I love travelling, but arriving in a foreign city always leaves me slightly on edge. Strange streets, unfamiliar language on signs, different architecture all serve to remind me that I don’t belong here. Almost imperceptibly, my mind stays on alert to stop me getting lost or breaking the local rules. Gradually over the next few days I know that I will find my way and begin to sink into my surroundings, learning to read the space and the people around me. And running helps to kick-start that process.
We arrived in Reykjavik yesterday and this morning I went for a run through dark streets and out towards the sea. I love the way running turns lines on a map into places you know; the act of marking the streets with your feet draws them into your experience and builds your mental picture of where you are. The moments you invest in exploring the city reward you with a sense of familiarity and permission to relax. There’s something about being and breathing in a space that begins to make it your own. But unlike a touristy stroll, running asks for nothing in return. When I’m running, I’m running. I don’t need to be entertained or see sights or consume culture. I’m just doing what I love, offering myself to this new place, setting out with a general sense of where I want to go and trusting the map in my head to get me back to where I started.
There’s snow on the ground that has been there for a while, the centre of the path compacted by feet to an icy hardness. My trail shoes crunch in a satisfying way as I run, head bent into the wind, fists clenched against the cold. I arrive back at the flat with a sense of accomplishment at having found my way and a different kind of knowledge of this new place.