Jogging Into a New World

Adam Heymann

As I continue to strive to become the person I want to be I’ve come understand the importance in maintaining an intimate relationship with exercise. I love gyms and the endorphins that flood me after a productive date with my weights. But there’s one thing I won’t do at any regular gym facility: run. Treadmills don’t satisfy me; I require constantly changing stimuli. As a result I’ve picked up the habit of running outdoors. I embrace the requisite of the mental fortitude required in running until the end – no walking.

Being in Taiwan this semester has provided me with a gamut of running routes here – do I want to run along the local river, throughout the bustling urban jungle, or through the lively green hills to the local temple? This variety has allowed me to run more frequently than I ever have: four miles at least three times a week. I feel my overall fitness improving each week as the walk up the hill after lunch and dinner has become noticeably easier and easier.

But running has had more benefits than simply improving my health ­­­-­ it’s exposed me to aspects of Taiwanese culture I would never get pacing around a gym facility. The first week I got here one of my many new friends invited me on a pre-breakfast six-mile jog to Gong Guan. As we finished the second mile and exited the school’s campus area, firecrackers, a common occurrence during the Lunar New Year holiday, popped off in the street next to us, seemingly congratulating us for completing a third of our mission. As we continued our run, now in the heart of the concrete jungle, firecrackers continued going off, some encouraging us to run faster, others causing us to flinch with surprise. Incense, another part of the New Year festivity, sweetened the air around us and made our romp all the more pleasurable.

As I’ve continued to run I’ve gotten to know a bevy of other charming aspects of the local Taiwanese life: the well-demeanored dogs pacing around content humans who walk them on beautifully sunny days and their wild counterparts who calmly watch with intensely emotional eyes as I jog by; the baseball and basketball players who play their games with class and skill and the dancing clubs who bounce relentlessly at seemingly every hour of the day; the beautiful cranes that sail gracefully about the blue waves of the local river and the artistic spiders that spin invisible webs across the expanses between the foliage. I can’t help but look forward to discovering other beautiful sights and sounds as I continue to forge running paths around this paradisal island.