Discovering Cities through Running

They say that running is a solitary sport. While I do enjoy running by myself in my free time, I was  delighted when I heard that someone from my cohort was looking for teammates to run with for the  Prague Half Marathon happening in the next year. I immediately approached Jennifer, who said that she  had been having some difficulties filling a team of four people. After about a month of circulating the  invitation, we somehow managed to form not one, but two teams. Some people saw this newfound commitment as a  daunting challenge, but I saw it as a wonderful opportunity to be intimate with the cities I’m bound to live  in, and to make new friends among the team that I could train with.

Although the University of Glasgow really had a great array of Student Unions and an excellent  sports facility center, I opted not to apply for UofG Sports as I found it too costly given that we were only  staying three months in Glasgow. Running outside presented a great alternative, as it’s always free to run  around the city, and all you really need to start are comfortable shoes. As I come from a tropical country, it  seemed like an impossible task to run outside in the cold Glaswegian winter; but after mastering the art of  layering clothing (not really), I was able to explore some parks and sights through out-and-backs from my  flat in the West End: Glasgow Botanic Gardens (2K), Kelvingrove Park (3K), Ruchill Park (5K), Victoria  Park (7K), and the Glasgow Cathedral and the Necropolis (10K).

11/12/2022 — An Out-and-Back to Victoria Park in Glasgow on a chilly Saturday morning. Photos by Diorjica Ranoy

While I have been running since late October in Glasgow, it wasn’t until I moved to Barcelona in  January that I started (or tried) to follow a Half Marathon training plan and felt that I was part of a team.  After doing all my runs alone in Glasgow, it was a welcome change to to join others for a run and be  motivated by a vibrant team spirit. Among other things, our team joined Midnight Runners, a large  community of people organizing night runs and workouts (usually 5 to 10K). 

01/11/2023 — 5K Bootcamp Run around the Parc de la Ciutadella and Barceloneta areas with the Midnight Runners community in Barcelona. Photos by Diorjica Ranoy and Jennifer Lu.

We also participated in the huge city-wide 5K UniRun in March, and partly represented the University of Barcelona among a sea of students from other universities in the province. Through these, I was able to explore beautiful parks in Barcelona such as Ciutadella, Barceloneta, Pedralbes, l’Espanya Industrial, and Turó del Putxet, among others; as well as the Gothic Quarter and the vast gardens of Monjuïc.

03/05/2023 — UniRun 5K Fun Run at the Parc del Forum. Photos by Laura Neill and Diorjica Ranoy.

As the day of the Half Marathon loomed closer, our team began making travel plans in Eastern Europe. What started out as an 8-person trip turned into a 16-person one, as a lot of friends in the cohort matched their travel schedules to be able to join us in Prague. This overwhelming show of support pushed us to train hard despite the academic rigors of the GLOCAL programme.

04/01/2023 — Before and After: The GLOCAL runners before the starting line, and beyond the finish line of the Prague Half Marathon 2023. Photos by Pingyi Li.

Come race day, we all pushed ourselves to our limits and ran the whole 21.1K in Prague. This memorable culmination of 3 months of training, the whole experience of running through the historic streets of the “City of a Thousand Spires”, is a memory I will never forget—cobblestone roads lined with railways, pastel-colored buildings adorned with intricate molding, the wide Vltava river streaming constantly on the side, the excited buzz of energy among the eager runners, and even the charming
streetlights and road partitions with ornamental flairs.

Although the weather was predicted to be gloomy and rainy that day, it actually turned out to be a pleasant cloudy day and the sun even came out on the third hour and illuminated our way towards the finish line. It was such a lovely day in spite of the demanding physical and mental challenges that came with finishing a Half Marathon. After the race, we capped the day with a celebratory dinner among friends, and a team visit to our hostel’s steaming sauna.

04/01/2023 — Left: The GLOCALs present in Prague had a get-together dinner before the Half Marathon. Right: The GLOCAL Runners’ medals at the celebratory lunch after the Prague Half Marathon 2023. Photos by Jennifer Lu and Diorjica Ranoy.

They say that running is a solitary sport, but it doesn’t have to be. Joining the GLOCAL runners was a life-changing experience that has allowed me to explore multiple European cities in a remarkably intimate way, and to bond closely with an inspiring group of people from 8 different nationalities. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

By Diorjica Ranoy