Running in Hungary

Steve’s parents live on the edge of Budapest near a forest preserve. It had snowed the day we arrived, and my run through the woods was pure magic.
Since I’m planning to race in a few events this spring and summer, I took along my running gear to Hungary for the first time. Last year, my friend Rachel and I had explored the area around our hotel during some free afternoons, and I had wished even then that I’d brought my trainers along. The hotel is on the edge of the LÅ‘vér Hills, a stretch of subalpine forested hills with lots of hiking paths and little one-way roads curving past old villages.

So this year, I packed my shoes and one outfit and blocked out time during the SHARE conference to get some fresh air. And it was a good decision! Still, running in Hungary comes with its own challenges, so here are some random thoughts about my experiences.

  • Running in Hungary combined so many of my passions: exploring new places, history, geocaching, solitude, and of course, running! (Is it OK to have a passion for solitude? Because I kinda do.)
  • Hungarians (and Europeans in general) do tons more walking as opposed to driving, and most of the streets and sidewalks were quickly cleared of the 12+ inches of snow that had fallen the day before we got to Sopron. In my part of the US, sidewalks are basically left until spring to clear off.
  • Still, Hungarian roads aren’t super clean, and my shiny new bright orange Sauconys are no longer shiny and new. After the third or fourth filthy puddle that I had to navigate through, I just accepted the dirt and the environment for what it was.
  • I planned my routes to see some interesting local sights: an old ruined synogogue, Holocaust memorial, 500-year-old convent, Roman ruins, etc. Running is a great way to explore a new place, and Google maps were very helpful to me in planning these routes before our trip.

    Holocaust Memorial in Sopron, Hungary
  • Steve and I got SIM cards for our phones before we left Budapest, so I was able to use my MapMyRide app to see where I was going and how far. The maps were super helpful!
  • Things I did to ensure safety: 1) the app allowed Steve to track my progress, 2) I also told him my general plan for my route, and approximately how long I’d be gone, 3) I tucked my driver’s licence in my pocket so I would have some kind of ID on me if something bad happened, 4) no earbuds for a couple reasons: I was so caught up in my awesome surroundings, I didn’t need the distraction of music, and to make my awareness for approaching vehicles sharper. Hungarians seemed to drive very fast, and in the more remote stretches of road, I didn’t want to be caught off guard.
  • My pace wasn’t exactly amazing since I kept stopping to gawk and take photos and geocache (and geocache and geocache), but I’m OK with that. Better to stop and smell the proverbial roses than to rush for that perfect pace.
  • My main priority while at the SHARE conference was to be there for the kids – talking, playing games, whatever. But I realized that in order for me to be available for them, I needed to get some “me” time, some recharging time. And running definitely does that for me. Maybe that’s why I like running alone. So making time for running during the conference was a healthy move for me, because it made me more able to be there for the kids.

    I ran through some brambles in the hills to get to a geocache. Ouch. But worth it because I found the cache.
  • All in all, I was able to run four times, once in Budapest the day we landed, and three times in Sopron. I had hoped to run the 5.5 miles to the Austrian border and back, but on Friday afternoon, the only day that I would have had enough time, I was so exhausted from the conference that I just crashed and took a nap instead. At that moment, rest was more important than bragging rights.

After SHARE, Steve and I backpacked our way through Italy for 10 days. Amazing, awesome, incredible trip – and I was so totally planning on running in each city. I had even gone so far as to check out each place on Google maps and get an idea for possible routes before we left. Here’s the reality I stumbled on: when you are walking, walking, walking for hours and hours each day, your legs have nothing left for a run. Not once did I run, even though I carted my trainers and running clothes all over Italy.

I ran down this. Boo to the yah.
But this also is OK. When you’re in a new place, constantly experiencing new things, you have to accept what each day brings, and allow yourself to take time off from training to experience LIFE. When will I have a chance like that again, to wander around Venice and Rome with Steve?I will most likely not be running the half marathon I had planned to on April 20. But there are so many other races to run later in the season, it’s no biggie. I like this quite from Louis L’Amour:

“Too often…I would hear men boast only of how many miles covered that day, rarely of what they had seen.” 

 The Quoteable Traveler: Wise Words for Travelers, Explorers, and Wanderers, a miniature book my parents gave me in my Christmas stocking probably 20 years ago.

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