Iowa

I’ve been intentionally pursuing running a 5k in 50 states for two and a half years. For 18 states, running a 5k in new state was a way to feel the success I couldn’t find in career and love. That changed in Iowa.

The Iowa plan was much like other states. It would be a “cross the border run” as in Georgia, Idaho, Delaware,Louisiana, and Illinois.  I was also driving to Iowa with my high school friends Heather and Rachel as in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, DC, and Louisiana. The difference was that a few days prior I’d accepted an offer for a new job I was over the moon about. I had given notice to my current job at the newspaper but hadn’t yet started my new job so it was all champagne, smiles, and congratulatory messages. I hadn’t told Heather and Rachel anything about the job opportunity either so I was looking forward to sharing the good news and catching up. We rolled out of Fitchburg, Wisconsin a gray, drizzly day after Christmas. It was depressing, challenging weather to both drive and run in and if I hadn’t lured them out of bed to join me, I’m sure we would have each been cozied up in our respective holiday hangovers.

For the hour plus drive to the Wisconsin-Iowa border I rattled off the amazing perks of the new job (“wine Fridays!!) while they listened and congratulated me. Eventually the conversation turned, as it always does, to old boyfriends: the ones we met in AOL chatrooms, supported through their gastric-bypass, and were “50 shades of crazy.” For me, the passenger about to conquer another state, the drive was a giddy mix of telling ridiculous past trysts and acknowledgement of professional success. The blend of joys was both surprising and comforting.

Rachel and Heather dropped me off at Riverview Park, a tiny island in the Mississippi River withing the Iowa state line. They drove off to investigate lunch options in Dubuque while I walked along the Mississippi feeling cold and sluggish. I snapped a few pictures at the end of a pier and the end of the park with signposts for the direction of Iowa, Wisconsin and Illinois. The run would be an intersection of states and emotions.

While I ran those chilly 3.1 miles along the Mississippi I thought about the joy in coming back to running after spraining my ankle. I also acknowledged that for the first time in eight years, running was no longer the only area in which I felt successful. I’d been running across the country and diligently in Seattle, sometimes fast, sometimes far, but mostly doing it to feel good about myself. Though each had had their ups and downs, neither my career nor my love life had been what I had hoped they would be. So I ran. I ran without a supped up LinkedIn profile or an engagement ring because it is what I could do. No matter how fast or far I ran, every time I ran was a victory or sorts. That day in Iowa, because I had gotten the job I had dreamed of but was never sure I could get, felt different. Running was no longer the best part of me. My career had finally trumped running. It was what I had wanted but the tiniest bit bittersweet. I recognized both the loss and the triumph, wrapped up that final point one of a mile, and met my girlfriends at the car.

On the way back to Madison conversation inevitably floated back to boyfriends. As we approached the spot where one of us used to make out with our boyfriend parked along a country road, I decided to take the crazy up a notch and play some Richard Marx. I shared that my first slow dance had been to “Right Here Waiting for You.”  We laughed over that memory our other respective memories to “Endless Summer Nights” and “Hold on to The Nights.” That’s the thing about visiting your girlfriends, you can revisit the vulnerable and ridiculous one minute and celebrate the professional achievements the next.

That’s also the thing about running. Running is what I do when I am feeling better than best. It’s also what I do when I don’t know what else to do, when I am so broken in spirit that I swear my legs are the only things that work. With a new year and a new job there a sure to be many more ups and downs. This 2016 my wish for you is wherever you go, whatever you do, running will be right there waiting for you.

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North Carolina

November 26, 2015

North Carolina was set for Thanksgiving Day. After successfully and painlessly completing 5ks in Georgia and South Carolina earlier in the week, I was confident that this run would go off without a hitch. To make the run even easier, I wouldn’t have to drive out of state and look for a destination. My host Rebecca had suggested a nearby trail along the French Broad River.  The trail was just a five minute drive from the house. After a lazy morning of Thanksgiving prep chopping onions and bread cubes, the sun came out. I made the short trip to the trailhead.

