Running Alone

Running alone in Thailand

Most of you who know us, know that Susan and I are runners. I have always been a long-distance runner: something I did not understand until college when exercise became 5-mile runs. I know that Susan has run for a long time, but she was also inspired when she attended my first marathon. But this story is not so much about running.

It took several months to adjust to Thailand's heat, but as winter arrived I began running in earnest again. I was also inspired back to running when I read Running with the Kenyans. My moderate running started with short, slow runs as I worked to middle-distances.  Nowadays, I love to do “fartlek” runs where I alternate sprinting and jogging: even with the slow portions, these runs tend to be my fastest. There I go making this about running again.

Susan has not been running as much as me. She likes to sleep in and also struggles with extreme temperatures; especially heat. Consequently, I mostly run alone and my running fitness has exceeded hers. When we have run together, there has often been a bit of conflict surrounding runs.

The problem begins because we don't feel it is safe for her to run alone. Perhaps we are overly cautious, but a young, white woman in this area is pretty rare and projects privilege. However, the main concern is actually the number of aggressive dogs we encounter.  The conflict is furthered because she should not run alone, and I want to run to the level my training has allowed. I would push her to run faster or farther than she was ready to go, and - well, it didn't usually end well.

It didn’t take long before I said something like, “It’s fine. Whatever and whenever you want to run, you just tell me. I won’t push added distance.” Of course that was exactly what I should have said, but perhaps sans the melodramatic huff of martyrdom.  With time, it has become more clear to me how correct that decision was and I have not wavered from that statement.

I can always run farther or faster once she is done. Yes, it may be inconvenient for me to run slower or shorter, and it may be less visually stimulating to re-run part of the same course in the morning. But none of these issues compares to the frustration of being dependent on someone else to run at all. A frustration that I likely worsened with each complaint or attempt to push her to run my way. I can sacrifice some of my privilege; I should practice it because I better get used to it if I really care about social justice.

I’m reminded of a quote I’m hearing a lot more regularly now, “when you're accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.” I don't know who originated it, but months ago I did read this article by Chris Boeskool.

Susan is never asking me to give up my privilege. She doesn’t say “don’t run alone” or “don’t run further once I am finished." She is just asking me to bring a little more fairness to the world through the favor of running next to her on days she really wants to run. It is a small courtesy, and I am glad that I can now give her that courtesy without making comments that could make her feel guilty, be oppressive, or remind her that going for a run is just another place where the world does not offer her fairness.

Just one microcosmic example of my privilege in this world.

Volunteer Updates:

Another week reveals much more change...

We have had a few patients return to stay in the new building. They moved in Monday afternoon as the curtains were hung, the rooms rearranged, and final supplies were delivered. I think they are all very excited. We also have a nice group to set precedence for the patient community as it grows.

Krisida, the Thai Nurse here, has taken another position and will be leaving at the end of the month. We will be sad to see him go, but hopefully the new position will bring him joy, rest, and more time with his family. Sister Pranee has already been searching for the right replacement. We are hopeful to find a nurse who is passionate about helping this specialized, but complex patient population. It would be great to find someone with a passion for education as well.

We had a wonderful couple of guests at the volunteer house. A former volunteer Abby and her Aunt Nancy stayed with us. We talked a lot about our experiences and how differently people choose to live here. It was such a nice visit, we rarely ate a meal that didn't last well over an hour. As an added bonus, Susan whispered of my desire for the Good&Plenty they put in the refrigerator, and they were kind enough to give them to me. I ate them slowly over a week! 

Susan and I spent the night in NongKhai this weekend. We had a great day. We arrived early, minimized our internet time and just enjoyed the city. It was probably our last night away until we go home! We finally figured out how to get in to a beautiful park, but the adventurous bike ride to find it was almost just as amazing. We visited the night market, spoke with our dear friend Adam Martinez on his birthday (our 1st time connecting since we left). We stayed up late talking and watching clips on the internet.

For some strange reason I awoke at 5:30 am. To avoid waking Susan, I snuck out, went for a morning stroll, and made a bunch of photographs.

I’m finishing up my post about the SongKran festival, and it will probably have many pictures as well, though I may have to blur some faces. A Thai holiday that really has no equivalent in America.

Here are the best readings I did this week:

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