It was with great interest that I follow Brian’s “Getting Fit at 50” Exercise Program. The essential ingredient in any fitness regimen is dedication. Dedication is a close relative of perseverance. The exercise programs of many are strewn with the wreckage of best-laid plans as both dedication and perseverance vanish into thin air. For a global traveler, it’s even worse. The greatest challenge, regardless of the continent, is finding the place to maintain the exercise program.
Out here in Azerbaijan I came within a whisker of giving up. Not only are the streets crowded and the sidewalks inconsistent – narrow here, steps there – but also the traffic is totally uncooperative. There are no pedestrian signals in this city except in the tourist-oriented downtown. We don’t live there. So while Brian fought snow banks and cold, I fought uncooperative traffic, lousy streets, and the winds of the Caspian. Then, at my favorite teahouse, my new Azerbaijani friend intervened.
“How is the running going?”
“Not so good.”
“What’s the problem?”
“I can’t compete with the sidewalks and traffic,” I said as I stared glumly into my cup of chai. “I run, I stop, I run, I stop. I just can’t do it.”
“You can come with me to the athletic gym. That’s where I go,” he offered. I’d been in gyms before. Running on a machine just wasn’t my cup of chai.
“Well, maybe. I like running outdoors, though. It’s more interesting.” He downed his last drop of chai. “Come with me. I think I can solve this.”
Down in the metro station we boarded a subway for the next stop, Ganglik, only a 5-minute ride from my flat. Coming out of the depths at Ganglik, my eyes met a most wonderful sight – a sports stadium.
1956 Soviet Stadium
“Eureka!” I bubbled. “It’s like Emerald City!”
“You can run in it – if there is no game – or around it on the service road almost any time.” The limestone stadium, built by the Soviets in 1956, held about 20,000 spectators. It looked fantastic to me. After walking the perimeter and the inside track, I knew I had found my new running home.
With Woolx for the extra windy days, I’ve been running there for two months now. Vendors near the stadium know me now, and the construction workers building a complex adjacent to the stadium know me as well and wave – especially since I took their picture and gave them a copy.
“How’s the running going?” my friend asked the other day as we sat in the teahouse.
“Perfectly,” I replied. “I used the inside track yesterday and had the place all to myself.”
“Stick around until next summer. The Asian Olympics are coming to Baku, to that stadium. You can compete for America!”
“No, thanks. The only thing I’ll compete for is a seat.”
Yet Another Victory