Reunions (and a bit of stalking) in Paris

When I was nine, my best friends were twin girls, four years my senior, who lived next door. Their dad was a bank manager, so they were Irish nomads who moved house every few years. When I was nine, the twins and their siblings moved to a village in an adjacent county, Wexford, less than 100km from Kilkenny. Other than one visit to stay with them, when I vomited in the back of their dad’s car (from eating too many sweets on the sleepover), I never saw them again. I don’t think my spewing over the car was a contributing factor. The twins’ departure from my life was a major, sad event, one which I recall vividly. Back in the pre-internet days, when a telephone call to Wexford was prohibitively expensive, our friendship hadn’t a chance.

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My own children have bid goodbye to many friends during their short lives. When I chaperone their tearful leave takings, I insist on saying it’s not goodbye forever, it’s until next time. I recall the twins and the vomiting and I vow to do better. I mean it when I say that they will see their friends again even if they are moving to the other side of the planet. All this is a long introduction really into how last week I found myself in Paris with four teenagers, aged 12-15. Selfless mother that I am, I travelled from Dublin with my two daughters, to meet up with my eldest’s two friends who now live in Houston and San Francisco. One of the friends, who is Dutch, lived in Paris for 8 years before relocating to Perth, where we first met and understandably his family love the city so much that they visit annually en route to the Netherlands. Spending time in Paris with people who know where to go, how to get there, and can suggest great places to eat, while also being great company, really makes for a spectacular holiday. I might even go as far as saying that I relaxed and enjoyed myself. I know! Incredible! IMG_1089

After five great days of being tourists with insider guides who didn’t charge a fee we took a taxi to Charles de Gaulle Airport to return to Ireland. Our reunions hadn’t finished yet however. Serendipity meant that another friend of my daughter’s, from our time in Kuala Lumpur, was arriving in Paris from Toronto, and we managed to meet her and her mother for coffee and a catch-up. Yes, my children do think such meetings and international travel are normal, no matter how much I try and explain that they’re not. The Wexford situation is beyond their comprehension in this instant messaging age.

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As we approached the airline check-in desk, I spied the familiar figure of Colm Tóibín, probably Ireland’s most famous living writer, coincidentally from the friend-robbing county of Wexford. I was as excited as a teenager bumping into Harry Styles but managed to keep my rapture under wraps channelling my energy instead into explaining to the check-in lady in Frenglish exactly whom she had just served. She was oblivious to Mr Tóibín’s celebrity status and possibly thought I was slightly mad. I’d met Mr Tóibín a couple of times at Kilkenny Arts Festival a few years back but remarkably he didn’t seem to recognise me (!). I’m pathetically bad at shoving myself forward (while sober) so this particular reunion was wordless and only experienced by one party. Some people might call it stalking but I promise, it was inadvertent. Remarkably no one else appeared to recognise him during all the time we sat in the departure lounge – he on his laptop, me pretending not to be watching him on his laptop, or back in Dublin airport in the line for Passport Control, me admonishing my daughters for staring, lest he actually notice me – for the wrong reasons. I guess not everyone thinks that writers are like rock stars but this brush with multi-Booker-nominated celebrity, whose career I’ve long coveted, topped off what turned out to be one of the best weeks I’ve had in years.

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London-bound

I was telling the receptionist at my physio’s office a bit about our lives, packing up and moving around the world, and she said that she felt her shoulders stiffen with stress just talking to me. Not quite the effect I like to have on people. She was right though- packing up house, home and heart is stressful, probably more stressful than starting anew- or maybe I’m better at the arriving bit than I am at the leaving. Anyway, I love packing so so much, that I’m embarking today on a short trip to London with my daughters. We’re going to do tourist things and meet up with friends from Malaysia whom we haven’t seen in a whole three weeks!
The thing with packing in this part of the world is that the weather is so changeable and unpredictable. In one day you might a wool onesie, an umbrella, a rain coat, a sun hat, shorts and running shoes. I don’t have a wool onesie by the way though sometimes in the cool evenings I fantasize how cosy one might feel.
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Yesterday, after checking the London weather forecast, I made a strategic gamble to remove my well-folded trench coat from my suitcase and replace it with my foam roller. I may not be able to run around Hyde Park as anticipated at the time of booking a hotel- you guessed it- beside Hyde Park but I am going to keep rolling this damn ITB, yes I am. The running shoes are coming too but only for walking, honest. The thing about physio here is that it makes my leg too sore to allow any delusions about being recovered from injury. Physio makes me feel injured in fact. Let’s hope this strategy of paying for pain pays off. And let’s hope the weather forecast is right and I won’t need the trench coat.

