ways running in north armenia is different from running in west texas

For the first time since summer ’08, I ran yesterday.  Back in the late college, early work years I ran.  If I wasn’t running, I was doing yoga, playing racquetball or tennis.  I moved around back then.  I think these days I just creak.

I told myself after leaving West Texas, that I’d run in Panama.  The island wouldn’t let me, demanded instead that I simply lay on the beach and then move to the hammock.  I told myself I’d run in Kolkata.  The anti-American rhetoric blasted from the neighborhood temple wouldn’t let me.  I told myself I’d run in my Peace Corps training village.  My laziness wouldn’t let me.

So finally yesterday, I ran in Armenia.  I have concluded already that running in Armenia is much different from running in America.

Mind you, running from a pursuant such as a fire-breathing bloodhound or a mace-wielding court reporter would likely be the same here as in the good ol’ USA.  Running for recreation your health, that non-descript sort, really is quite different in my VERY LIMITED experience.  I’ll give you what I observed on Day One.

Ways running in North Armenian is different from running in West Texas

1.  Terrain. Back in Texas I lived across the street from a well lit, smooth and even, clearly-marked-by-the-mile running track.  Here in Armenia, I live on a street that is mostly mud.  The parts that aren’t mud are made of puddle.

2. Community Involvement. Back in Texas I got very little recognition for my running.  At most, I would hear the occasional, “Saw you running,” from a friend, possibly a car-horn honk.  Here in Armenia, The American Running is a community event.   Apparently I can contribute to the flexibility of necks here;  I’ve never seen necks stretched so far to see something so insignificant as a guy putting one foot in front of the other.  Granted, I’ve never seen an Armenian run.  Not once.  So one morning when the American comes by at seemingly break-neck speed (what? 5mph?), with a beet red face, huffing like a steam engine, perhaps that’s something to brighten up a calendar with.

I hear reports of village running in which villagers literaly bring the family out to see the runner huff by.  This was expressed by another PCV in the form of a complaint.  I’m hoping that if I generate this kind of community involvement, that perhaps I can get them to cheer for me, maybe even throw flowers!

3. Lack of social elevation. Running in West Texas brings prestige.  I, for one, know that I never ran just to be healthy, and I certainly didn’t run because it was Such A Blast.  I don’t enjoy pushing myself.  I’m not a Mountain Climber kind of guy, more of a Lay In A Field Watching the Clouds Float type, I’d say.  While, “I want to be 80 and able to get around on my own if I can help it,” was my general (and really true) public explanation of my running, I know that I enjoyed the prestige.  I ran because I was then recognized in a new group, an unspoken class: People Who Take Care of Themselves.  I was someone who had Learned From History, someone who’d paid attention to “Supersize Me”, etc., and had taken the noble resolve to make sure I was going to live down America’s larger-than-life stereotype.  I was Taking Care of Myself.

Running in Armenia does not bring prestige.  As an American here, I already stand apart.  Also, no one runs here, as I said, so I’m not joining any kind of zeitgeist by taking to the road in my Nikes.  Yes, I can get recognition for running, but I’ll get the same kind of looks if I stand on the corner juggling hedgehogs.  Neither is really done, and neither really elevates me socially.

4.  Cleaning up. Exercise in America comes with a shower.  That cultural tidbit is rather awkwardly delivered to us starting in Junior High.  However, as you grow older and you can afford your own personal shower, being clean is almost the reward.   Many times I’d get through a hard run thinking, “It’s alright.  Very soon I’ll be fresh and clean, eating a burrito and watching an episode of The Office.”
You may recall my water situation here in Armenia.  My lack of running water means that I either get up before the Lord (you know Jesus be sleepin’ in), or I run in the evening and sleep sticky and smelly.  Yes, I know, I know.  Don’t be lazy.  Plan around it.  But why don’t you consider your commitment to running if YOU could only take a shower during the first chunk of YOUR workday (10am-1pm)?  Imagine that sometimes the water for no reason just doesn’t run out of the spout.  Imagine that not only are you running and showering, but then you are mopping, doing dishes and handwashing all of your laundry.  Yes, I know, people in the world have survived much, much harder routines.  I will be the first to admit that I have eaten from the bourgeois silver platter.  But I know for sure that trying to figure out when I’m going to run based on when I’ll be able to shower next does not make the enterprise more enticing.

________________________

Whine, whine, whine, complain, complain complain.  Really, running yesterday was really nice.  I’m going to go ahead and do it again.  And maybe even some more after that.  Til death do us part, if Running will still have me.

8 Comments

  1. You know what I love about what you do here? You tell these cute, sometimes quirky little stories, which suck me in and make me smile, and at the same time you open a window to a part of the world that, before coming to your blog, I had less than no clue and no interest in.

    You do a great job of making real and significant to your readers the people you are serving. The Peace Corps is lucky indeed to have you among their numbers.

  2. Um. I laughed. MAJORLY. Loving the idea of the entire town coming out to watch The American run. :)

  3. oh brenton! i love your writing! and all the new lessons that you learned about running in Armenia also apply to running in Bulgaria!

  4. I know the feeling of all of this, even the dirt/mud/puddle part (I ran in my training village), and especially the attention it brings. Although I always justify the attention because I figure that in Vanadzor it doesn’t matter if I’m running or walking I’m going to have people staring at me anyway, so I might as well go running in the morning.

    However, I have see Armenians running (and not just axbers awkwardly running and flapping their hands as they do so in their pointies). They’re quite a rare breed, the Armenian who goes running; a couple days ago while running I ran past a teenage Armenian girl out on a morning job and almost fell over myself in shock–it was hard for me not to be the one staring in that situation.

  5. Jesus be sleepin’ in.

    Amen. :)

  6. I just found you through Annie’s blog, and I think you are very funny. I’m happy to have discovered a new guilty-pleasure blog.

    And I confess I had to look Armenia up on a map. Never fear, I am properly ashamed.

    1. I’m so glad you came! And don’t worry, I… um… didn’t know where Armenia was before I got my Peace Corps invite. :/ I didn’t even know it existed. THAT story soon to come on my one year anniversary post at the end of the month!!!

  7. Yeah!!!! Brent! I am so glad! Keep it up cause you know if I can you can too! I am so excited! Love ya!

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