"If you’ve raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in thickets by the Jordan?" (Jeremiah 12:5). Our journey is intended to be more than simply "stumbling" through the days while the world "wears us out.” We are made to experience the thrill of "running with horses” and to navigate life amongst the "thickets." The RWH blog focuses on both the spiritual race of which Jeremiah speaks, and the physical act of running that I absolutely love. In short, it's where "the miles meet the Message" to provide insight, perspective & encouragement that might enable you & I to successfully run either of the races set before us. May our course be purposeful and may we be passionate in our pursuit of the abundant life He desires for us.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Myanmar Miles

Typhoid vaccine - check. Malaria pills - check. Hep A & B - check & check. Running shoes - do you even have to ask! Though by far not the most important activity of my recent time in Yangon, Myanmar, running the streets (er ... paths) in the former capital city of Burma yielded yet another wonderful experience of running in a foreign land. A few thoughts and pics of this experience follow.

It’s probably no surprise that when we have the opportunity to run in a location outside of our own zip code, whether it be domestic or international, it is often memorable. A run filled with new sights, sounds, textures, weather, etc., etc., etc., usually always beats the same-ol-same-ol.  However, I have also found these runs can often turn into really great runs as well. The kind of run that you’ve been needing and would like to feel every time out. Myanmar was no exception.

From hotel, part of route along dusty roadside
Maybe it was the pleasant mornings, roughly 60 degrees at sunrise. Maybe it was the fact that dogs and cats and oxen are free to roam the streets (due to the Buddhist circle-of-life philosophy), creating a slightly increased urgency for the foreign visitor. Maybe it was the fresh, clean air ... hardly, more like the exhaust smoke, dust, and smog filled air. Still maybe I was just trying to suck in less of it and still get the miles in. Whatever it was, I had the privilege of completing three great runs (4.5, 5, and 9 miles) and two equally rewarding walks (2.5 and 3.5 miles with a fantastic walking companion, Mr. Bill Wright) over our time in Yangon.

Running in Yangon felt extremely secure and yet borderline risky at the same time. Most mornings I began before sunrise and started through a three quarter mile of neighborhood alleys, so it was fairly dark. But in the darkness were the sounds and smells of Myanmar waking. The religious chants across loud speakers, the roosters crowing, the sweeping of dirt floors, the starting of fires for cooking and tea, and the pitter-patter of four legged friends, who I really hoped were more in the mood to run alongside and not chase. After a few days, this scene (minus the chanting) became especially comforting and enjoyable.
Similar neighborhood path for start of run

Regarding the people along this route, I think it’s good to know the history.  Myanmar has been a country closed off to much of the world for many years. As a military government for decades, until this past fall when free elections brought new leadership, they have been very suspicious and hostile to foreign governments. You might recall a major natural disaster some ten years ago in which global relief had many issues with being allowed into the country to provide help. So, because of this history, to many residents of these neighborhoods, foreign visitors are definitely the exception and not the norm. I’m sure that visitors running through their streets in the early morning are even more the exception!

Final run was out road much like this; fewer dogs, more oxen
So yes, there were many stares. There was pointing and even a few photos. However, it’s true that the universal “smile, nod, and good morning” is almost always well received, and so it was in Yangon. In fact, my favorite encounter came when I passed an elderly man whom I had seen the morning before. As I approached him I nodded and smiled. He stopped and held out his hand. Of course I stopped for him and with left arm supporting right, I shook his hand and said “good morning.” He gave a big nod, wide grin and his very best attempt at good morning. We repeated this on the final day’s run.

Oh, and 60 degrees may have been pleasant for our team of three traveling from North Carolina, but for the locals it was frigid. So imagine me, shorts and t-shirt, running past hundreds of walkers and morning commuters who are all wearing toboggan hats, multiple jackets, gloves, and long pants.

In short, the street smells were strong, the traffic was highly unpredictable, and the animals were ever-present. But guess what? These were three of the best runs I have probably had in over six months. Thank you Yangon for the motivation and the hospitality. It was a wonderful week in every aspect. I found the people of Myanmar especially kind and friendly. And I found, once again, the reminder that God’s creation is equal parts East and West, and that his favor for all nations, languages, tribes, and tongues, is not biased. It’s a reminder in the spirit of the old saying, “Never judge a man till you walk run a mile in his streets!” or something like that.
Most important activity in Myanmar was working with these outstanding leaders
Nine mile route; straight, flat, but extremely varied segments

2 comments:

  1. Hiya! I worked with a man here in FLorida a few years ago who took time off to go to Myanmar with his pastor for 3 weeks. Very significant trip for him. But, not why I'm writing. A fellow runner, stumbled across your blog and read a little. Thought I'd recommend this one to you for your Wyoming Marathon for obvious reasons: http://www.runwiththehorsesmarathon.com/ It was beautiful and a lot of fun. Check out my blog sometime. agratefullifedotnet.wordpress.com Run happy!

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  2. Amy, hey, thank you so much for the comment and especially the marathon recommendation (now you have me rethinking my 2016 calendar!). It certainly looks beautiful, sounds like you would give a personal endorsement, and, yes, the added element of wild horses makes it particularly intriguing as that plays a big part into a special life meaning for me personally. Also, enjoyed your blog - will definitely check back. Actually, thinking with you running 18 marathons annually, we might even cross paths one of these days. Thanks again - have a great day and a happy run to you as well.

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