I went home this past weekend for my ten year high school reunion–which could be a post by itself! ja!–and every time I go home I make sure to squeeze in a run.
Running in my home town, Douglas, Az, is different than most of my runs. I rarely listen to music, instead soaking in the noise from the people bustling about. It’s a small town, so there is not a lot of traffic. As I run through the streets, I’m greeted by everyone I pass–most of whom I know personally or recognize. It’s difficult to keep running and not stop and chat. As I run, I see buildings I frequented and it’s tempting to stop and go in and see what’s changed–usually not much. As I run, I’m not only running through the streets but running through a thousand memories. I don’t think about my legs, my breathing, my pace, or even my final destination. I’m in a sort of auto pilot of thoughts.
Sometimes I venture out of the town and take a route into the rolling hills of Douglas. The scenery is captivating and you feel like you’re lost in the desert running but not knowing where and not caring.
Douglas is on the border of Arizona and Mexico and you can actually run along the fence that divides the two countries. Sometimes when I’m there, I see children peeking through the fence. I wave but they just stare…
(photo from virtualtour.com)
You may or may not understand this, but, there’s even a scent to my town. A scent so distinctive that when I pull into town and roll down the windows, I can breathe in deeply and know instantly that I’m home.
I ran into a high school buddy a few weekends ago; we used to run cross country together. I asked her if she still ran and she told me that she didn’t run as much as she used to. She said it was the friendships in the team that motivated her the most and without that she didn’t feel compelled to continue running as much. She said she didn’t have a lot of running friends anymore.
I totally understood what she meant. There is something special about friends who run. They understand you better than your regular, non-running friends. No one can really get the dedication it takes than someone who experiences it as well. Try complaining to your non-running friend that your toes will never be the same. A running pal would commiserate (with immense pride) that their toes also require socks and shoes at all times. The non-runner would simply say to stop running. Stop running?
Try telling your non-running friend that you’re tired from having run 6 miles at 5 in the morning. They’d tell you to hit the snooze button. Your running friend will agree that their 5 miler at the crack of dawn was tough too.
Try telling your non-running friend about that race that brought you to tears when you crossed the finish line. That race you had trained months for, had many a sleepless night thinking about the course, dreamt about. They’ll smile and look at you in awe but they don’t truly know. Your running friend does.
I have quite a few friends who love running as much as I do. Some I’ve been friends with for many years and some that are new and new to running. This year I’ve “met” quite a few people online who are passionate about running. Even though I’ve never ran with them, their stories are still the same. They get it. They understand. I can tell them that at a recent race I shaved off 13 seconds of my previous PR and they’ll be as excited about it as I am. I can tell them that at mile 8 of my half marathon I was hitting a wall and they’ll understand the struggle it is to get over that wall. If I injure an ankle and have to take a break from running, they know how miserable I am and not from the pain.
The running community is large but what unites us is this understanding. I’m sure that when you’ve ran outside and come across another runner in your path you’ve exchanged a smile. That smile that says, “I get it.”
One of the things I feel makes running unique is that there is no “season” when you run. Other sports such as football, baseball, and even my other love, basketball, have an end. Running is different in that you can run anytime of the year, anytime of the day. Living in Arizona though, running in between the months of May and September means you’re regulated to certain hours. Unless I wake up at 4 a.m (which I’ve done pre-kids), I’m left running in 100+ degree heat.
Then October comes and I feel like my running season has officially begun. Like all the sweat (literally) and hard work has led me to these next few months. I run most of my races between the months of October and April so when I see the bright red circle on October 1st, I know that game time has finally arrived.