Discovering Moscow – Part I: Running

This post was meant to be written much later, as my timeline of trips is still back in 2012. However there are a few reasons why I want to share it now.

First, the World Cup will start in only a few days, needless to say it is in Russia 😉 . Second and perhaps the most important reason is that the Peruvian Team will be playing at the world cup after 36 years!! Third, is because at the moment I am reading Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, and in the book some characters spend their lives in Moscow, the city that will be the protagonist and which left an unforgettable mark on me.

I went to Moscow in September 2016. Tired of seating in front of my laptop watching the data of my research again and again without making sense of it, those of you who wrote a master thesis know what I am talking about, when we reach that point of overload of information and ideas, it is like if we where mentally blocked. Then nothing better than traveling for the sake of health, right?

One of my very good Russian friends from the MBA, Max was living in Moscow then, had arranged my participation at a 10k race in Moscow, and pretty much helped me to also arrange lodging and flight tickets, so I happily put a few things in my hand luggage and off I went for a long weekend.

At Heathrow airport waiting the flight to Moscow

A short flight from London to Moscow was followed by a very long queue at passport control, and a colder than expected weather at night. The pick up taxi didn’t take long to arrive and there I was, going through the streets of Moscow at night. As if guessing my excitement, the driver chose a nice electronic song and hit the volume up, “Woohoo! That’s welcome to Russia in style” I thought!

Now, I will show you the main things to see in pictures rather than words. And I will concentrate to write on four things: the race, things I loved about Russian People, my last day exploring Moscow, and how this Peruvian Football team is at the World Cup to shine.

Shiny happy me at the Red Square

It was a Sunday morning, when we arrived to the Luzhniki Stadium, there were at least 10,000 people there, because of the marathon and the 10k race. I have to confess I was a little scared for the 10k ahead, because due to the thesis I had no time to train often, and the only time I had run a long distance before was only 8k which I finished absolutely exhausted. The moments previous to the beginning were beyond exciting, there was a special energy on the air, people jumping to warm up and also to control their excitement to start running.

At the starting line…

Once we started I felt the cool air of the morning, and after a few minutes the heath from within, running along the Moscow river with the sun keeping us warm just at a perfect temperature. The route, first flat then up and down and up again. I was aware of my own pace, my breathing, people around, of the 5k refreshment stop ahead, Seeed’s music (a German band) in my earphones, a music band not far. People cheering us up both sides of the road regardless of if they knew us or not, I don’t know if they realize how incredible it feels for us runners to see them there, how important every “go go go” is, and how incredibly happy we feel when they stretch their arms to give us a hi5!

The last 2k were hard, but not impossible, when I saw the finish line ahead, I gathered strength from every possible corner of my body and ran faster and faster, my friend Sergey had already finished and was there to also cheer me up!  After I got my medal we went to celebrate with a delicious hot white mushroom soup. The race was over but the adrenaline was far from slowing down, so we went back to the stadium to cheer up Max at the finish line of the marathon.

That was Max’s first marathon, and he made it without a lot of previous training, which confirms my believe that for some things in life, mind is endless times more powerful than the body.

Proud people will medals after the 10k race

That night I was invited over at Max’s for dinner, we had some nice tea, we had crepes with honey, crepes with marmalade and crepes with red caviar. If that wasn’t enough his little daughter gave me one of the warmest hugs I had ever had the pleasure to receive, one of those hugs that leave your heart warm. It was a perfect dinner with a very nice environment, sharing stories of how he ended up doing his MBA at Ashridge (our school) or other family stories.

I loved to get to know more about my Russian friends, it is just invaluable to have them opening their culture for me, inviting me at their home, taking care of me, and showing me the side of Russia I could never know otherwise. Warm, kind, smart and really fun people, I don’t ever remember being bored around my Russian friends, and strangely enough despite being lands far from each other, there are similarities in the openness and warmth of Russian and Peruvian people.

My friends and I 😀 Happy days!

Their country is so vast that there are without doubts a lot of diversity in their culture and geography. The contrast between the past and the present, the countryside and the cities. I think of Leo Tolstoy and his depictions of the countryside and the cities in Anna Karenina, of Kitty, Anna and Vronsky living the luxuries of Moscow and Saint Petersburg, in contrast to Levin living in the slow and peaceful comfort of the countryside, being awaked by birds and the sunlight.

I think of the strength and enthusiasm of people running at the race, they were competitive yes, but it didn’t feel like something done for the sake of reaching the finish line, it was more of a celebration of life, of being part of something bigger, as big as most of the impressive buildings one can see around.

At this point I think of the strength that the huge buildings, specially government buildings show, plain masses of concrete throughout the city, the widest roads I ever saw, yet at the same time the delicate display of art and details in bridges, churches and underground, to soften the impression of visitors, making of Moscow a city with a truly unique identity.

Somewhere in Moscow

In the next post, the second part of this story, the details on what to see and do, some places to eat traditional food and of course football! in the meantime… Hasta pronto! See you soon! Auf Wiedersehen! A presto! Au revoir!