Run #5 – Thousand Oaks, California

This week I was invited to the Corwin head office in Thousand Oaks, California, for an insanely rigorous training that is still making my head spin. Whenever I’m in a situation where I’m expected to take in an egregious amount of new content knowledge in a short period of time, a power run before dinner is my go-to strategy to firm up all that new learning.

I was lucky enough to squeeze in three runs (and a lot of walking) over my five days, despite being cooped up in a board room for most of our time together. Compared to Portland’s never-ending soggy perma-grey days, the sunshine in southern California was an immediate reason for hitting the pavement, even if I was exhausted.

If I could sum up Thousand Oaks in one image:

Granted, I didn’t get to venture outside more than a three mile radius, but Thousand Oaks seemed comprised of chain restaurants, well-paved sidewalks, and a lot of church ladies. My best run was 3.5 miles up through a quiet neighborhood that appeared to border the Santa Monica Mountains natural areas. A windy road took me up (and I mean up 400 feet in less than a mile) where I ran across many runners, people watering their lawns, and a relatively tame bunny.

The views were pretty nice and I’ve never felt safer on a run, as everyone gave friendly waves, drove 5 mph, and gave me a wide berth, even if I was on the sidewalk. (Maybe they were just worried I was going to pass out). I would also like to give another big time shout out for how insanely clean the whole town appeared to be. While Athens and Paris may have had the history and culture, they were slathered in trash and smelled like piss. Nice work, California.

Despite not having any gas in the tank, I had some good head-clearing routes and even ran into a friendly crow (who took several hops in my direction when I said hi – hopefully he tells his friends):

I have a feeling I’ll be returning to LA in the near future and it’s growing on me.

Run #4 – Paris, France

My last (and only) time in Paris was a bummer because my knee was taking orders from my knee surgeon to take the summer off from running. I couldn’t get it out of my head that I never got a chance to run in Paris, and felt a redo opportunity would have to present itself at some point.

Lucky for me, that “some point” was this week. Though the first couple of days I was still shaking off some jet lag, yesterday morning I woke up and hit the road at 8:30am (a.k.a: the crack of dawn for the French). During mid-day, the sidewalks and bridges are clogged up with pedestrians and rogue bikers, but in the morning there are relatively few people out in the most touristy areas. I randomly chose to run up and down the Seine, along the paved paths rather than the uneven stone sidewalks on the street level.

Along my route, I saw many other runners (sadly none of them women), commuters, and the occasional fisherman.

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See? No people.

It was also a nice time to catch Notre Dame before it the tourist rush filled the square.

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See? Just a few people.

As I knew we would be walking the rest of the day, three miles was plenty, and just enough to get me started for a day of eating all of the things.

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Today we took the train to Barcelona so you can pretty much guess what Run #5 will be. Lord knows I need to exercise off egregious amount of food we are eating.

#23 – Run an Oregon State Penitentiary 5k

Last summer, a friend sent me a link about the Oregon State Penitentiary Athletic Running Club that hosts several 5k & 10ks a year, and one half marathon. Obviously, running at the prison seemed like my jam so I immediately signed up – only to have my knee start acting up and I had to cancel. However, my very brave friend, Courtney still went and ran without me and her stories were so fascinating that this goal rolled over into 2016.

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I’ve had so many people ask me so many questions about it, that I think a FAQ might be the best form for this post.

Question: Is this race actually at the prison? Answer: Yes, literally at the prison where you must be checked in through multiple gates, and then you run laps in the prison yard.

Question: Do you run with actual inmates? Answer: Yes, there were about 20 “outsiders” and over 100 inmates.

Question: How much contact do you have with the inmates? Answer: A lot, more than I really anticipated. Once we were out of the main building, we were just walking through crowds of inmates in different sections of the yard. Many of them were the ones volunteering at water stations, the check in station, the finish line, etc. During the run, you are running alongside inmates the entire time and at the end you get to mingle with them for awhile over gatorade and a banana.

Question: Is it scary? Answer: NO. It was fun (at least my kind of fun). The inmates were nothing but super polite and congratulatory. They didn’t ask personal questions, just “How was your run?” or “Did you like coming here?” Sure, you were surrounded by gun towers and barbed wire and heavily tattooed inmates, but everyone was smiling and having a good time. They even had a dog.

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Question: What can you wear? Answer: Nothing form fitting or in blue. I had to wear running shorts over my regular running tights, and an orange pinny. The inmates, however, wore whatever they had. Many ran in jean shorts and no shirt. I liked the guy who ran in a black t-shirt and bedazzled cross necklace.

Question: How many laps is a 5k? Answer: Nine laps, and 18 for a 10k. They went by super fast in my opinion. I ran 3.1 miles in 26:00 flat.

Obviously phones aren’t allowed, but they did have a photographer and promised to send me pictures (hel-lo Facebook profile pic!). The inmates were obviously excited to socialize with people outside their normal sphere, and while I was ogling their workout space, I have no delusions that prison sucks for those guys.

It was fascinating and fun, and I fully intend to go again soon.

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SIDE NOTE: I’m also counting Salem, Oregon as my #7 city of the year.

Run #6 – Springdale, OR

This week I’m pulled from civilization to accompany 25 students from my school at Outdoor School. Five nights, six days of camp songs, camp food, and really peppy high schoolers. The weather is probably the best I’ve ever experienced in all my years at ODS so I’m trying to take advantage of being outdoors and away from the normal life within my office walls.

On Monday, I snuck out for a little while to jog around and find a running route. Unfortunately, the longest trail loop within the camp is less than half a mile (and littered with groups of students) so the road in and out of camp is about the only thing I could find.

Today, I went out in search of something longer and more exciting. The road out of the camp is about a mile straight up, although I did stop several times to check out the baby cows. At a mile and a half, I made it to the highway but there was no shoulder and cars were ripping by so I turned around and headed back.

The road was well-paved and surrounded by farms so it was an enjoyable three miles, despite the near 400 ft elevation climb.

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This run is not as exciting as Barcelona or as nostalgic as the KU campus, and it wasn’t for speed or distance (I stopped to ogle baby cows), but while all the other teachers are filling up on carbs and doing their grading, at least I’ve gotten out there.

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This means I’m officially half-way through my goal of running in 12 different cities by the end of the year. Next week, I’m signed up for a 5k at the Oregon State Penitentiary and I’m headed to Greece in June so I’ve got a couple runs to look forward to in the immediate future.