I’ve always enjoyed running races close to home; the ease of registration, race day logistics and thank goodness, no reaction from the water. If I’m lost finding my way to the Start Line, I simply need to ask directions. If I need to know where the closest port-o-potty is, I can get my point across easily. And when the eight year old kid mocks me while passing me on course, unfortunately, I understand him as well. To sum it all up, it’s all very easy.
Maybe too easy.
I’m currently riding on a Trenitalia regional train between La Spezia and Milan, ocean on one side and mountains on the other, enjoying this stunning scenery. This isn’t close to home, and this isn’t necessarily easy. And although I’m proud to have picked up a second language, it wasn’t Italian. This means that getting around and registering for a simple foot race now takes on a whole new and somewhat complicated life of its own. Trying to read a race website that doesn’t offer English adds a complexity that previously wasn’t a concern. Dealing with forms that require acknowledgement and signature that I can not read becomes frustrating. And then when I’m questioned why I signed under the spot for a Child’s Entry, fortunately, I don’t understand the mocking.
No, this isn’t easy, but you know what? I’m in Italy, and somehow that makes everything OK. And besides, ultimately, come Race Day, everything is basically the same: I arrive late, I question my training, I realize that I’ve forgotten to go the washroom, I discover that I’m standing in the Elite Men’s corral and now need to suck in my stomach.
And then, something magical happens: the horn blares and everything falls neatly into place. I remember why I put myself through a little extra grief, struggled with the language and getting to my destination. I remembered why I registered to run in a foreign country and I look around as I start off on another race. Everyone is here to do the same thing. Everyone here has the same passion and we can express that passion with a simple nod of the head, a smile, or a grunt as we pass the 35KM marker. Just like home!
I’ll always enjoy running races close to home, but once we get past the initial concerns and hurdles of a registering for a foreign race, there truly is an unparalleled magic that starts to unfold. And no matter what country you choose, there is always that runner’s camaraderie that can be shared regardless of language or destination!