I AM A RUNNER.
It’s a lot easier to define what we are not than examine who we are. Until today I proudly declared that I am not a runner. Somewhere in the first third of a 10K race at Boston Scientific in Alejuela, Costa Rica I had to refresh some of my characteristics. With Alpina Water and Powerade banners marking the course, runners dressed in such fluorescent garb as to resemble what I can only guess were supposed to be pylons, and emergency services standing by, I embarked on the first few trots of what would soon unfold as simply remarkable. The question that crossed my mind was, “can a country be a reasonable catalyst for change?” There’s a saying in Costa Rica among the expat community that foreigners here are either running toward or from something. I like to think the former in my case, but I do see a great number of folks making the leap as a reason to jump-start change in their lives.
Costa Rica has all the ingredients in place to allow one to become introspective, health-conscious, and develop a greater sense of patience and tolerance. I can only speak for myself, but one year ago I quit smoking, lost about 25 pounds, and am now a radio host blogging about running 10K races. I’ve started meditating, yoga, I speak Spanish, and have developed some of the deepest relationships I’ve ever known. I smile more, I listen better, and I feel a greater sense that I am connected to something bigger than me and that what I do matters. Now, this may simply be the literary dribbling of 37-year-old in the throes of divorce, or I’m still on the runners high and full of fresh fruit. But I feel there’s something more to this.
I do not advocate moving to another country just to get healthy or ‘find yourself’. There’s a great tale of a guru who is sitting in his favorite spot in the center of a small village. A man comes up to him, introduces himself and explains that he’s just moved to this village. He asks, “What’s this place like?” The guru responds, “What was it like where you are from?” The man replies, “It was awful! The people were rude, the crime was horrific, and there was corruption and hatred everywhere. I hated it! That’s why I moved! So, what’s this place like?” The guru quietly answers, “Well, funny that you say that. The people here are rude, there is terrible crime, and there is corruption and hatred everywhere.” Saddened and defeated the man shrugged and moved on. Later that day a lovely young woman came by the guru and passed a gentle smile. She said, “Hello. My name is Assaya and I’m new in town. What’s it like here?” The guru replied, “Well, what was it like where you are from?” She said, “Oh, it was wonderful! People were so friendly, everyone knew each other, there were lots of activities to do, and I really felt like I belonged.” The guru smiled and said, “It’s exactly like that here too. Welcome.”
The notion that you take your community and your experience with you is no secret. Change the way you look at your home and your home will change. Change the way you look at yourself, and you will change too. Before I moved to Costa Rica I knew that it would be perfect. Not because I did a lot of research. Not because I’d heard from so many expats that this was a magical paradise. Because I brought with me the perfection that we all seek. It took some running, some introspection, and a little bit of patience to learn that Iam a runner and this was my first race of many- moreover it is never crowded along the extra mile.