I run. You stare.

As a part of my COS (Close of Service) plans, I decided to set my sights on running my first full marathon. Some people might ask what got into my head, with a bewildered look on their face. Others understand, and agree with me, that this is one of the best excuses to center a vacation around.

The farthest I have ever run is a half marathon, followed by a Tough Mudder (12 miles) and a lot of 3k runs. These races have peppered my past and become some of my favorite memories. Some looked upon more fondly then others. One winter I got the bright idea that I should take part in “fun runs” in the middle of the North Dakota winter. As I crossed the finish line of one particular race, it was negative fourteen degrees, my eyelashes were white with frost and I literally could not feel my face. Like I said, some were better than others.

As I embark on this sixteen week training schedule, gearing up for the big 26.2 mile race, I can’t help but get slightly overwhelmed. In the dark about running anything past fourteen miles, I am not sure what I am in for. Thankfully, I have quite a few avid running friends in the states that have been my go to for advice. While running one morning, I also came up with my very own mantra. “One day at a time. One week at a time.” Reminding me to just keep putting one foot in front of the other.

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Training in Albania is quite a bit different from training in America. The most obvious of which is, I have to exercise outside- rain or shine. Luckily, I much prefer running outdoors to treadmills so this may be a blessing in disguise. Unless it’s raining, which usually results in multiple cars stopping me to ask if I need a ride somewhere.

Ultimately, the biggest lessons about running in Albania, can be narrowed down into three categories.

1. Don’t get hit by a car. 

Yes, some Albanians will stop and ask you for a ride. While others, usually teenage boys, think it’s funny to race past you as fast as possible. But, not before they creep alongside you first and stare. You can about imagine my face when that happens.

2.Don’t fall into a hole.

There is a reason I keep my eyes glued on the ground in front of me while I am running. Not only does this help me ignore all of the pointing and whispering, but it keeps me from literally falling into a whole. Or drain. Or gutter. Or twisting an ankle on the trash I’m constantly hopping over. Safety first people!

3.Don’t get bit by a dog.

This one may be the most important. There are only a handful of runs that I haven’t encountered a growling dog. Most of the time, they are harmless, unless they are sheep herding dogs. Then I shift my butt into gear and hightail it away from them as quickly and quietly as possible!

Beautiful mountain views.

Beautiful mountain views.

Over these next four months, when I need to, I can just repeat my mantra. One day at a time. One week at a time. Reminding me to get out of the driver’s seat, have faith and trust the training process.

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