Moved by Wonder

“So I ran to the end of the road. And when I got there, I thought maybe I’d run to the end of town. And when I got there, I thought maybe I’d just run across Greenbow County. And I figured, since I run this far, maybe I’d just run across the great state of Alabama. And that’s what I did. I ran clear across Alabama. For no particular reason I just kept on going. I ran clear to the ocean. And when I got there, I figured, since I’d gone this far, I might as well turn around, just keep on going.” — Forrest Gump

I just got back from a run – it’s about 5 miles, or about 8 kilometers, to run from my flat to the Tower Bridge and back. According to Google Maps, this is the exact same roundtrip distance between my mom’s house and Target in Eagan, MN.

Let that sink in for a moment…going to the Tower Bridge is at my fingertips like Target is to my mom in her current sphere. And for my family in Southwestern Minnesota reading this…it is a shorter roundtrip run between my flat to nearly every Central London tourist trap than it is to go one way from Welcome to Fairmont. 😉

Is this real life? YES. Yes it is. And honestly, I don’t even feel that tired!

Running, and general physical activity, have always been more enjoyable for me when imagination, creativity, and exercising my brain get to be involved in the process. This is why organized sports in gym class bored me to tears as a child, but pretending to be a dog or a forest-princess-with-a-unicorn kept me running around outside all day. Running in London lets me use my imagination in a very similar way. I’ve run along the Thames in Central London, hidden neighborhoods farther out, main roads, side streets, through beautiful parks, grungy industrial spots, and have stopped at a coffee shop or gallery every once in a while just because I can.

Exploring the streets of London is fascinating! I get all of the magnificent stereotypical London views in person, and dodging London traffic provides an adrenaline rush and that is evidence for it near extreme sport status. However, I also get the not-so-beautiful things – litter, catcalls from strange men, ambulance sirens, air pollution, and lack of snuggly green spaces where I can stretch in peace. I mostly miss being able to kick off my shoes and walk around barefoot – I’ve been privileged in the cleanliness and safety of my past neighborhoods (so I’m grateful for the barefoot running shoes I got myself last summer…not quite as good as nothing, but very therapeutic given my running environment.) Running without music also keeps me engaged with the environment around me – I can see, hear, smell, taste, and feel a plethora of stories. Wonder keeps me going.

The physicality of running gives motion to some of the thoughts that get stuck otherwise. I’m a very outdoor creature, and living as an outdoor creature in a mostly indoor city is a lifestyle I’m still learning to live with. The best and worst of the same world are all wrapped up in the same run each time I go out. It gives my mind a lot to chew on as I reflect on my experiences living here, what drains me, what re-charges me, what I love, what I merely tolerate, and what could be around the next corner.

Even though my volunteer placement is a time and space for me to serve others, my overall lifestyle here has been surprisingly individualistic. It still feels a little odd to me to have whole evenings day after day, week after week, and now month after month, in which I get to make these decisions for myself about how to spend my time. Yet these opportunities to do unorganized exploration based on my own whims is liberating and reminds me of what it was like to be a kid.

This post was longer than I intended it to be, but I hope it was a good read nonetheless. I’ll try to give you updates more often. My mom has told me she knows that if she doesn’t hear from me, she simply knows I’m busy exploring, talking to strangers, and trying new things. The last few months have been full of these opportunities. 🙂

Love from London,

Emily

P.S. I’ve discovered that when my environment can keep me interested, I can run up to 10 miles, and I keep getting better. I might do the London 10k this summer to support the literacy charity for which I work, something I NEVER imagined would be part of my year. NO ONE is more surprised than me. YAGM, what are you doing to me??