First Run in Aachen (or technically, Oberforstbach)
FYI, we do not yet have internet access from our home in Aachen, so I can only write posts at home, save them on a USB drive, and then upload them at work while waiting for software installations. In other words, the posts might be spotty for a bit!
[Written Wednesday, 9/29]
We arrived in Brussels yesterday at approximately 8am local time, at which point we stepped off the plane and onto the roller coaster. I am one of those people who lives in a world of contradictions, both enthusiastic for new experiences and yet highly resistant to change. Few experiences embody “change” better than crossing a jetway from a terminal in Philadelphia (where we sat across from a women in a hot pink velour tracksuit) to a 747 headed for Belgium (on which I think only we and the flight crew were native English-speakers).
The flight itself was relatively smooth. I was thoroughly convinced that our travel agency – yes, travel agencies DO still exist, they just spend all their time working for corporations and booking the cheapest, most roundabout flights possible for employees of those corporations – would not have registered my request for vegetarian meals. It was a great relief when the dinner options were announced: barbecue chicken or a pasta in a “sort of pesto-type sauce”. That quite literally is how they announced it. Ahh, US Airways.
But, when dinner arrived, the flight attendant looked at me strangely, “You ordered a special meal, right?”
Uhh, I think so?
Granted, this was still airplane fare, but it was the healthiest-looking plane food I’d ever seen: asparagus and artichoke hearts on a bed of yellow rice, a side salad, a small dinner roll, and a bowl of fresh(?) fruit. Breakfast was a similar experience. Everyone else got a tiny Danish, I got a bagel with jam. (Although the bagel did say “store at 0 degrees Fahrenheit”. Had it actually arrived that frozen, I’m pretty sure I could have used it as a deadly weapon.) The whole meal situation was entirely accidental, but it left me feeling very virtuous. Ahh, they must know they have a serious vegetarian runner on board.
There isn’t a whole lot to say about the rest of yesterday. We were installed in our temporary housing directly across from the office and then taken to lunch by several extremely friendly co-workers. (Their friendliness was a great surprise, because I occupied myself on the flight reading When in Germany, Do as the Germans Do, which has a central thesis of “the Germans will not like you, Ausslander, so just try not to humiliate yourself”.)
There was a bit of a delay in heading to lunch, because Hans was out “yogging”. Since I was still rather fortified by my bagel and jam, this was more cause for excitement than annoyance. Unlike my last European experience – Spain, where anyone who works out is accused of having “fake muscles” – people here DO run! AND there’s even a shower at work. This will be crucial in the middle of winter when the sun rises at 9 and sets at 4, making lunchtime running essential.
After lunch we picked up our car, got our work computers set up, took a walk to the local “discount market”, and watched enough German news to convince ourselves that language classes are priority number 1. I hit the sack last night with a few nervous flutters, knowing that the morning would mean further integrating my life into this strange new place. It would be time to go for a run.
And this morning, after a bowl of Muesli with some Bio-Soye Getranken (soy milk), that’s what I did. The weather here is currently around 50F/10C, so naturally I had no idea what to wear for my run. Austin hasn’t encountered weather in the 50s since March, and even though I experience cold every single year, every single summer I completely forget what it feels like.
Based on a local I saw “yogging” yesterday, I opted for pants and long-sleeved tech shirt. Today’s run was only 4 miles, so I figured it wouldn’t kill me to be slightly too hot or cold. (If you’re wondering, the end result was like any run in cool weather – I was freezing at the start and sweating at the finish. Tomorrow: Long sleeves and shorts.)
And of course I took Garmin, who appears to feel completely at home here. Not only does his charger handle up to 240V, but he found the satellite instantaneously. (As opposed to at home in Austin, where he took his sweet time and left me cursing his unwillingness to get going already.)
The combination of the cool weather and a downhill start lead to me running the first two miles right around 10 minutes a piece. The office here is in Oberforstbach, a few miles southeast of Aachen proper, so I headed up the main road toward the city. If I’ve learned anything about running in new places, it’s to do your first few runs with as few turns as possible. In other words, never underestimate your ability to get lost in a place where every street name has a minimum of 12 letters.
Traffic was heavy, but a paved hike and bike trail runs parallel to the road, making Aachen the 158th city I’ve found that’s more friendly to pedestrians than anywhere in Texas. I’m already excited to bike to the office without being run off the road by giant pick-up trucks.
The scenery is great too – lots of green forest broken up by dairy farms. I even saw one horse stable with a hugely fat and fuzzy pony grazing outside. I thought I had made peace with my departure from the horse world, but Germany is rapidly bringing back the memories. The World Equestrian Games is currently taking place in Lexington, Kentucky – a fact you’re probably not aware of if you live in the US. Here, though, they covered the dressage competition on the nightly news! Dressage, sometimes described as ballet on horseback (lots of controlled maneuvers, no jumping) was once described to me by an American as “watching paint dry”. Let’s just say they have more refined sensibilities over here.
Enough on the horsey side-track. In summary, the weather was great, the scenery was great, and my average pace was great – 10:27 without really pushing myself. The only problem: The run was really lonely. Since joining Rogue back in May, I haven’t really had to run by myself more than maybe once a week. But if I am to keep running here, it will be a decidedly solo endeavor. It’s only just starting to hit me how much I will miss my running crew back in Austin.
Ladies, I hope your runs are going well and your marathons are a great success!
(I promise a funnier, more entertaining post once we have reliable internet again.)