A break from running: Peter’s traveling 

Today, I’m traveling to the U.S. This is my first flight with Lufthansa: The airline that my dad is so very fond of.  So far, I can’t back up his high thoughts for this big German airline. The entertainment system on my seat is defective, the cabin is more than crowded and we’re late one and a half hours without even leaving the airport gate.

The way to the airport was much more effective, but all in all the journey so far turned out to be a reminder of what I value so much about running. Just to be clear, I’m thankful for the opportunity to go to the U.S. after a few years of not traveling by plane at all. But you know, it’s always more fun to complain. And after sitting in this cabin without moving for over and hour now, I have some thoughts on my mind. And since I’m embarking on a ten-hour flight with nothing else to do (TV’s broken, remember?), I gladly share these with you in full detail…

Loneliness

At home, I usually run alone. I value that time alone very much. So much, that I’d rather take the long way home rather than to risk running into a group of cyclists or other runners. I feel very comfortable being on my own and I need this time away. Ah, there is nothing better than to run along a forest path with only the wind in my face and the trees around. That’s the perfect way to be lonely!

When traveling by public transportation you’re always in a crowd. There are plenty of people around you. Some are here to guide you, some are there to help, but most people just share the same train, plane or airport gate with you by pure chance. And usually, I don’t enjoy that kind of company very much. It’s  the crowded form of loneliness.

Crowdliness!

Crowdliness is the sad kind of lonely:You don’t actually know your neighbor in a train. And probably you don’t even care much. If I reverse that thought, all these people probably don’t care about me much, either. Or, if they suddenly do, things may get dangerous. These are the times – especially when traveling alone – where I want back my good old loneliness of running.
At least, running (away) would also help with the next topic….

Space

I’m flying Economy class. And that very name tells you all there is to know: It’s about taking up resources to the most efficient way possible. That’s absolutely no bad thing in itself, but as much as I value the efficient use of resources, there is one thing, I can’t have enough of: Space.

What pleasure it is to run across an open field that extends for miles and miles! When the horizon is so far away that you almost can’t make out the line between earth and sky in the misty air of morning. Smooth hills that simply go on and on. Nothing in between your nose and the wind. Nothing but endlessness! And then, on the opposite side of “Endlessness”, there’s Economy class.

God only knows what made me choose that window seat right over the right wing. Oh Peter, it’s s an A380 you’re flying in! You should have guessed that its massive wings block all the view! And so, I’m at the very end of a three-seat row with just enough foot space to not knock on my front neighbor’s seat. Note to self: You’re an idiot.

Calm

When running, there’s nothing but the sound of the wind. Ok… and my heavy breath right before I notice I took the pace just a little too high. Oh, and yes, I enjoy listening to music while running every now and then, but breath and music: That’s the kind of noise you can control. Aside from that, running is all about inner (and outer) calm.

And now? Well, what do I have to complain about? I’m sitting right at the window of a plane flying roughly 800 km/h. Ah, the calming sound of wind!  Well, you bet, there is something. Someone…  and that someone is sitting right behind me: A mother traveling alone with her three-year-old child (my guess). And no, it’s not the child that’s bothering me… see for yourself:

“Oh, Mommy, look! There are men outside! They throw water at the plane!”
“Yes, my dear! They are de-icing the plane. De-icing, you know? D-E-Dash-I-C-I-N-G! They are employing a chemical reagent that keeps the water from freezing to the wings! I don’t know the exact formula, but we can look that up when we’re home!”.

“Look, mommy! The water they spray on has a funny color! It’s pink!”
“Oh no, pumpkin! That’s more like a soft apricot.”

(Remember, the child is three years old. T-H-R-E-E! I know, because the mother made her child say so to the pursers)

I know, I shouldn’t question other people’s ways of raising their children, but come on! Need some more examples? No problem! It’s a ten-hour flight!

“Mommy, can I watch a movie?”
“Yes, but let’s set the ground rules first: Should the need arise from my side, to end your movie session – and I don’t say that is unlikely – there will be no complaints from you whatsoever. Do we have a common understanding?”

Again, the child’s three years old… Please! Let him watch a damn movie! PLEASE! …and watch one yourself! Maybe there’s a documentary about parental noise!

Forgive me, dear reader and forgive me, dear unknown mommy: I am being unfair without any firsthand experience of raising a child. But honestly… who talks like that to a 3 year old child?

…back to the topic: Calm!

Ah, precious calm… I can’t wait to be back in my running shoes, enjoying the great, true and mind-blowing calm of the forest and the wind in the trees. Which brings me to the last example of the things you miss on a business trip, when you’re a obsessive with running for relaxation as I am:

Control

On a dirt road, with your feet feeling the gravel underneath your shoes, you are fully in control. You can go slow or fast, turn left or right. Walk for a few meters or start jumping up and down right where you stand. Yes, I do that from time to time..try it! It’s very refreshing! Anyway, the point is: You’re in control.

We humans don’t get to be in control very often these days. You might object, but I think, we are tied to so many constraints and duties in our lives that we never are really in control. If we try to be, we end up making things overly complicated. So, being in control of some simple things every no and then, and be it by choosing today’s trail only, is nice.

On a business trip, sitting in a tin can flying over the Atlantic Ocean; that is pretty much the opposite of being in control. Even they way to the airport – where I hopped from train to train to reach my plane – was determined by others and timetables of transportation companies.

Don’t get me wrong: I don’t vote for Anarchy or against tidy schedules of public transportation. I just feel a little overwhelmed. Handing myself over to that vast machinery of transportation when traveling between continents, is frightening. That’s the time, when I just want to put my running shoes on and decide to turn left at the next forest clearing.

The bottom line

I guess, I’ve been complaining quite a bit over the last few lines… Shame on me!

To be honest, now, after reading this piece of “Oh my god, I’m traveling”-report for the nth time, I am quite amused about the way I felt that day. So, feel free to read along and let me know how pathetic this sounds.

In the end, it’s very simple: I am blessed. Blessed to be in a position where I can actually sit in a comfortable plane, type away on my iPad, complain about my front and backseat neighbors and be actually paid while doing so! This is the feeling I take home from reading this blog post over and over.

Regardless of how annoying that flight might be: I am one lucky person to be in this spot right now. And that’s the feeling I also get from every step along a muddy footpath in my running shoes…

So, here’s to you, fellow runners, parents traveling alone with your children and fellow business travelers.: May you always also feel as comfortable as I am right now…