Rebecca was right: it was a perfect setup. Families strolled along the river, fitting in a bit of exercise before the big feast. I smiled thinking about the run and feasting ahead, and then I looked down at my left ankle. I had forgotten the stabilizer. I had been instructed by my doctor to wear the stabilizer during every waking moment of the day for six months but my doctor friend Rebecca said I didn’t need to wear it. I felt that the best answer for me was somewhere in between: I would wear it exercising and ween myself off it during the other waking hours. So, what made the most sense was to drive five minutes to pick it up a home. But I just didn’t want to. It wouldn’t have been a far drive but something in me wanted to go without. Be a rogue warrior. Run “Footloose,” if you will. And so I decided to try. I had been cautious in the month since the sprain but in that moment I wanted to be bold. I wanted to see what my body could do. I found one of my most upbeat indie playlists from a time when I was running, travelling, going out, meeting people, and seeing shows a lot—basically feeling like an escalated, awesome version of myself. I chose that person to run.

The run was beautiful. I hugged the river passing cyclists resting on the banks, a trailer park and Mellowdrome cycle track. The sunshine and warm weather paired with the rusted Appalachian scenery took me back to another trip to Asheviile. The first time I visited Asheville was with Rebecca 10 years ago. It was significant because it was a joyful trip of new places, fall weather, movie location scouting and delicious food and drink, but more so, it was one of the first vacations I took not just to visit family or friends. It was a trip to be, see and experience a new place. In a sense it laid the foundation for 5kin50states. It revealed how much I enjoy planning, dreaming, and fantasizing about a place and then making it happen.

As Asheville memories skated along and the indie hits kept on coming, I thought of my ankle: it didn’t hurt. If anyone saw me running I would be just another runner, not someone wearing a stabilizer coming back from injury. I was slowly, with each step and diligence, coming back from injury. As Rebecca would liberally quote Amy Winehouse the following day: “They tried to make you go to rehab and you said, ‘yes, yes, yes.’” In fact I felt victorious. I realized that the very thing I love about running was the very thing which had brought me back to it when I couldn’t run: hard work, diligence and sticking to a plan yields results. If you want something bad enough you can have it. Sheer will and perseverance do not always pay off in major areas of life such as career and love but they do pay off in fitness. If you do the work you will see results. All of those mobility circles, writing the alphabet with my big toe, balancing with my eyes closed, swimming when all I wanted to do was run and riding the stationary bike watching “Waiting to Exhale” had actually worked. I had willed my way back to running by doing.

I think a lot about what running has given me. It has given me both control and freedom, peace and energy. How is that possible? Because I love it enough. Just the opposite of the Patti Smyth and Don Henley song—which is dead on about romantic love—“Sometimes Love Just Ain’t Enough,” in running, love is enough. Simple love of the movement had brought me back to it when I couldn’t run. It brought me back to beautiful Asheville on Thanksgiving 10 years later to visit my friends to experience that same freedom of travel, will, and joy-seeking escapades that are now a defining part of who I am.

Sometimes love is enough. And on that first day back, running freely, I believed it always would be.

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South Carolina

November 24, 2015

Even though “The Keystone State” is technically Pennsylvania, for me it is South Carolina. Geographically, South Carolina looks somewhat like a keystone, an inverted triangle wedged between Appalachia and the Atlantic. Figuratively, it locks my other states into position, bridging the gap between states I’d run in and those to come.

South Carolina as the 29th state marked just over the halfway point of this project. On the bases of both sides of the keystone are the first 28 states. The firmly stacked stones on the left are the unintentional running achievements in states I had lived in or visited multiple times: Wisconsin, New Jersey, Ohio, Washington, Arizona, Oregon and California. On the base of the right are the clusters of states I had visited with the purpose of running: New England, the Mid-Atlantic, The South and now Appalachia. The experience of running in South Carolina was both challenging and easy, planned yet surprising, sluggish and triumphant.

My friend Rebecca and I had to pick up our friends at the Greenville airport around 4. We’d sketched an itinerary that began with a hearty Asheville breakfast and would finish with a 5k run on a greenway in Greenville. That morning, right on target, we paced ourselves through biscuits, bacon, and breakfast burritos with fresh avocado. Our charmingly-Asheville waiter, clad in requisite flannel and knit cap, flirted with us in the southern hipster style. The check-ins were warm and lingering. The coffee flowed. When Rebecca showed him my Spotify playlist “Breaking Badass,” he was genuinely impressed at the inclusion of both Creedence Clearwater Revival and Gnarls Barkley. As Rebecca took her final sip of coffee, sharing that we were off to run in my 29th state, our waiter leaned back in surprise, revealing a wedding ring. Alas, some goals cannot be attained. Others, like running in South Carolina, were just over an hour away.

