Sneezing and the Parallax

“There is no truth. There is only perspective.”

– Gustave Flaubert

When I travelled to my childhood home in Germany this weekend, little did I know that I would also discover a thing or two about perspective. Most of you know by now that I was born in Germany; and my blatant lack of any sense of humour as well as my passport confirm that I’m still German as of now. Until my twelfth year of age I grew up and lived in the lovely city of Cologne, famous for its fragrances, beer, and a stunning Gothic cathedral that is home to the remains of the three wise men.


But I digress. After all, this blog is dedicated to my trail running adventures, and running in nature is a fiendishly tricky thing to do in a big city, no matter how much perfume, booze or bones of biblical characters it has to offer.

It was obvious to me that the chances of being able to fit in any genuine training towards my ultramarathon were approximately zero while I was staying with my family, so I had always planned it as a rest weekend in my training cycle. However, only a non-runner would assume that this meant that I didn’t bring my running gear. I stayed in the house where I grew up, so I knew the area like a beaver knows his dam and was keen to see how many sneaky little runs I could fit in.

When I laced up for the first time and stepped off my father’s porch, I was faced with my first dilemma: I had no idea how far anything was away. At home, in Scotland, I know the lengths of my typical running routes better than the periodic table, and I’m a scientist. In Germany, I soon realised that my estimations of distances were all still based on the perception of a pre-pubescent me.

In the absence of trails and nature to keep me entertained on my run, I made a game out of re-visiting places that were once important to me in my youth: I first ran to my kindergarden, then primary school, secondary school, visited the church where I spent many a Sunday morning, the on to the park where I used to play, ran past the house where my best friends lived, as well as the yard where I first learned to ride horses. I visited some long-lost but never forgotten loved ones at the graveyard, and then continued my journey onwards to the banks of the Rhine where I used to play with my friends.

What struck me was how little had actually changed. Sure, there were new fences and more buildings in what were once open spaces, but in essence, everything is still where it was a quarter of a century ago. What has changed completely, however, is my own perception of the importance of these places. What used to be the whole world to me as a child now fit into an easy morning run. I guess it really is all just a matter of perspective.

Father Ted Joke(“These are small, but the ones out there are far away.” – Father Ted)

On a slightly different note, I also made another novel discovery related to my beloved act of running while in Germany, and that is that it doesn’t mix at all well with hay fever. As soon as I stepped off the plane, my sinuses were blocked up, my eyes were itchy and my nose was running. At first, I found the constant sneezing on the run mildly entertaining, but it soon made me feel first exhausted and then miserable. It was so bad that I even tried running on the dreadmill at one point, and lasted a whopping 20 minutes before my rapidly dwindling will to live forced me to stop. Oh well, at least I got my scheduled rest!

I’m back in Scotland now, where I’m enjoying my completely sneeze-free trail runs once more and with renewed vigour. I’ve also come to see that I’m really only an inch or two away from Germany, depending on the scale of the map I look at…

12 thoughts on “Sneezing and the Parallax

  1. TartanJogger says:

    It’s really fun to revisit familiar places from childhood, and it is funny how things that seemed huge, far, etc now seem very different.

    • Yes, indeed… I remember the first time I was allowed to cycle, on my own, to my friend’s house. It seemed like such a massive journey! Now I can run there in less than 10 minutes, it’s not even a warm-up!

  2. Jim Brennan says:

    Writing honestly is revealing yourself to the world, a wonderful gift. You remind me of a dear friend and fellow-runner. We do twenty-mile runs, she is an equestrian, and a scientist. What a coincidence. Thanks for sharing, Fullmoonrunner!

    • Thank you, Jim! Perhaps one day I’ll be able to join you for one of your 20 milers, I’m sure that we’d have a lot to talk about! How’s your running coming along?

  3. I love going back to my hometown and seeing some of the familiar sights. Nice job trying to sneak in some runs.

    • Thank you! I think that sneaking in the runs comes natural to me. It’s what I love to do, so in the absence of a training plan, it’s easy to just ninja out for half an hour or so when nobody is watching. 😀

  4. piratebobcat says:

    You’re lucky you Europeans are able to travel so freely from country to country. Glad you got to visit home!
    BTW, last time in Ireland a cab driver was telling me about Father Ted – so when I got home I found them on Netflix and watched a bunch. Funny stuff!

    • Travelling from country to country is a bit like travelling from State to State for you US Americans. 😉 Both have their perks, for sure. I find Father Ted absolutely hilarious, I thought of that scene while running and realising my shift in perception. =)

  5. Angie says:

    I’ve noticed that as well, what used to seem so far away as a kid isn’t really that far now. Although, time used to seem to pass so much slower when I was little and it just flies by now.

    • Oh, that’s so true Angie – time definitely is relative as well. I’ve read once that the first 20 years of your life feel as long as the next 60 years – a scary thought. All the more reason to live with bestial vigour!

  6. I totally understand your pespective of visiting the places where you grew up, and how your view of it changes as you get older. I feel like that when I go home to Canada and to my home city.

    p.s. I LOVE Germany and want to move there, just a matter of getting an EU passport, whether through the UK or Scotland, damned referendum!

    Perhaps I will see you next weekend in Edinburgh?

    • Oh, yes, I’ll be in Edinburgh, running the half marathon! For some reason I’ve been given a red start number though, not sure how that happens. I guess they are expecting me to actually run in fast!

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