This is Melly, checking back in and aiming for the most-scenic-yet-most-obscure running tourism award for 2016...
Here is me after my run around the temple paths in Bagan, Myanmar!
The first two days of our trip we stayed in Yangon and the hotel was opposite a beautiful lake with a boardwalk right around the edge - perfect for a run I thought! Disappointingly, due to jetlag, a busy sightseeing schedule and the fact that there were no streetlights after dark and no railings next to the water I didn't get a chance to run there. Although disappointing, that was ok as the ancient temple city of Bagan was where I REALLY wanted to run.
Before getting to Bagan we opted to do a two day, off the grid trek across the hills with a night stay in a Buddhist monastery. Although incredible, the 36km hike across rice paddies, bamboo bridges, through rivers, mud and up seemingly never ending hills took its toll on my poor feet and left the hugest blisters I'd ever had all over my toes.
Was worried I might not recover in time to run in Bagan, however three days later on our last day in Bagan before moving on, I went for it! I went out at 4pm - as late as I could possible manage in order to get back and showered for a sunset visit to the temples (by then I had realised that streetlights are only a thing for cars on main roads in Myanmar - sometimes not even that - so my normal night time run was out of the question). If I was going to run I would have to do so in daylight and that meant in the heat. It was still pushing 30 degrees with 75% humidity which worried me a little. I had mapped a little path out in my head when we had wandered around temples earlier that day so my boyfriend knew where to come and look for me in case I keeled over and didn't return by 5pm.
Taking Laura with me for some familiar company (and because I didn't have internet to access my usual running playlist) I set out and do my warm up walk down the road which led away from the hotel. The security guard sat in his little hut slowly raises his hand and gives me a quizzical look which is the first indication that Bagan doesn't get too many running tourists. I pause Laura and do my stretches at a left turn onto a sandy little path and then I'm off. I begin ok, doing little checks with myself. Legs? Ok. Blisters (which were healing)? Not feeling them so that's good. Breathing? I still am so that's a decent start. Suddenly, only thirty seconds or so in, the first temple appears, looming out of the trees on my right. A moment later, another pokes over the treetops to my left. Although I'd spent three days looking at scores of the 3000 temples, I decide to head towards the one on my left for a closer look. Have to turn and double back when I see the path completely waterlogged in front of me (how there was a puddle when it had been blazing sunshine and 32 degrees all day, I don't know!). No problem, let's go to the end of the path, past the lonely football goal post made out of sticks and turn right at the end.
More temples begin appearing, right, left, two more to the right. Just me, no one around on these tiny, sand paths. I feel like Lara Croft in Tomb Raider (albeit a shorter-legged, sweatier, more puffed out version) or like I'm playing Temple Run for real! Check my watch, five minutes gone. Do I feel ok? Yes, let's carry on! Turn right onto the dirt beside an actual road. Iza Gawna Pagoda and its monastery is to my right but there's no one around, not outside the temple wall at least. I see an old pick up truck coming towards me along the road. Three local men in the front, they honk and shout as I go by and one of them leans out of the window with his phone, taking a photo? Videoing perhaps? I smile and wave and they honk and drive past! Another sign that perhaps running is not a thing out here and any tourists who do it tend to do so in the air conditioned hotel gyms. Perhaps I'm currently a celebrity after they posted the video captioned 'crazy western tourist' on Myanmar facebook or instagram? Perhaps they were heckling or thinking I'm crazy? A few months ago I would have died at the thought but now I love that I've given some locals something to chat about over their congee tonight. I turn back down the road towards the hotel. I've hit 10 minutes which was my aim when I set out, taking account of the heat. I wipe my face and realised I'm completely drenched in sweat. I'm usually one to get clammy rather than drip but the climate must be taking it's toll. I'm starting to breathe a little bit harder but would like to push on for a bit longer if I can. Let's get to twelve minutes and see how I am then. Instead of going right back to the hotel I turn again up the path I started on and begin a little loop back towards those first temples. They distract me enough as they come into view to keep going. Nearly 12 minutes. Let's push on back to Iza Gawna at least, I think. 15 minutes and I'll stop. It's getting hard now and I remember Laura's advice and hear all you lovely people on here in my head reminding me of the C25k mantra, slow right down. Breathing hard, legs heavy but my what a view! How incredibly lucky I am to run on paths that, perhaps, no one has ever run on before! Bagan is a spread out place full of loads of paths around 3000 temples so there's a chance that no one else, at least in modern times, has run this part where I am. Keeping an eye on my watch, 15 minutes and I slow down to a walk. So very proud of myself as I am after all of my runs, particularly so given the heat, the trek, my recent recovery from injury. I take some proud photos of myself, guzzle some water and head back towards the hotel.
On checking my watch once home, the pace was very slow and the distance covered was minimal but it was amazing to see the map of my running route on a satellite image with the temples around it. Although completely incredible and surreal, I doubt I'll have an opportunity to return to Bagan so it really was a once in a lifetime run and my only run in Myanmar. I love that C25k gave me this. When travelling I like to try and find experiences that few others have had and I'm pretty sure that I managed one!
I've heard exercise is good for jetlag and holiday blues so perhaps I'll get out there tomorrow and reunite with my more usual but still lovely running routes...