Running & The Charm of Small Town America

Impromptu, unplanned, random, and direction-less runs is turning out to be the best kind of running these days. Over the past two weeks I’ve had the good fortune to find myself with time, mornings, and some country roads. It’s not hard to guess what’s been going down. In fact, I feel quite stranded this morning in the city. Like, what? Am I really having to deal with all the city smog, noise, and standard mayhem that is New York City life already? I fear I’ve been irrevocably spoiled in only a matter of days.

While Long Island is not that far away from New York City, the two-hour train ride sure does serve to transport one away from the hectic pace of coperate life to the simple charm of small-town America in a click of wheels so-to-speak. In fact, so much so that 40 minutes outside the city has one already believing in fairies as highrises and the ceaseless hustle of pedestrian and vehicular traffic give way to a panorama of greenery amidst the cacophony of rural life. A study in contrast, I thought as I sat staring out the window gleefully contemplating the next few mornings. Then I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of guilt as the thought raced through my mind that there I was all too eager to disassociate myself from the city I claim to love. The truth is it’s not disassociation as much as it’s restlessness and a desire for variation. City life is a bit of a rat race and it’s all too easy to get stuck in the rut. Fortunately, I’m not good at sticking.

For the most part, I cherish morning runs. After the initial pull on the covers and attempt to burrow deeper comes the sudden start and realization that I need to get out before the sun rises. My next thought is a vision of me laboring in 90° weather dodging the sun as I wrap up a run. That’s all I need to jump out the bed and into my sneakers.

Suffolk County, New York is rural and vast and reminds me of southern countryside with a town every few miles and in every direction. I spent a few fun mornings heading out in random directions at different paces with a mind to discover, get some views, pics, and beat the sun.

I succeeded for the most part and cherished the quiet, dewy mornings, the fresh air, the squirrels, rabbits, ducks, geese, the birds, the farms, churches, shops, the Marina with the boats, various ponds, and lakes.

It was all so natrual and untouched and so much more attractive as it all just sat there being, awaiting the world as it slowly awoke.

At some points I meandered a bit, at other times I powered up to do some tempo miles. So fun with the only pressure being the heat from which there really was little escape. Wet, tired, and oh so very hot was my default post- run state and I revelled in it. Yes, I’m telling everyone, countryside runs is the life, at the very least this summer and quite possibly every summer thereafter if I have anything to say about it. My reasoning is simple, life is short, you cover a lot more ground if you get off to a running start 😉.

Memorial Weekend Running @ Vermont City Marathon

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May has turned into June and Spring into Summer bringing with it lots of sunshine and a lessening of the showers we’ve been getting of late. Before we run on though, I ought to pause for a worthy mention of a pretty 26.2 I recently experienced.

IMG_20190526_074203Two weekends ago, aka Memorial Day Weekend, a couple of friends and I drove up to Vermont to run the marathon in Burlington. The course was scenic and somewhat hilly with many unknowns including the weather. It was my first visit and I found the city and its people quite charming. While we didn’t get to poke around too much so as to save my legs for the race, we did venture into the city to absorb the local scene the evening before the race. Unfortunately, it rained cats and dogs then, which more or less ruined our outdoor dining experience at a popular local restaurant with supposedly good food. On the other hand, the Expo, which was held at the DoubleTree Hilton, made for a fine experience and really showed up the warmth and friendliness of the people of Vermont. We met some fine folks and got some tips on how to take on the course from a couple of veteran Vermont marathoners. I made sure to voice my concern as to the uncertainty of the weather, and the then current downpour, and was told my fears were unwarranted, Marathon Day was going to be great, a little wet early on but the weather would dry out and turn out a beautiful race day. One thing was certain, we were told, the race would be memorable and it was hoped we would enjoy it enough to come back next year.

As it turned out, the course was indeed pretty but it had a few hills that wrecked havoc on my back on both the ascent and the descent. Now I’ve been having back issues since soon after I started CrossFit and I’ve recently started working to adopt correct form, wearing a belt when I lift, and rolling out, and taping up. But that weekend, I was in recovery from a previous week of heavy lifting and was experiencing some pains in my lower back. I was optimistic that I would get taped up at the expo since I am terrible at taping up myself, and even walked with my tape to show the good folks at the KT Tape booth – who I hoped, more than expected, would be there. Turned out they weren’t and there went my hope of running anywhere close to a 3:30 time. I reluctantly engaged my friend to help with the tape but as expected that didn’t turn out so well, and so I adjusted my expectations and went to bed.

Race day dawned with beautiful skies, a bit of clouds here and there but nothing major, and I was pretty glad that we were scheduled to run as early as 7am. Early start translates to early finish so I was ready to run. God may have had other ideas because we were barely in Battery Park, where the start line was located, amidst the rolling out of the stars of the show – the elite guests – when amidst the blue skies, there came an announcement for all runners to exit the Park area due to inclement extreme weather condition that was expected momentarily but should only last for about 20 minutes. We all thought it was a joke, then we thought it was something else, maybe a bomb threat or some such thing, because, how could there be a storm? Well to make a long story short, it stormed alright, while many of us took shelter in a nearby church. There were others scattered about in nearby hotels and other buildings. The priest and others at the church were so gracious and welcoming it was heartening to sit and receive a blessing as he prayed for us and sang accompanied by a pianist. Out of nowhere the skies burst and lightening and thunder put on a display we were able to witness from the inside. Time passed by and 20 minutes turned into an hour and so we didn’t start until about 8:20am. By then the sky was once again blue and the sun was out. One would never have guessed a thunderstorm just happened except there were puddles everywhere and everything was wet. With little fanfare now, except for the singing of the national anthem, the race started and we were off.

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Some things I enjoyed about the course were that they kept the race in the city for the most part, which made it easy for supporters and so I was able to see my friends three different times. I also liked the bits of trails they threw in, it broke up the running on asphalt bit as well as provided shade as it got hotter and miles seemed longer. I also enjoyed that it was scenic, which allowed me to take pictures, and that we ran along Lake Champlain, it was refreshing. I loved the support from the locals who were handing out refreshments as well as providing encouragement and various forms of music like drums and flutes etc at odd points. Too, I appreciated the volunteers – so encouraging, especially the kids, who were so very cute. I thought interesting the aspect of the relay runners which made the run different and a study for me as there were quite a bit of youth runners, which was new to me as far as running with them.

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A few things I was a bit “meh” about were the hills of course, seeing spectators 2-3 times meant that there were a few loops in there – not a few of my favorite things. Then there was the puddle jumping and muddy areas of the trails brought on by the rain and the omniscient sun. All in all though, I lean in favor of the positives as we ended on a grassy, softer finish with a finish line that was right there and medals soon thereafter. Pizza and snacks wrapped up the Vermont City Marathon experience and a photo op with one of my running inspirations, Bart Yasso, was the cherry on top.

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