Training always requires flexibility, because as much as you plan, there are always unexpected obstacles, whether from internal or external structures. Training while traveling demands even more patience. The external conditions are more unpredictable and the support structure you create to take care of internal conditions (injuries, eating healthy foods, sleeping well) aren’t there.
Nowhere I have traveled required more openness than when I visited Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for two months. Runners had three options for training: 1) Run on city roads before daybreak at 5:30 am (After dawn, all sidewalks and roads were literally unrunnable because of the people/chaos); 2) walk the one city park with a one-mile dirt loop, and run circles; 3) Take public transportation to mountains just outside of city, and run (after full light, of course, when the hyenas won’t eat you). This was my first time outside North America, and it was an incredible lesson in privilege for a recent NCAA Division I graduate. Forget the piles of Nike clothes and fancy hotels. I learned from my training pals how incredibly fortunate I am to have consistent calories, to consume protein, to have shoes that fit and a sports bra, to have a home – a shower!, and to have education. The list could go on for a long time.
As I traveled through Eastern Europe for these past three weeks, I tried to continue training hard to prepare for road races in September. It ended up being really hard to get quality training in, and I was too often cranky. My plantar fasciitis flared up from walking on cobblestones, tour groups of fifty people clogged up an entire path, and I never knew where I could find an open track. I had one workout that went far better than expected, which was followed by one so terrible, my coaches and I decided to wait until I get home to try anything up-tempo again. I wish I could always clearly hold onto the knowledge of how fortunate I am to be able to train as much as I do, but I can’t. If I did, I would love every single second I got to spend running in comfortable shoes and had a protein bar waiting at the end of my run. At the very least, when I remember to reflect, I can appreciate the flexibility I learned, even if I’m not always happy about it.