Once in Greenville we caught glimpses of the greenway outside the passenger window. So we opted to park the car and venture on foot to locate the trail. Rebecca in hipster cap, puffy vest and cowboy boots and I in a mint-green running top and black pants we must have been a sight as we walked passed an arts center, the office of the Greenville News, and a few construction sites. We found a park where city workers were repairing a stone bridge.  Rebecca asked directions to the greenway. The workers replied and told us to have a good day. Rebecca thanked them with a drawling, “ya’ll do the same.” We were in South Carolina now.

We connected with the trail at a small bridge, two benches and sculpture of an airplane. Even though North Carolina is the home of “first in flight,” I sensed that the photo documenting South Carolina’s run should be with this plane. Rebecca stood back and helped me set up the shot. First beneath a wing, hands pressed to the bottom as if I was supporting it. Then I gripped the wing and balanced on one foot as if I were holding on for dear life. That was the shot. It perfectly captures the momentum of kin50states: the fearless drive paired with the jaw-clenching terror of wondering if my ankle would hold up for two 5ks, two days in a row. I let go of the plane, waved goodbye to Rebecca and started running.

The trail started out winding and flat but about half a mile in it climbed up steep, stone steps and over dusty hills. Had my ankle been stronger, I would have welcomed the diverse terrain but that day I was still tentative. I opted for a branching off flat path with an even surface. Soon that path become a narrow road leading out of the trail park into a neighborhood of colonial homes. I started to feel like myself again: there were forks in the road. I had to make choices and I was able to make those choices based on what I felt was safe and kind to my body yet in line with my goals. Soon I had to flip around and run back the way I came to get in more mileage. That was ok too. I passed Rebecca sitting on a bench still reading and panted, “a mile to go!” In that last mile I felt the sluggishness of the return to running coupled with the triumph of conquering my 29th state the day after my 28th state. I was holding on to the wing of the plane yet still flying. When I approached Rebecca on the bench for the last time I saw her standing, iPhone in hand, ready to capture my final steps.

After my run, Rebecca and I spent the next hour strolling the trail back to the car. We stopped to linger on a bridge overlooking a waterfall and those same stone steps I had cautiously avoided on the run. It was a beautiful urban park—one that I never would have found had I not needed to run in South Carolina. It’s just what I love about 5kin50states: the opportunity to connect with a friend and visit a little–known spot of the US. I smiled looking down at the families playing on the rocks beside the waterfall. We were all there together enjoying the park, but to me the moment was so much bigger.

On our way back to car we stopped in the arts center to use what I was sure to be a “really nice bathroom” (I was right). Walking out we passed a counter with a pile of nameplates. I fanned them out and uncovered, amidst names I’d never heard of, Diana Ross. The Supreme. The soloist. The diva. There she was, just tucked beneath the no-names, ready to shine. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no Diana Ross. I don’t run far or fast, but I do keep at it. I am tenacious. My running career has spanned three decades and I hope it spans three more. At the keystone of 5kin50states, just over halfway through, I had a grin on my face and my hands in the air. Ain’t no mountain high enough.

 

Georgia

November 23, 2015

Georgia was my top priority in a vacation that, throughout the planning stages, evolved from a running trip to a friends trip. When I booked the vacation months ago I had hoped to run in five states: North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee and Kentucky. Kentucky was always a stretch since I would be staying in Asheville, North Carolina, and, if I wanted to pair a Kentucky run with the bourbon trail I would have some trouble doing it all in one day. So, after I sprained my ankle, Kentucky was the first to go. As weeks went by between the date of the sprain and departure date and I still hadn’t run I picked another state to rule out. The next to go was Tennessee. The Tennessee-North Carolina state line is actually closer to Asheville than the Georgia and South Carolina borders but I could also easily do Tennessee on a future Kentucky bourbon trail trip. Tennessee was out. That left the Carolinas and Georgia. A week before the trip, still not having run, I picked Georgia as my number one to run in. I had already done its neighboring states of Alabama and Florida. Since my friend Rebecca lives in Ashville, North Carolina, I could always come back for the Carolinas. When I got on the plane for a week in Asheville I resolved that I would be happy if I only got Georgia—though I secretly hoped for the Carolinas too. The questions and hopes echoed my most-detested phrase of my mother’s, “you’ll just have to wait and see.”

