Running Through London: My Experience Running Abroad
I have spent the past three months studying, interning and living abroad in London, England. With statistics that show that only 9% of American students study abroad, and only 3% of American students intern abroad, I am extremely grateful for this experience, and I was determined to get as much out of it as I possibly could.
My Goal: “Run the City”
One of my goals living in London was to “run the city.” To accomplish this goal, I tried to run consistently each week, and even complete some long runs on weekends I wasn’t traveling to other cities.
Although some weeks were better than others running-wise, I found that running continued to serve me just like it did at home: it was an escape, a way for me to relax and separate myself from my day-to-day stressors. Often times I go for a run when I am sad, upset or stressed, and these drives to run followed me even as I went abroad. I also continued to run because I found it enjoyable. No matter how far or how fast, running continued to be something I would make time for.
I found my favorite place to run in London to be Hyde Park/Kensington Gardens. Just two miles from my apartment, I would run there, and then I could run for miles on all the trails and paths in the park, enjoying views of the palace, the water, and the trees. Early mornings on the weekends was my favorite time to be there, as I was surrounded by runners getting in their early morning run in the park before all the tourists came.
I also participated in a running group where we would run around Southbank. It was a beautiful 4-5 mile run along the River Thames, and I enjoyed it each time I went. Just like at home, I found that running with others helped me to challenge myself in my pace. I also loved learning about other runner’s goals and experiences with running.
Related: 5 Benefits of Running with a Group
Finally, running in London allowed me to see and experience the city in a new way. I got to explore parks and streets that I might not otherwise be able to. I learned that I love exploring a new city in this way, and I want to continue to integrate running into my traveling in the future.
Running a Half Marathon Abroad
Although finding my favorite running places and participating in a running group was a great way to achieve my “run the city” goal, I also wanted to challenge myself and take my running to the next level. Back in August, before even embarking on my journey, I signed up for a half marathon in Lisbon, Portugal on a whim, thinking it would be cool to run a race abroad while I am here. I did not know then just how much running a half in Lisbon would impact me, and set a course for new learnings and goals for my running future.
The Rock “N” Roll Lisbon Half Marathon in itself was one of the most beautiful and impressive races I may ever experience. It started on the longest bridge in Europe, the Vasco Da Gama Bridge, making this an epic start to a race. This race was also challenging in many ways. Some of the challenges include that it was 85 degrees and had a large uphill in the last quarter of the race. But it was also challenging in the fact that although I wasn’t running for time (I was running more on the basis to just soak up the experience of running a race abroad), I was still running this race for a purpose. That purpose came to be more clear to me throughout the race and thereafter, and I learned that completing this race was for more than just to say I accomplished running a race abroad.
What I Learned Running Abroad
Running will always be there for me, wherever I go
By running throughout my time in London, I learned that running will always be there for me, no matter where I go or what I decide to do in life, and I am thankful that good health has allowed for this to be. I am grateful for running, and I will continue to let it challenge me and serve me in new ways in the future.
Running is global
Many times I run for myself, as a way to escape and better connect with myself and with God. But completing a half marathon in Lisbon showed me that running is so much bigger than myself. This race had runners from across the globe, many who spoke different languages and had different cultures than my run. Running this race reminded me that this is a sport that connects people across nations.
Never let fear hold you back
Running has continued to teach me to fear nothing. If I really want to do something, whether it is run another marathon or take up another challenging opportunity in life, I don’t want to ever let fear get in the way.
New Goal: “Run the City” to “Run the Globe”
Running abroad in London and completing a half marathon in Lisbon has inspired me to take up a new goal. My “run the city” goal has now become “run the globe.” Even as I return to the U.S. to finish school and then find my first job, this idea to “run the globe” has been added to my list of life goals, and I’m excited to see where running will take me next.