As it is with many things, running over the years has its peaks and valleys. The literal ones spring to mind, e.g., the Harpeth Hills Flying Monkey Marathon with its 7200 feet of total elevation change in Nashville, Tennessee. Having just completed that one November 22nd, there’s a lot more to written but for now I’ll just say check it out if you want to get back in touch with running for joy.
Today I am grateful to have completed the 37th annual River Run yesterday here in Fort Myers. A 10K, it had ups and downs; this is no serene jog along the Caloosahatchee River. No, it’s the ‘river run’ because you run over the river on two bridges. Long, steep bridges.
[A friend, Sean Pham, on the left, dueling it out with me in the final mile.]
When I moved here in June, 2012, I was down to running 3 miles a day. I’d been in Teach For America and that’s all the time I could carve out. I’d run over 100 marathons before TFA so the cutback was a major concession. Still, you don’t start upping your mileage during your first SW Florida summer. By late fall, I started to think about racing again and this was the race I signed up to run. I remember having to work to extend my mileage. It was a challenge; more than I thought it would be.
At the start, I nervously slotted myself mid pack. I didn’t know anyone–shoot, I didn’t even know the course. It was a good way to see parts of downtown I’d yet to visit. My time was mediocre, well over 50 minutes, as I recall. Didn’t matter; I was racing again. The following year, I ran it again, but with friends and running chums. Last year, I was laid up with an ankle injury and was just off crutches on race day. I couldn’t even walk 6 miles.
This year, I reflected on my appreciation of just being able to run. Rarely do we know which run will be our last. Getting caught up in training schedules and improving our times, we take for granted the gift of just putting on sneakers, going out the door and running. This race, the River Run, is my touchstone. It grounds me. Gets me back to basic values.
Equally important this year, I looked around at the start as I chatted with and acknowledged the many wonderful people I’ve come to know through running. This is my community now. In a few years, I have not only run many miles with these folks, but I have gotten to know them and care about them.
After the race, I met some more. As we shared our running stories, I realized that one of the many reasons I love running is for the sense of home it gives me. We who share having runners’ hearts are connected in some crazy way. And the great thing is the roads (and bridges) are wide open. So there’s always room for more.