At 9:30 p.m on Sunday, November 22nd, I arrived at Rebecca’s cozy mountain retreat a stiff, trembling bag of bones from driving two-plus hours in the pitch black, winding mountain roads in a rental car that was a cross between a go-cart and a roller skate. Its shape was almost a perfect cube. The little white marshmallow was easily swayed by the wind as I drove through the night trying to soothe my nerves with familiar 80s pop. I breathed deeply as the REO Speedwagon ballads carried me up and down hill after hill, all the while knowing I would have to drive it to Georgia the next day.

A good night’s sleep, sunlight and support from a friend can do wonders to relieve stress. The next morning Rebecca and I hopped in the go-cart/roller skate/marshmallow equipped with chocolate peanut butter pumpkin muffins and the determination to run in Georgia. In truth, I was a little bit relieved to be driving because it meant I would be worried about driving as opposed to running. In just over an hour, the roller skate rolled into the Chattahoochee National Forest in Georgia. “Cross the state line” runs can be tricky. In theory you just have to get over that line and you’re there. But, what’s on the other side of state lines is often nothing, as in Delaware. Rebecca and I drove though Dillard, Georgia, a border town of farm stands and antique strip malls. We could have pulled over but we weren’t sure where the best 5k route was. Just as the businesses grew fewer between, we came upon a gated estate of rolling green hills. I thought it was a residential development which we could safely run in: get in and get out before the Georgians knew what we were up to. Rolling down the driveway we realized it was a the Rabun Gap Nacoochee School whose expansive grounds included tennis courts, a pond, trails and track. It was 5k heaven. We knew we had hit the jackpot. We parked the roller skate in the empty parking lot, bit a hunk of muffin and stepped out into the cold, sunny air.

As we walked down a small dusty gravel hill Rebecca asked, “Are you ready?”

“Not yet. This is an uneven surface.”

I needed optimal running conditions. I was safe inside school property, next to a friend of 25 years who happened to be an MD and an elite athlete, the sun was shining and chocolate peanut butter pumpkin muffins awaited us in the car. If I was ever going to resume running, this was the time. Once on a flat gravel path, we began to run.

We talked the whole way, about what I can’t remember. The entire time I was focused on my left ankle and how my body felt after a three-week break from running. It felt heavy. I could talk but every movement was more laborious than in my former days as a runner. I felt like I had gained 20 pounds, which after the weeks of replacing running with recumbent biking while watching “Waiting to Exhale,” wasn’t a complete overstatement. Still, my ankle didn’t hurt. We looped around a pond, further into school grounds passing a farm with black cows grazing on a hillside. “Bucolic,” we said and joked how it was such an ugly word for a beautiful thing. “Bucholera,” I joked. And on and on went our jumbled, goofy exchange as we closed in on the final .1.

I made Rebecca pause the stopwatch to take a picture of the bucolic scenery just before we took our last steps of the run. The sun had never shone brighter. We hugged. I was so very happy to have completed that run, not because it was hard but because it meant I was back in the game. It meant that while it may take time to return to the pace and distances I crave, at least I was in in it.

I don’t recall much of our conversation during the run. I just keep coming back to the word “bucolic.” I think about the absolute beauty of that day, the green hills against the blue sky— the absolute beauty of any pastoral scene defined bucolic. An ugly word for a beautiful thing. I had thought taking time off from running would be the worst that could happen, and there were several emotional and physical low points which proved me right. But it was also an ugly label for an experience that turned out to be beautiful. Without rest you can’t have recovery. Without an unknown destination in Georgia we wouldn’t have stumbled into the picturesque Rabun Gap Nacoochee School. Without the space to fulfill a goal, the goal cannot be fulfilled. I thank Rebecca and Georgia for helping create that beautiful thing, a 5k in my 28th state.

Maryland

November 16, 2014

Maryland was a simpler time. Maryland was the last state I ran in during the 2014 Mid-Atlantic trip and the last state before I sprained my ankle. It was the last state before I had to adopt a consciousness about running. In Maryland I walked out the door and ran with friends–no worries about reinjury or being too slow. It was a simple finale to a week of big time travels, friends, ambitions and distances. We ran along the shores of Annapolis past the coastal homes as the wind fought our bodies. I remember my friend Rebecca firmly and kindly stating that we “wait for each other” when I paused to correct my Garmin watch. Beyond that, the run itself was not impactful.