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Before the packers arrive…

This week, the last in our house, I lost two toenails, sold my car, gave away two guinea pigs, and paid a man to stick needles in my hands and feet. First-world problems I know! Only handing over the guinea pigs made me cry though to be honest, tears are bubbling under the surface constantly, partly because I’m not able to run much, mostly because we are leaving. The reason for my running wIMG_6390oes is that my ass is still tight (see previous post). In fact, I have a spastic gluteus medius, which allows me to run around 4km, gets my hopes up that all the stretching and physio are paying off, then on the fifth loop of the course on which I originally started running three years ago, my butt tightens making my ITB feel rigid and causing pain on the outside of my knee. I haven’t run outside this loop around my house in weeks – it feels like months! I didn’t get to do a final run in any of my favourite places. Yes, yes, I know, first world problems! I missed the Cyberjaya Fireman’s Half Marathon and will miss my final much anticipated race, a 10km, this coming Sunday (my last!). Yet, my physio who is trying to release the pesky, spastic glute, insists that I continue to run through the injury. Rest, he says will not help. I should be glad I suppose, but with a life of 5km races stretching in front of me, I’m only partially relieved that the horrifying words ‘ Do not run for a week’ have not been uttered (other than by well-meaning friends :))

Acupuncture is a new departure, though one I wish I had attempted earlier than my penultimate week in Malaysia. I had my first session today and will squeeze two more in before we fly away next Friday the 13th. I can’t tell yet whether it has helped my butt or not, but it certainly was very pleasant to be taken care of for 45 minutes, needles and all. I think it will help my butt. Yes I do.

Tomorrow the packers arrive. I picture them like locusts descending on the house, eager to pack belongings into boxes before I’ve segregated things I still need (my running shoes(!)), and things that I can live without for the next two months (my television, the piano, a very long list of things). Luckily, I’ve opened a bottle of champagne that’s been in the fridge for two years, waiting for a worthy celebration; it can’t be packed so it’s a question of ‘waste not, want not’. As I said – first world problems:)

If Only Guinea Pigs Could Fly

Tigerphoto Last Sunday night, I sat down and did something I’d been procrastinating over for weeks. I made a poster advertising our four guinea pigs for adoption. And I cried. Guinea Pigs can’t fly, even on commercial airplanes, so we can’t take them with us to Australia. We’ve had Tiger, Dexter, Hermione and Grace for between two and a half and three years. It’s a bit complicated how we ended up with four in three separate cages but a Twitter feed description of the story would go something like: Two boys, one death, one boy, new friend, friend is a girl, lucky discovery before pregnancy, two more new friends, now two pairs, boys fight, separate, girls live happily ever after together. I put a few copies of the Guinea_Pigs poster in the trunk of my car with the weak intention of placing them on noticeboards at my children’s school. I hated the idea of advertising our little pets to total strangers. At physiotherapy, I told Akmal about my tale of projected loss and woe. ‘I’ll take one,’ he said as he released my posterior tibialis. ‘You will?’ Talk about making a girl happy on a Monday morning! Then Diana, a lovely lady with three children, who works at the clinic said she’d take one. I promised pictures. On Friday, at my 50th physio session since September, Diana was very excited about the guineas and agreed to take the pair of girls. An hour of so later, she Whatsapped me to ask if Dexter was still available as another physio wanted to take him.

GP PosterSo I didn’t need the poster, the animals are going to people whom I know will care for them, and all because I suffered a PTT injury which still niggles especially after hill workouts. Ain’t life funny. I haven’t handed over the animals yet but am very, very relieved that this major emotional hurdle has, if not been breached, well at least approached with a minimum chance of upset. I hope. In other news, I received an email from Garmin Malaysia today in response to my query about sponsorship – back in January. Yes, they’d like to sponsor me with a custom-made run top for racing and a watch, in return for reviewing their products and wearing the top and publishing photos of me wearing it on my blog. They suggest I get a Forerunner 620 from them, Aarrgh! My husband bought me a new Forerunner 620 four weeks ago for my birthday – and I love it. And I’m leaving Malaysia. But I hope I can still work something out. I have four races in Malaysia over the next six weeks, all of which I will write about, and during which I will used my Garmin watch. And I’m not going to stop racing when I get to Australia. I’m just going to be a lot further down the pack. But I plan to still write about my experiences. This is another reason why it sucks to move about. Good things  – and friendships too by the way – always materialise as you’re heading for the exit!

No running (water) !

So I can’t run today. I just shouldn’t. My foot is as sore as it was yesterday so I must heed it’s plea for rest. But I feel restless. Boy do I really, really want to run! Second to my desire to get out on the road is my wish for rain. We’ve had so little rain over the past two months that water rationing is now being implemented. In effect, this means that since 9 AM this morning, the water company has switched off supply to our area and it will not be switched back on until 4 PM on Tuesday. Then, we will have water for 44 hours before the off-on cycle starts again, all the way to April 1.

