Friday, April 22, 2016

Running in Washington vs. Georgia

I took up running last May on the day after my 27th birthday. At that time, I lived in Seattle, Washington. As I started to improve and run longer distances and began participating in races, I knew that I was in an optimal city and state for running. I have friends who run in Georgia and Florida, where it is much hotter for several months out of the year and where it's humid most of the time. I've asked them more than once how they do it. When I came home to Georgia to visit last Christmas, I ran outside a few times and it was awful. The humidity was suffocating, it was too warm, and there was nothing beautiful to look at. I felt very lucky to be able to run in Seattle.

In Seattle, I live in an awesome apartment on the waterfront. Myrtle Edwards park is 0.7 miles away from my apartment, and it stretches along the waterfront, eventually becoming Centennial Park. The Elliott Bay Trail goes through both parks and then continues on past the Seattle Cruise Ship Terminal 91, along the train yard, and then around the terminal parking lot. Through the parks, there is a designated bike path and a designated walking/running path. Those paths join after Centennial Park.

Myrtle Edwards park. Running/walking path on the right, with a dirt path on the left.

I could leave my apartment and immediately take off running along the waterfront to the park. Once I was in the park, there were no streets to cross and no cars to deal with. I was able to look at Elliott Bay, Mt. Rainier, and the Olympic Mountains while I ran.

Mt. Rainier and the Port of Seattle.

Sunset over Elliott Bay against the Olympic mountains

 I was able to run past a huge grain terminal, a fishing pier, a ship terminal, and an active train yard. I could easily get 8 miles on this route, and I suspect I'd be able to get 10 miles out of it if I tried.

One of my long runs from my apartment, all the way around the cruise terminal and back. 8 miles with most of it right on the waterfront.

Ship on Elliott Bay 

While Seattle can have cooler weather, windy days, and does have a lot of overcast days with light rain in the winter, overall the weather is fairly moderate. Temperatures usually range from the low 30s to occasionally the high 70s. I never noticed much humidity. Seattle doesn't get thunderstorms and torrential rain. Through my months of running in Seattle, I thought about how great of a place it is to run in, and how I could never be a runner if I had to run in the south where it's hot and humid.

Seattle also has a ton of races available. Magnuson Park has the Magnuson Series, a monthly race through the park with the option of doing a 5k or a 10k. A few months per year, they also offer a 15k and a half marathon. The races are affordable, the money goes towards planting trees, and participants get their time and place recorded along with free race photos. Northwest Trail Runs also puts on several trail races in various locations with at least one event per month.

Unfortunately for me, all of that ended. My boyfriend of nine years broke up with me, and I went to Georgia to visit my parents for a while, in the state I grew up in, and where I also said I could never be a runner.

I could have quit running during this visit. I could have gone by my statement in which I said I could never be a runner in Georgia. But, I couldn't give it up. Other than hiking, running had become my other big hobby. I still had plans and goals I wanted to accomplish. I enjoyed how I felt after running and I enjoyed participating in races. Running kept me healthy, in shape, and a bit sane.

But in all honesty, I was devastated. The area where I'm staying in Georgia doesn't have a monthly race series. The weather is going to be difficult to run in. There is no 8-10 mile stretch of designated running path without cars. I can't even find any parks with running trails longer than a couple miles. There is no view of mountains or bays or ships or train yards. I knew going into it that running in Georgia was going to suck, but I have to make the best of it.

Things got worse when I developed an injury within 2 weeks of starting to run in Georgia. I started getting pain on the lateral side of my knees, and a couple times they buckled towards the end of my runs and I had to limp home. My IT bands, particularly the left IT band, were tight and were causing the knee pain. I ended up having to stop running for most of March and April, and only participated in races I had already signed up for. I'm doing my best to rehab my IT bands and hope that the problem will go away, but I'm still dealing with the issue. I can't say for sure what caused it, but I attribute it to suddenly having to run a lot of hills. The path that I ran on in Seattle was flat. In Georgia, there is a big hill I have to run up as soon as I leave my house, and another bigger hill I have to run up to get out of my neighborhood. After that, there are several hills no matter which route I take. I think running up and down all these hills and going through a dramatic life change probably led to my IT band issues. Even though I want to try my best at running in Georgia, just being here is making that difficult. But, I'm going to try my best to push forward.

Where I run now - not too exciting or scenic.

The best part of my run in Georgia is when I get to run by these guys! The most exciting thing to look at by far.

Although I don't like my situation, and although I know it's going to be difficult, I know it will make me a better runner. In Seattle, it's almost like I didn't have to work for it. Running was easy - anyone can be a runner in Seattle with the abundance of gorgeous running paths, monthly races, and moderate weather.

I want to find out if I really love running and if I can do it when it's not easy. Running in Georgia is difficult. It's hot and humid. I'll have to run up hills and run on old, slanted, crumbling sidewalks near busy roads. I'll have to be aware of cars at all times when they drive past me at 40 mph. I'll have to hope people won't throw stuff at me out of their cars, which has happened to me before and happened to others I know who run here. I'll have to stare at houses and neighborhoods as I run, instead of mountains and bays. If I can't run in this setting, then maybe I don't deserve to be a runner.

I'll have to put in my time here in Georgia so I can go back to Seattle as a better runner. If nothing else, it will make me appreciate running in Seattle even more when I go back.

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