What is impactful is that running may never be that easy again. Since I couldn’t run for almost a month I took up swimming and recumbent biking and surprised myself because I came to actually enjoy both. As much of a pain it is to drive, suit up, and pre-shower to swim, there is something simple and soothing about following that blue line to the end of the pool. No music. No stoplights. No possibility of pain. I couldn’t hurt myself swimming, which will never be true of running again. I like how hungry I feel after a swim. I like how no parts of my body are sore. I like showering and still smelling a little bit like Chorine the next day.

Riding a stationary bike is even easier than swimming and, in my case, requires even less prep than running. I can walk three doors down the hallway of my apartment building to a fitness room where I am met with a choice of two stationary bikes, two elliptical machines, two treadmills, three weight machines, free weights and an assortment of celebrity magazines. I’ve mostly stuck to the recumbent bike and US Weekly, the two simplest options. While the calories burn is far less than running, I can’t get over the fact that I can still burn calories while sitting down reading about the Kardashians. It feels like cheating. But it’s not cheating. It’s still movement, work and effort, just a different type.

Running may never be what it was and that’s ok. There are so many ways to stay in shape and feel whole without risking pain. There is beauty in this change and transition. Let go of what was to let in what will be.

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Delaware

November 15, 2014

Delaware is a nail-biter. An epic tale. A hero’s journey. Actually, it’s just a time I made a poor choice and almost got lost. Still, a story nonetheless.

Picture it, Annapolis, Maryland, the second to last day of a week’s vacation. Four states in the books, two to go. The next day’s Maryland run would be easy: I could walk out the front door with two friends and do a simple jog. Today was not so simple. I awoke beneath my cozy covers in my cozy private room with the less than cozy thought that if I was ever going to run in Delaware, today was the day. I peeked outside. I must have been 30 degrees, if that. My friends were still asleep in their respective rooms. I really didn’t want to get in my rental car, drive and navigate for an hour to anywhere in the state of Delaware and run 3.1 miles. Yet when else would I have this opportunity? Delaware is a hangnail of state that I couldn’t foresee ever travelling to again. I had been running for days. What was one more? I got out of bed. Put on two pairs of running pants, a turtleneck, borrowed sunglasses and a borrowed knit cap with skulls and crossbones. Grabbing a piece of cold pizza, I walked out the door.

It would be at least an hour to cross the border, starting with the four-mile Chesapeake Bay Bridge. Winds tried to toss my little car around but my gloves gripped the steering with resolve—I was doing it now. There was no going back until I ran in Delaware. But, finding my way to Delaware–or a rather a place to run in Delaware—could not be done with sheer willpower. I’d rolled onto a smaller highway and kept checking my phone’s Google Maps to indicate I was in Delaware. Finally, that blue dot had nudged over to the right. Now I just had to find a place to pull over and run.

After my experience in Pennsylvania running on the side of a busy road, I really couldn’t run just anywhere. It didn’t have to be picturesque but it did have to be safe. So I kept driving until I pulled off on a road that wasn’t too busy and wasn’t (I hoped) a private drive. After parking and taking the requisite photo I started to run alongside a field. “Look at how far I’ve come” I thought. The idea of getting up early on cold fall morning and leaving your friends at the house to drive across a bridge to run anywhere in the state of Delaware sounded crazy. But to me, in that moment, it made perfect sense. By plopping myself in the middle of nowhere to run I was doing something. Then I noticed a “Private Property” sign. Whether I was within the private property or not, I could not be sure. And really, there was nowhere else to go so I pressed on. The run was going ok. Running back and forth across the same road, passing your rental car and a “Private Property” sign is a less than desirable way to spend 3.1 miles. Still, the music was good. I was groovin’ on a good mix and looking forward to the next song, Cut Copy’s “Need You Now.” That’s when I saw that my phone was in the red battery zone. It must have been the hour-plus of navigating to Delaware! I had a choice : use the phone to listen to a 6 minute Cut Copy song or to map my way back to Annapolis from a farm in Delaware. I chose Cut Copy.

I kept running. I looked at my mileage watch. I looked at my phone. As the mileage decimals went up (good), the phone charge went down (bad). I was in the middle of nowhere in Delaware. “I know I’m running, baby, but I need you now” was my and the lyric’s desperate plea for battery charge, looping within a frantic 6 minute and 9 seconds. The song miraculously kept on until the final .1 mile. I stopped in front of my car just as the phone screen went black. It had happened. I was standing in an empty road, on an empty farm with a dead phone and a piece of cold pizza. I climbed in the car and looked at the pizza in the passenger seat. Like the “Wilson” volleyball in Cast Away, it seemed to glare back at me judgmentally. I gnawed off a bite in retaliation. I could do this. How did people find their way before iPhones? Maps. I didn’t have a map. What about before maps? They retraced their steps. They tried to remember the way they had come.

