I recently ran with my friend Stephanie Gray on her urban route. She claimed it was a boring route, and I guess I could understand that --boring becoming the adjective of the run as you wear down your path in the same concrete and asphalt day after day -- but for me the route was new and fresh and alive! And yet, the route held parts old and familiar and dear, as a portion of it dipped through my old neighborhood run in Westmoreland. Nostalgia abounded! I wondered what it would be like to run in my current neighborhood in years to come if I happened to move away.
Stephanie narrated a bit of the path talking us through challenging hills and down uneven sidewalks. She commented on the cats she often sees, the changing leaves, her gratitude for the strategic location of a playground water faucet. I also rambled, as I do. I told her of my recent baking excursions, my afternoon coffee, the not-so-horrible mammogram of last week. We talked through intersections, laughed around city blocks, commented on real estate and house paint colors. All the while, I thought to myself that this run was anything but boring.
I recalled a moment at the start of the Portland Marathon when the announcer encouraged those of us in the line up to make a friend if we were all alone. He said that the camaraderie would help us to get to the finish line. As this memory came back to me, Stephanie and I had just started to climb a hill at 19th. She is a great hill climber, and I commented on just that as she took the lead. I thought back to our experience with the first half marathon we both completed in Eugene in 2011, how she ran "the hill" and how I followed being pulled along by her energy, grateful to have her lead.
Then it occurred to me that the reason why such runs are not boring to me is because I really enjoy the friendship that running has brought us, Stephanie and I. We have never gone out to a movie or had coffee. We talk about it sometimes, but we are just both so busy. We have had our kids together for playdates and birthday parties, but mostly, we have a relationship that is based on miles and miles of running and talking while running or laughing while running or sharing ideas, thoughts, passions, all while running. This has actually helped to keep me running! It has made the route seem less boring or even not boring at all. Yes, often urban runs are boring when they are solo, but when I have a friend along, they can be a wonderful adventure that extends beyond just one 4 mile run.
Thanks Stephanie for sharing your urban route with me...and for sharing all of the other stuff, too. I am so glad we are friends. Your camaraderie has gotten me to the finish line more times than I can now count. You are a special kind of person to keep me inspired and moving, even if the route is boring (which, as you know I often think about our scenic river path). I hope to return the favor many times over.
Bird's eye view of the half marathon finishers after Eugene 2011