My understanding is that there is currently water in the communal tank and that it is up to residents to make this water go as far as possible. The last time there was a two-day water cut off, for maintenance reasons, my neighbours continued to have their staff water their gardens, wash their fleets of cars daily and send litres of water down the drain, literally. I was gobsmacked when I ran – of course – around the neighbourhood through puddles that had come from hoses. When I challenged one neighbour’s driver, as he scrubbed the hubcaps on a Mercedes, he laughed at me. Laughed! So let’s see what happens tomorrow. Even if I can’t run, I’ll walk, like a vigilante water inspector, armed with an iPhone. I’ll be damned if I’m asking my kids not to flush and have the briefest possible showers only for others to squander the precious little water we have. Let’s hope I’m able to run tomorrow to temper my anger somewhat. Or perhaps my neighbours will surprise me and keep the hoses off. Perhaps..

And some good news – I’m very pleased that the Weekly Telegraph has published an article I wrote about how I developed a passion for running mid-life. Please have a look by clicking on this link. Thank you!

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D-Day Minus 4 months

Moving sucks. And it doesn’t get easier emotionally (nor practically). And even when you know from experience that things usually work out, that children adjust to new schools, that new houses can be turned into new homes, that the nuances of every traffic system/shopping mall/currency/phone/culture/kitchen can be learned, and even new friends (and in this instance old friends too) await, it is done with a heavy heart. And tears. As a chronic weeper, there will, over the next few months, be lots of tears. 

The trick is to stay positive, look forward not back, though not too far forward as that can be scary when you think about the fact that you’ve no clue of what your address will be in six months, and embrace change. And cry in private. Yes, wish me luck with that. We haven’t in fact got confirmed places for the children in school in Perth, so as yet no flights will be booked. Still, I have to start conceding to myself at least that our time in Malaysia is coming to a close. Yep, tears. We’ve only got four months left.

For months I’ve been convinced that my running habit, picked up in Malaysia, would make moving easier, as it would allow me not only to keep exercising while between gym memberships, but it would also give me a tool for meeting new people in Perth. And as lots of people tell me, Perth is a fabulous place for running, so I know I’m fortunate that it’s there we’re going and not back to Manila (or Jakarta or umpteen other cities where running could be a challenge).

What I’m now realizing though is that my love of running developed here and the fabulous sense of community it offers will make the leave-taking harder. There is the list too of races that I can only see through until June. The familiar routes that I love and hate with equal passion. The familiar faces whose names I will never know but with whom I always exchange greetings on those weekend LSDs.

I have three half marathons, a 12km and a 15km to do before we go. If the Mizuno Wave Run is before June 13, I will sign up for that too. I need to stay injury-free, so having been lax with my physio since my parents arrived for a visit, I head back to rehab on Friday with a new ache in my knee (which might be due to a very high mileage week last week, or a need for new shoes). My PTT foot is complaining a little too so hopefully Akmal can knead the scar tissue out of it. I’m going to try not let nerves get the better of me at any of these races – the first, the NW Galaxy 12km, is this weekend – and do my best to enjoy the opportunity to race amongst friends (and within sight of those icons of the KL cityscape, the Petronas Towers).

Moving sucks but our nomadic lifestyle also brings privilege. I’m very aware of that. Leaving Norway four years ago was very painful, but I would never have missed out on the experience we’ve had in Malaysia, and I can’t have it both ways. So bear with me over the coming months. Keep moving forward, with no more than the odd glance over your shoulder, acknowledge the places you’ve been, without losing touch with where you have come from, stay strong mentally, talk to yourself if need be, push through the pain, and savour every moment. Running? Living? For the next few months, the same rules will apply.

How I got started…

I started running soon after my 40th birthday in mid-2011. Below is an article I wrote for a Malaysian magazine explaining how my competitive nature prompted me to up my tempo from walking to jogging. Now it’s hard to believe that I was never not a runner as I get so much out of it both mentally and physically. Mostly mentally, in fact. I’m currently signed up for three races. Yes I’ve discovered the high of registering for a race. It’s like accepting an invitation to a fancy ball long before you have to worry about tan lines, gowns and how to wear your hair. Except with running, it’s never too early to start the preparations. Next thursday I hope – hope! – to do 14 km in Lake Gardens, KL. It’s the furthest training run I’ve attempted but really if I’m to manage the 21 km in Oct, it’s high time I pushed up my mileage. I’ll write more about training plans over the coming weeks. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy my account of how I got started 🙂

Running after 40 (an article about running)

 

Looking nervous before my first, and so far only, race in April 2012.