Running the Emden Defense Wall

Emden’s Defense Wall is my new Scenic Running Route

Emden is a city and seaport in the northwest of Germany, on the river Ems. It is the main city of the region of East Frisia.

The exact founding date of Emden is unknown, but it has existed at least since the 8th century. Town privilege and the city’s coat of arms, the Engelke up de Muer (The Little Angel on the Wall) was granted by Emperor Maximilian II in 1495.

Emden was a very rich city during the 17th century, due to large numbers of Dutch immigrants such as Diederik Jansz. Graeff. It was a centre of reformed Protestantism at that time, producing the first Bible translation in Dutch.

In 1744 Emden was annexed by Prussia. In 1752 Frederick the Great chartered the Emden Company to trade with Canton, but the company was ruined when Emden was captured by French forces in 1757 during the Seven Years’ War. The town was recaptured by Anglo-German forces in 1758 and for the rest of the conflict was used as a major supply base by the British to support the ongoing war in Westphalia.

During the Napoleonic French era, Emden and the surrounding lands of East Frisia were part of the short-lived Kingdom of Holland.

Industrialization started at around 1870, with a paper mill and a somewhat bigger shipyard. At the end of the 19th century, a big canal, the Dortmund-Ems Canal was constructed, which connected Emden with the Ruhr area. This made Emden the “seaport of the Ruhr area” – which lasted until the 1970s. Coal from the south was transported to the North Sea port, and imported iron ore was shipped via the canal towards Rhine and the Ruhr. The last iron ore freighter was moored in the port of Emden in 1986.

In 1903, a large shipyard (Nordseewerke, “North Sea Works”) was founded. Papi used to be an apprentice here.

The city centre was almost completely wiped out as a result of allied bombing raids during the Second World War, destroying nearly all historic buildings. The most severe bombing took place on September 6, 1944, when roughly 80 percent of all houses in the inner city were destroyed – about 4500 bombs were dropped on this day. In the collective memory of the city, this date still plays an important role. It needs to be noted that the shipyard area was largely untouched: The British apparently targeted the civilian areas, which is believed by the locals to have been in revenge for the bombing of an English city by the Luftwaffe. The reconstructed town was opened on 6 September 1962, exactly 18 years after the bombing.

And now, Blackfoot is running on the defense wall (see drawing above). It has provided me with great scenery and a history. Let me show you my run!

A sunny day in Emden - with the American Flag hanging proudly

A sunny day in Emden - with the American Flag hanging proudly

Old windmill

Along the wall

The water tower marks the end of the wall at the west end

Doubling back over the moat

A bunker from WW2

Pretty views of the city past the very German houses

A very old building

There's the bunker next to Papi's house! And the flag! Almost there

Back at my home in Emden!

Emden's most famous street ūüėČ

I am very sad to leave tomorrow. With this great running path (plus the amazing food, endless amounts of booze, and AWESOME family), it makes me wonder why I don’t live here!

Merry Christmas!


German Holiday!

Finally, after a lot of beer, wine, gluehwine, and black bread, I ran with the Man.

And that Man is my Papi.

Boozing with Papi from Day 1 in Emden!

I am in Emden, Germany, for Christmas once more and it is so wonderful! Last year is was a winter wonderland with storms and snow that made it both difficult and beautiful. This year, there is no snow. I thought it would be great to run! But alas, no snow just means MAX rain. And the beautiful sidewalks are brick, very hard on the body. So, I resigned myself to weaseling my way into Papi’s gym. And it worked! I ran 11.43 km – that is 7.0866 miles – in 60 minutes. I feel much better!

Cramped on a small plane next to a large lady


Last year's winter wonderland Emden


Dreary Downtown after the 10th rain session of the day


Well, back to more boozing and New Year's cookie-making!

Hope to run again once or twice this holiday! Papi is a running machine and despite him not being terribly enthusiastic about running on mine / his ‘vacation,’ we had a great time at the gym and he is my inspiration!

Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell Jog

Who says you can’t PR after vacationing in Paraguay?

Woot woot, thas right, I am giving myself props. Vain as this may be, I am pretty stoked at the result of my Jingle Bell Jog 6K race yesterday. Lemme tell you all about it.

During my badly needed vacation to Paraguay (with stints in Brasil and Argentina), there two main things I ate. They are meat and chocolate cake. I kid you not.

Example 1

This cuisine obviously does not bode well for fitness. We joked that when we got home, we would have to run with a defibrillator. But in reality, we were all thinking that it was a good idea and wondered how much one would cost, where to purchase them, etc. as our pants got tighter and our belts notches went up.

So, given this predicament (there were literally no other food choices other than meat, a potato salad, and a sad salad, and really, who can say no to chocolate cake? Not I….) I returned home 10 cows and 8 bakeries later with an urge to get back to running and perhaps become a vegetarian.

Example 2

My first run back was as painful as I expected it to be. Waking up at 5:30 am was not one of the things I missed about home. I was happy to find that nothing was hurting – no knee, ankle, or any other pain – but I certainly felt winded after a mere 4 miles. ¬†And to think before I left I was doing 10Ks in a relaxed fashion! No, my endurance had tanked and my muscles were sore. I repeated it again the next day and that went even worse (better breathing, more leg soreness). How on earth was I going to run a 6K (3.7 miles) on Saturday!? I was confident enough that I would complete it without dying but I also didn’t want to be in horrid pain as I was after the 5K, nor slow as a slug (I have a reputation to keep!). I woke up Thursday morning and stretched my legs. Progress! The legs were feeling better. I completed my whirlwind “get back into some sorta shape that’s not cake–nor-cow-shaped” and told everyone how I was just going to enjoy the race with a secret hope for sub-30.

