First, I have to brace myself, especially if it’s a hot day, and I’ve decided that wearing shorts is the only choice between me and heat exhaustion.
Secondly, I replay in my mind the guidebook phrase that informs, “Turks don’t consider staring to be rude.” As I remind myself of that phrase, I try not to flash back to high school, when all the boys over six feet tall sat on “Jock Rock” in the front entry of the building and assigned scores to every passing female.
Thirdly, I shield myself with sunglasses, hat, and earbuds–devices that serve as interference between me and the stares that are not rude but that, nevertheless, feel like a challenge.
Fourthly, I prepare myself for the audible commentary and mock applause that Turkish men over 50 produce at the sight of a woman running. It’s a bonus day when they wave their fists in the air and act as though I’m crossing a finish line. As well, I do a special “dodge and weave” stretching routine that limbers me up so I can maneuver my way through the gamut of neighbor housewives who badger me to buy a doll, a scarf, a pair of socks–despite my refusal to do so every single time I’ve passed their houses for the past 11 months.
Fifthly, I ready myself for defense against passing adolescent males on motorcycles and scooters who enjoy a quick game of “Buzz the Runner” when they spot me out on a country road. When this happens, I count myself lucky that I’ve never had men in loafers smoking cigarettes pretend to chase me down–proving their macho by keeping up with the runner–as Byron has. Fortunately, when it happened to Byron, the two faux chase runners, cheered on by their compatriots, had to drop out after a few metres due to hacking and an inability to draw breath.
Six, I try not to laugh visibly at the disconnect between the podcasts I’m listening to and the landscape and people I am seeing. It tickles me immensely to be listening to fairly, erm, hardcore advice being dispensed by Dan Savage as I pass a grandpa on a donkey.
Seventh, once I am out of the village, I pick up handfuls of rocks, all the better to use when and if I encounter the myriad wild dogs. Byron remains genuinely traumatized after his major showdowns with packs of thirty and, most recently, ten angry and aggressive dogs circling him. For the most part, the dogs retreat in the face of a rocks and shouting, but even still, Dog Rendezvous adrenaline trumps a “runner’s high” any day.
Finally, once I’ve run the gauntlet of staring; attempted to explain in my limited Turkish the idea that I’m not running any place specific but, instead, am doing “spor”; and equipped myself with nature’s weaponry, I turn up the volume and set to the jog. On the days when I find the entire endeavor tiresome and just wish for an easy, anonymous run,
at least I can comfort myself with the knowledge that I’ve provided the natives with some new entertainment–which, clearly, they were needing–and then, smiling, I imagine the neighborhood aunties who find me so curious being able to witness Duluth’s Grandma’s Marathon, with 9,000 runners passing by in the space of a few hours.
They would wet their shalwars.