The first time I broke into a run was in the state of Wisconsin. I don’t remember my first 5K distance but I do remember building up to running slowly. I wasn’t on cross country or track so high school fitness, outside of tennis practice, was instead a gradual transition from walking to running, like the stages of man first striding with a Walkman to the today of sprinting with a cell phone. While Washington is where I became a runner, Wisconsin is where I learned to run.
One teacher’s winter vacation home from Seattle after recently running a half marathon I embarked on a five mile run in Madison. I was amazed at how much ground I could cover simply on my feet. In the bitter cold I ran through my old neighborhood past my childhood home on streets I had walked, ridden a bike, or driven on but never ran. To run on the blocks felt strange. I noticed hills I hadn’t noticed before. Blocks that I usually walked felt short on the run. Blocks that I usually drove on felt much longer. I’d lost my sense of measurement.
Ten years later I was home for a long run while training for a marathon. I had been looking forward to the run because while it was a long run, 12 miles, I could also cover a lot of miles and it was a taper week of training. Distances become relative when training for a marathon. I had mapped out a route that I could run home to my parents’ downtown condo. It was September and very cold when my mom dropped me off in what she considered a less than desirable neighborhood. I think she asked if I had mace. A few miles in was the lovely fall country run I had intended, but after crossing a street I lost the trail. Lost, in my hometown, in a part of town that wasn’t home to me. When I finally made it home I posted on Facebook: “Last long run in Madison: Mom drops me off by the side of Verona road to run 12 miles on the Capitol City trail with the parting words, “do you have your mace and a small handgun?” I lose the trail and fight the blustery gales in 39 degrees on Fish Hatchery for several miles, eventually making it to the farmers market. Banana bread helps, but to those missed three miles: I will hunt you down and destroy you. Nobody messes with my training.”
Being lost in my hometown on an “easy” run pushed me over the edge. I told my mom that I could only do 9 instead of the 12 miles and started to cry. That’s the thing about being at home and running: it triggers your emotions in a way that just running, or just being at home, can’t.
Since that run I’ve been back to some of my favorite neighborhoods and old biking routes to run. I’ve run through the arboretum as the leaves fell listening to Streisand’s “Memories.” I’ve even run a half marathon with my dad, he dressed as the Tin Man and me as Dorothy, red sequined sneakers and all because wherever the road takes you, there’s no place like home.