On being a running expat . . .

From Simone Cullingworth – Auckland, New Zealand

When Sandy messaged and asked me to write some words for the blog – on being a running expat, the changes, experiences etc –  I didn’t bat an eyelid. I knew exactly what I was going to say. 

Running is my biggest source of connection – it connects me to my best memories in my life; it’s connected me to the best part of my days at present, and I know it’s a sure connection to my future. Connection is vital to anyone, but especially as a foreigner. Running has been mine. This is why I love it so much.

Running takes me back to most of my childhood  memories.  It was common to wake up at 3am to travel to an event and watch my Dad, uncle, and family friends run. Every year we’d drive overnight for the Two Oceans.  It may have just been a race, but that race facilitated happy memories with my family that I absolutely treasure. 

I’ve been running since single digits. I can still visualise school cross country routes and athletics tracks. I can hear school war cries; remember early morning training banter and conversations with people I still keep in touch with. 

Comrades Day every year on the side of Cowies Hill with the family – braaing, cheering, and teasing, especially “Florida Boys are pooftas!” Even my 16 year old son can remember this!

In adulthood, running with Stella brought lifelong friendships no matter where in the world we are now!  In NZ you don’t have to belong to a club to enter races, so therefore there are very few official run clubs.  I so regret not taking my Stella Kit because I’d be wearing it proudly if I had it.

Running in New Zealand once again has been the biggest connector to the best parts of my life here.  My first run in NZ was on a rainy day where no one would have been able to separate my tears from the pouring rain. Gary and I have used running events (its SO expensive to race here!)  to travel and see the country. I’ve gotten lost and discovered new roads and pathways but found my way home. I’ve sprinted myself breathless from pure pining and longing for family.   My solo runs connect me to my head and heart where I can pray, think and work it out  – I come home better. It brings depth and meaning.

The BEST part is that running has connected me to my bestest friends.  There’s no social run club culture in NZ so when someone says “i’m looking for someone to run with” or if I ask “do you run?” – well then there’s nothing left to say but “join us”.  

With these friends we’ve talked our lives out; we’ve laughed; cried;  stopped on the pavement to hug or pray and stopped to marvel at the sunrise.  Not forgetting saving people from fires, house floods, being shooshed because we are talking too loudly at 5am

These runs have made the roads of New Zealand feel like home.  

I don’t know what the future holds but I know that we can still run, and that is a connection not only for me, but I know for expats or actually anyone who feels lost or disconnected and needs hope.  I get excited knowing that we’re a part of and keep adding to a community through a walk or run.  I LOVE the excitement that comes when one connection leads to another and to another and to another.  One small step ripples through and keeps going along the road. 

I will always appreciate and love the sound of shoes hitting the road, whether few or many, at any pace, everyday or at an event. 

When the Byrds sing about a time to every purpose under heaven, I sing:

To everything (run, run, run)

There is a season (run, run, run)

This is my experience and this is why I love to run. Thank you to everyone who’s shared the road with me so far.  I look forward to crossing paths one day soon!

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