I thought of the Regina Spektor lyrics: “I’m the hero of this story, don’t need to be saved.” I was the hero of this story. This was my story and if I wanted to get saved I was going to have to just figure it out. I drove back out of the farm the way I came. Good. Done. I turned left. Yes–I had turned right before. And so on until I found myself on that same windy, 4 mile bridge home. Rolling back into the driveway it was almost as if I could harbor the secret. I never had to tell anyone that I had chosen music over safety and navigation. I didn’t have to share that I probably should have picked a more public place to run as opposed to private farmland. All of these daring choices could stay between me and Delaware.

But what fun would that be? I love the story too much.

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West Virginia

November 13, 2014

Halfway into my Mid-Atlantic running trip having already completed three runs, I was in it. I was in a flow state of being in the passenger seat, hopping out for a run, and doing it all over again the next day. The plan for West Virginia would be a little different though. I would go it alone, which I find peaceful. But I would also have to drive alone from Bethesda, which I find stressful. Still, I readied myself with warm clothes, a granola bar and the destination of Harpers Ferry. It would be an adventure. So when I couldn’t find my rental car in my friend’s parking garage I was both panicked and energized.

“Where is this car? Am I crazy? Wait. Look at that parking permit sign.”

We did. It seemed to indicate that my rental car had been towed.

“They must have towed it. Oh my gosh,” She said.

After a frustrating call to the towing company my friend and I made a quick decision. I really wanted to go to West Virginia. She could take me to the towing company but by that time half the day would be lost. Or, we could hop in her car to West Virginia and pick up the rental afterwards. Plan B prevailed. “We’re goin’ to West Virginia!” I exclaimed and in a few minutes, we were.

The sunlit, bright sky of Pennsylvania Amish country had turned to a gray horizon speckled with barren tress as we headed west. Not the kind of day I’d typically be energized for a run, but a crackle of excitement was in the air just the same: I was going to West Virginia, for the first time, with one of my best friends. I’d chosen Harper’s Ferry because not only was it closest spot in West Virginia from Bethesda, but because it is also a part of history. There’s the American history of the Civil War but also my own history. My dad had hiked this portion—and beyond—of the Appalachian Trail. Tucked between my imagined stories of the Civil War and my dad’s experience on the AT was the real experience of hundreds of others who had also hiked the AT. Since this run would be the 25th  state, marking the halfway point, I hoped, in my own way, to be a part of that story.

Harpers Ferry reminded me other towns I’d visited. It had the forgotten silence of a Galena, Illinois coupled with the tucked away charm of an Asheville, North Carolina. Leaves blew across empty sidewalks as we gripped iron rails to climb a steep, stone-stepped hill to Jefferson Rock. We looked out at a white church steeple, the meeting of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers in the background. Thomas Jefferson had stood here in the late 1700s, his memory confirming in the grandest way that history was in fact everywhere. In a candy shop—more like a museum, really– my friend and I were the only visitors for 30 minutes as the owner shared the history of American candy. When you dive into a subject, such candy or say… running, it is never really about just that subject but stories that cross pollinate into neighboring worlds. The owner had worked in DC government years prior but candy was her area of expertise now.

“It’s all history,” she said.

“It’s all people and politics.”

We nodded, bought horehounds and sound balls and made our way into the cold. At John Brown’s Fort, the only Civil War armory building to evade destruction, my friend snapped a photo. I look cold, but happy. My friend waved me off. She would get a cocoa, she said. So I sprinted across the railroad bridge and began. This was it. I was running on the Appalachian Trail, a million tiny stories layered upon each other. There weren’t too many people out that cool, gray day but I did encounter a family of three. The parents had big backpacks which I took as sign that they were AT hikers. Our stories had met. Then, in the most non-Seattle gesture, catching me off-guard, they said “hi.”  “Hi,” I replied in a puff of air, affirming our meeting.

After 3 miles I jogged back to the car. We got inside, warmed up and I looked around at the historic landmark signs. I thought about that powerful Potomac.  Then I thought about how I had crossed the bridge to run on the AT. And if I had run on the other side of the river which served as the state border I had most likely not done what I had set out to do. I had run in Maryland, not West Virginia.

I won’t tell if you won’t.

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