Though living in rural Germany often feels like guest starring in an episode of Green Acres, I also feel it is a privilege to live, laugh, and run in this quirky little village.
Now that spring is reappearing on various days, I am rediscovering the joy of running through the German countryside.
I have also remembered a few good reasons to start my run before the church bells ring at 6:00 am.
Lightweight shoes. The farm roads here generate the type of mud that makes you feel as if you’ve dipped your running shoes in cement. And the mud does NOT fling off as you run: it agglomerates to the point where you look as if you have balls of rock on your feet instead of shoes.
However, if you run while the ground is still sparkling with frost, you can take the loveliest trails without turning your shoes into a modern art masterpiece.
No Dogs! I often see the village dogs cheerfully romping with their owners, but if I run past, the dogs are forced to sit and watch, snarling at me. Maybe they hate me because they are put in time-out when I run by.
Whatever the reason for the growls, I like to avoid the morning dog-walk, which begins at 7:30 am, every day, rain or shine. I also avoid the 14:00 dog walk and the 18:00 dog walk. (Walking your dog thrice a day must be German law).
No Bugs! The wet dark ditches of the German countryside are a breeding ground for hordes of flying pests, which only arise to feed when the ground thaws.
No Tractors! Even though the entire village awakes to the church bells chiming at 6:00 am, the farmers don’t actually hop into their tractors until 10:00. They are probably busy doing glamorous things like milking cows, feeding critters, and cleaning stalls all morning. But when the tractors roll, they like to play practical jokes on runners, like coating them in dust, or barreling alongside while spraying swine manure.
An early run avoids husbandry humor.
Quiet time. With the absence of tractors, vicious dogs, and gaping neighbors, the countryside is a delight in the morning. Birds, rabbits, and deer are often my companions on early morning runs.
Surrounded by the sounds of nature, this is my time for prayer and reflection.
Air You Can Breathe. When the sun begins to warm the fields, you can see a visible mist lifting off them. This mist, to give it a proper name, is manure stank.
It is ALWAYS best to run while the fields are frozen, because once the sun begins to warm things up, you will use your neck gator for smell control rather than warmth.
A big, bucket dump. Running gives you a sense of calmness and energy to face your day. So what if the internet isn’t working? Or all four of the kids have homework questions at the same time and you STILL have not mopped the floors and laundry is overflowing in the basement and the chimney sweep shows up unexpectedly to clean the furnace and you HOPE he can get into the attic because of all the boxes of junk you tossed up there yesterday?!!!
Exercising first thing empties your stress bucket, so you have plenty of room for anything that gets poured in during the day.
Running early isn’t always possible, but when the earth is frozen and the sun shines on this black hole of technology in which I live, this strange little land, with its rolling hills, stands of budding trees, and winding, solitary trails is a runner’s paradise for the early bird.
Weather: It has been gray, rainy, foggy on some days, sunny and warm-ish on others. Temps in the 40s. Perfect.
Wildlife: A few deer and a few rabbits, but not the usual abundance. I’m hoping they survived the village hunter over the winter!
Knee Braces: While I hate these new neoprene knee-binders because they feel awkward and uncomfortable, I love them because they keep my knees from hurting. I feel like I am REALLY running now. I don’t know what I was doing last year.
Supplements: I am leery of dietary supplements, because I don’t think they actually work. However, I have been taking L-Lysine, and it HAS been alleviating the pain in my knees.
Goo: I recently realized that last year when training, I consumed a goo packet every 3 miles. But if I burn 100 calories in ten minutes, why would I consume 100 calories every 30 (or less…okay, I admit it). When I ran the marathon, I remember feeling a great boost from the apple slices at the water stations. Therefore, I am putting away the goo, and I will be experimenting with bringing apple slices with me.
Can nature actually trump technology? We will see! I may need some goo for electrolyte balance on long runs, but I’m going to try and go natural if I can. This will require a little more research.
Marathon training: I have not signed up for a marathon, but I am starting a training program. This is my first week ‘officially.’ We’ll see how long I can stick with it without having registered for something.