That was the last time I competed in a race. In the northy north of the Sapa mountains surrounded by villagers, I won 3rd place. It was unexpected as it came one year into my nomadic adventure. A mix of convenience and community, running became less automatic. I was the only me and most of my workouts were done alone. It affected me. It’s much easier to keep a habit when you’re with people – who keep the habit. Real talk.
Two weeks ago, I landed in Albania. It was not on my list but neither was Malta, Slovakia, and Taiwan. On the first day, I walked the streets of Tirana and spotted a poster of a shadowed runner with a date written in Albanian. I asked around and confirmed, yes, there was a 1/2 marathon on Sunday. Wild. The week before, I prayed about running again and later journaled “look up races”.
I hadn’t started researching the best 10k races in Europe and I definitely hadn’t started training, yet there I was in front of a literal sign. Of course, things didn’t line up perfectly. I forgot to manifest a six-pack and fast legs. Still. I rise. I decided to do the 10k. I could’ve done the half but I didn’t want to be sore for a week due to lack of training. Plus, doing the half would’ve been for my ego and I’m tired of letting that b*tch run my life.
The night before the race
I didn’t lay out my race number or my clothes. I didn’t drink extra water or eat a bowl of carbs. I didn’t do anything I normally would do. I don’t know if I was shocked to be racing in friggin’ Albania. Or if being out of running shape upset me more than I realized. Before I fell asleep, I had a disturbing argument. My ego, let’s call her Brenda, said I should skip the race because I wasn’t ready, plus no one would know. I told her to stop swaying me with valid reasons. I accused her of being manipulative and trying to keep me small. She said something really mean and triggering. I said, “yo mama!”
I woke up feeling like a horse c-walked across my face and body. I did not want to go. I did not want to go. Enroute to the race site, I acknowledged I wasn’t fast anymore. I also acknowledged the ebbs and flows of life. Sometimes you’re motivated; Sometimes you’re not. Sometimes everyone compliments your arms; Sometimes you refuse to wear tank tops. Sometimes you’re bursting with energy; Sometimes you’re depressed.
The moment I arrived at Mother Theresa Square, I remembered. This is where I belong. These are my people. I lined up in the middle of the pack to force myself to chill. It was refreshing to simply run and not obsess over stats. I talked with other runners, high-fived volunteers, and jumped in front of cameras to give the peace sign. There’s a 100% chance I’m on some Albanian newscast.
Running slow was a blessing in disguise. I had a great time.
Why this is one of the best races in Tirana, Albania:
- The entry fee is cheap. It’s 5 euro and includes a cool shirt that I still wear.
- The route is diverse. You run through the city and around the tree lined lake.
- Entertainment. There were dancers doing the traditional thing. There was a ‘Jason Mraz’ type playing his guitar. There was hip hop. There was a live pianist!
- The race volunteers are fun and helpful. And they like cheering in English. 🙂
- You get a chocolate filled croissant at the end. Um, hello.
- If you’re single and ready to mingle, you’ll do fine here. Just fine.