pretty nice...

In any case, time is flying, it's already been two months, I'm enjoying my life here (much more than last year) and I'm sure the next 7 months will be as crazy, soul destroying, educational, and cold as they were last year. But hopefully less soul destroying and more educational.

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