There is no tank top to let my shoulders bask in the sun; I have to cover myself here. There are no sidewalks. The traffic is dangerous. There are no running trails. There are few runners. There's the questionable looks (What is she doing?); there's the stink eye (Really, what IS she doing?); there's the hateful looks (Why is SHE here?). This is the look that gives me the heebies. I don't fit in. It's not my home. It'll never be my home, no matter how long I live here. I obviously don't belong.
Always vigilant. I can't just enjoy my music and feel the pounding of the pavement. I can't get my stride, or find my breath patterns. Because I have to be incredibly aware of all my surroundings all the time. Cars. No stop signs, no traffic lights, heavy traffic - and it's everywhere, even on the side streets, even in the residential areas. Garbage lines the streets, stray dogs and cats are very common. People everywhere, and recreational running is not, well, it's just not normal. It's not a part of the culture here. People don't run for fun. They run to get out of the way of cars or to catch a microbus on the Corniche.
Don't go down empty streets; don't run into crowds; keep your distance and watch for eye contact. Is this neighborhood friendly; are Americans welcome?; why is he looking at me?; which direction would I go if that car slowed down and someone tried to grab me? This is what I worry about now - not how fast or how far or how long I can run. But how and where do I go if something bad happens. Because it does happen here. Vigilant, weary, tired. That's my run. There's no joy in it anymore. And it hurts.
Deep breath. Slow down.
Because there's hope. The fab hubby is taking me to Wadi Degla tomorrow. He's running with me, and you know how much he loathes running. But he obviously loves to me, so he's taking one for the team and running to make me happy. He wants me to find my stride in a city that is so runner-unfriendly.
Wadi Degla is eight-ish miles of nowhere; a dry, old river bed and recreational area on the outskirts of the city, for a city sorely lacking in recreational areas. I've heard it's a flat, nice run, with lots of other runners and bikers enjoying the outdoors. This could mean the tank top is back, and no traffic or stink eye to disrupt my mojo.
Please, please. Let it be true.
Because I like it here; despite all the cruddy things I wrote at the beginning of this. Despite the difficulty in trying to fit in, in trying to live and be a part of a culture that is quite foreign to me. I really do love it here. I love exploring and learning and trying new things. I love the sights and the people and the history.
I just really, really need my running. Quite possibly more than I've ever needed it.