“Perhaps the genius of ultrarunning is its supreme lack of utility. It makes no sense in a world of space ships and supercomputers to run vast distances on foot. There is no money in it and no fame, frequently not even the approval of peers. But as poets, apostles and philosophers have insisted from the dawn of time, there is more to life than logic and common sense. The ultra runners know this instinctively. And they know something else that is lost on the sedentary. They understand, perhaps better than anyone, that the doors to the spirit will swing open with physical effort. In running such long and taxing distances they answer a call from the deepest realms of their being — a call that asks who they are …”
– David Blaikie

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Running Down Memory Lane...

I am lucky enough to live close enough - yet far enough - from where I spent most of my life growing up.  I had been thinking about driving there to run the old stomping grounds - I even have had dreams about it.  Today, I made it happen.

When I think of where I grew up, I mainly think of the early '90s, even though I graduated in 1998.  My best memories come from swimming in the backyard pool all day, playing Capture the Flag on summer nights, and spending time in my room journaling and listening to one of too many single cassette tapes from Sam Goody.  Well, there you go - I just aged myself for sure now!

There has never been any major emotional attachment to this place other than the fact that I grew up there.  But, today during my run, things were a bit different.  

I drove to the main drag across from a 711 store that was a main "hangout" during my high school days.  I parked at the local Starbucks (which apparently is a newer addition to the small town which is completely built-out and covered in shops, medical offices, and restaurants now).  It's a beautiful day here in North Texas, 80 degrees or so - the sun shining and a slight breeze.  I decided to run the path I would run when I was younger - my "long run". 

I started out slow and easy, running toward the good ol' Speedy K market and Donut Shop shopping strip to which I used to ride my bike. The extent of my mischief growing up was always contemplated on my way to these two places.  I would buy those little gun powder-filled snap-its from the convenient store along with a Dr. Pepper, then head over to the Donut Shop and buy a half dozen jelly-filled donuts and one chocolate glazed.  I would eat the glazed donut and chug the Dr. Pepper before heading back to my neighborhood.  What did I do with the jelly-filled donuts, you ask?  Well, I was a very easily amused - and very creative - little kid and thought the most comical thing on the planet was to watch a donut get smashed in the road.  I have no memory of where this idea came from, but it was brilliant at the time.  My friends and I (or even by my lonesome) would strategically place a jelly-filled donut in the middle of the road and immediately run and hide behind a bush or a mailbox.  We would cheer when the donut was smashed and laugh hysterically when it was barely missed.  This could go on for hours - I had a half dozen of them (and ewww...no one likes to actually eat jelly-filled donuts). The most epic smashing was when a fire truck completely flattened it - unbeknownst to the firefighters as they just waved at us!

I continued to run, realizing that this long run really was not going to be all that long.  I ran past some of the usual spots where the donut smashing occurred and had a few great chuckles, mainly because I have taken my own kids out to do this - and it is still just as funny.  I passed a local pond called "The Duck Pond", cleverly named because, well, there are lots of ducks there.  I passed the alleyway where I had my first "almost" kiss in 8th grade.  I passed friends' old houses and schools I had attended.  

I reached my old street and felt a heaviness in my heart.  The corner house belonged to a dear friend who had passed away in a car fire.  He was one of my best friends and I still have dreams that he is in his pickup truck telling me that he is okay.  I shifted my thoughts to all the fun we had, rollerblading in middle school, then driving all around town talking about life.  
I was in my old neighborhood and it looked so much smaller than I remember.  Perhaps it is because the trees are so much larger and fuller.  The photo to the left is of my old house - and, what we called at the time, the "Butterfly Tree"...  As I remember, it was a baby tree when we moved there in 1989 and it was sick - there was sap all over it which attracted hoards of butterflies.  I remember thinking that it was pretty special. I stopped running and snapped the pic of that tree which now covers the house!  

As I left my old neighborhood and ventured around town, I felt a flood of emotion come over me.  Perhaps it was nostalgia giving me a pat on the back and a handshake for returning; perhaps it was the fact that we remember things as we experienced them. I spent fourth through twelfth grade there - and those were years in which things seemed emphatic to my young mind, to say the least.  I was pretty good at numbing myself out when emotions would arise - I would use running to numb it.   So, today, feeling so many emotions surface all at once while running was so profound for me.  I needed to go and run there - and experience those feelings.  I needed to reminisce and remember.  I needed those parts of my mind to remind me.  There were a lot of hurtful memories that surfaced that I had not thought of in years.  I stood on a corner that was filled with memories and my mind swiftly reenacted several moments that I wish I could get back and speak up for myself or make a different decision.  But I can't.  

I kept running, remembering, experiencing, and feeling the feelings that I was supposed feel in the past.  There are chunks of my life that I remember so vividly it is as if it just happened.  There are other times that I cannot remember a thing - and it is frustrating.  Coming back to a place where so many memories were created was helpful for me - and also maddening (what was the name of so and so who lived on this streetWhat was I into at that time of my life?  Why can't I remember?!).

I returned to my starting point and looked at the clock.  That long run was not long at all - just like the neighborhoods were not as large as I had remembered them. However, the distance between memories in my mind covered many more miles, for sure.  Distance truly lends perspective...

I am so glad that I decided to go for a run in my old hometown today.  Today, I remembered things that I had forgotten (either purposely so, or involuntarily).  The things I tried to forget surfaced as quickly as the memories that I still laugh about or cherish today - and I felt all the feelings.

My runs these days are not to numb the feelings, but to evoke them.  Cheers to almost twenty years since my high school graduation - and cheers to the memories I can hang onto!

Today's Run:
Distance: 5 miles
Anxiety Level: 1
Biofeedback: Stiff a bit from lifting legs yesterday - running it out will feel good!
Pre-Run Thoughts:I wonder how many square miles this whole town is now?
Intra-Run Thoughts: So. Many. Feelings.  
Post-Run Thoughts: What a profound moment during my run!

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