In Cambridge and Somerville, running is as normal a part of life as iced coffee and the Citgo sign on the skyline. Joggers are everywhere- along the river, along Mass Ave, around Fresh Pond, at every time of day. Here in Morocco, I have rarely if ever seen anyone running for fun. Maybe running along the streets and sidewalks isn’t a thing, but there are other places where it’s more common? Or maybe Moroccans prefer other types of exercise. I do see men and boys playing pick-up soccer in streets and parking lots all the time. Who knows?
Back in Rabat, three of us decided to go running anyway. If people stared, well, whatever, let them stare. It wasn’t bad at all. We got shouted at by a few teenagers on our way out, but we turned toward a neighborhood with wide sidewalks and what looked like embassy buildings, and we were left alone.
We went running together a few more times, but then we scattered to our individual cities. My city is smaller and more conservative and very different from Rabat, and I can’t see myself running here. The college where I teach, however, is in a smaller town a 15-minute grand taxi ride away. It’s a touristy beach town in the summer, but much calmer in the off season. A wide sidewalk runs along the Mediterranean. My department chair and another professor from the English department gave me a tour after our first meeting. They pointed out this beachfront sidewalk and said it was a safe area and they’d seen women running alone there.
Meanwhile, I joined a gym not far from my apartment building! It’s a women’s gym, bright and clean with modern equipment and a swimming pool. Not to mention better showers than the “shower” in my apartment, and if that’s not motivation to go to the gym, I don’t know what is. My new gym feels like my old gym in Boston. It’s a comfort zone.
A young woman about my age saw that I was new and came over to show me how to start the ellipticals without me even asking. “You have to type in your weight,” she said in Spanish. So I did. She looked really confused. Then I got really confused. “Peso” does mean “weight,” right?? Then, suddenly, I remembered. The metric system! I tried explaining in broken Spanish that I’m American and I have no idea how many kilos I am. She laughed and took a guess for me.