Perhaps staying up late the night before with wine was a bad idea, but at least I felt relaxed going to Prospect Park Saturday morning. I didn’t expect any miracles but my usual running mates were there, freezing and tired just like me, and I felt much better. Eye on the prize – race to the hot chocolate. Off to the horsie corrals. Note to Santiago the numerous Santa runners (as well as one man who was straight up in a Christmas Tree costume), cue up the iPod, say goodbye, and off I go to the sound of bells ¬†from all the runner’s shoes pleasantly jingling under my tunes.

The Usual Suspects

I started out trying to follow Santiago, but weaving in and out of people in the 1st mile was not working for me so I let him disappear and that would be the last I’d see of him. I had my Jingle Bell Jog playlist encouraging me to keep up a good pace but kick in with some awesome techno tunes where I’d hit those hills. Prospect Park seemed a lot bigger than I remembered, and I remember being a bit surprised to see my GPS say 1.84 the first time I glanced at it. Boo! Less than halfway done!

The hill went ok, but I had forgotten about all the other little hills that pop up after the turn southwest.¬†I was getting tired and winded as my week’s worth of training had suggested I¬†would, and there was no sudden urge to take off as I had during the 10K with Stu. I just thanked for the small favor of not having dogs and horses in my path. If they had been, my carnivorous self probably would have ate them.

Round the final bend, I picked it up ever so slightly and sprinted to the finish line. I saw my friend Brandon waving and saying good job and I panted out a “Hey! I did it!” I had glanced at the clock and I had sub-30’d! Brandon announced that Santiago had passed him slightly less than a minute before me. We all did well! I was happy (and still am). The official time came out to be 28:28! PR’s all around! And wonderful hot chocolate to boot.

My colleague from the Mission of Japan!

Today, Santiago and I had planned a 12 mile run. Matt had to sit out, as he had tweaked his ankle at the race (he also PR-ed). We started out from Matt’s apartment and did two laps around Central Park, with Matt meeting us back at mile 6 with water and skittles, and the all mighty, all disgusting GU. (Don’t get Green Apple of Jet Blackberry. Ever.) I thought it would be tough, given the length and the fact that we had just raced yesterday, but with the company of my running companion and the pretty scenery in the park, I could ignore my sore taiko arms and my funny left leg muscle ache. I even could ignore the freezing cold once I got going, but apparently I wasn’t entertaining enough to distract Santiago from it. He was wearing 3 layers, a hat, neck warmer, and gloves to my one layer and fleece headband. We kept a pretty good pace and finished – according to my GPS – 12:07 miles in 1:47:27. Not bad for ‘slow and steady’ long run! Sub-2 hour half marathon, dare I whisper it?

Before 12 Miles

After 12 Miles

Vacation to Para…guay!

I went to Paraguay and running was not involved.

But you know what I did do? More like what didn’t¬†I do! I forfeited Thanksgiving Day break and tootalooed over to Paraguay where I crossed illegally to and from Paraguay and Brasil, saw the most beautiful and breathtakingly giant waterfalls ever, gawked at the previously second largest dam in the world, met the most amazing group of volunteers,¬†advocated for improved housing and housing policy for the disadvantaged, dug the foundation for an upgraded shithole (you’ll see), and ate a LOT of meat and chocolate cake. Now that¬†is what I call VACATION.

Step 1: From New York to Asuncion – despite getting dicked around the whole way by TAM, all turned out relatively well thanks to the exchanging of G’s and some JD. Safe in Asuncion at somewhere between 1 – 2am.

Magic Carpet? Not a good sign

I pray to arrive safe in Asuncion!

Step 2: Get from Asuncion to Igauzu Falls in Argentina – This seemed relatively straightforward. Just drive east, cross into Brasil and round about to Argentina, where I’d be all set to start the next day at the entrance to the falls. As usual, things are never that simple. I crossed into Brasil without getting an exit stamp from Paraguay, NOR an entering stamp from Brasil. Of course, this was not known to be necessary until I arrived at the Brasil-Argentina border and was denied exit because of lack of entry. Driving all the way back, and re-doing everything (seems like getting passports stamped is optional unless one wants to do anything besides wander between Paraguay and Brasil), I was finally in Argentina after sunset and settled on a renovating hostel.

River border between Paraguay and Brasil

Finally back in line to get into Argentina

Step 3: Get to Iguazu Falls in Style – The next morning, after much scandal over not having Argentina pesos and finally finding someone to ‘trade’ money with me, I finally entered the National Park of Iguazu Falls and decided the best way to approach for the first time of my life would be by boat!

First approach to the Falls!

Boat ride straight into the falls

And it’s all beautiful brilliant nature’s magic from here!

A boat challenges this portion of the falls

Nature's beauty

Endless waterfalls

View of horseshoe falls from the upper loop

As the beginning of this post suggests, this is only the itty bitty beginning of my adventure. Please stay tuned for more! Time to sleep off the jet lag and trudge through a 4 miler tomorrow morning!