Wednesday, January 26, 2011

What would Thoreau think?

I'll admit it, I'm lazy when it comes to new running routes.  Once in a while, I'll drive somewhere and run, or run after work (I work Downtown) which means I can observe the egress to the suburbs and run over several bridges.  But mostly, I run around my house.  We live on the corner of a busy road, and a less busy, more residential road.  I usually run on this more residential road, which has lots of trees, subdivisions and apartment complexes.  There are a few traffic lights, which are good landmarks, along with subdivision entrances.  On tough days, it might be "I'll slow down at the light" or "ok, I'm walking when I hit the entrance to Cape House."  I usually follow this residential road until it hits a major thoroughfare, which is when I cross the street and go into the prettier part of the run, a giant loop with a golf course and large man-made lake in the middle of it.  This part is more idyllic.  Since this is Florida, most of the trees don't lose their leaves and the grass stays relatively green.  It's usually quieter back here, all homes and neighborhoods tucked into streets named with a theme.  This is where you see the most people though, walking, jogging, taking the pooch for an evening or morning stroll.  Everyone smiles and waves, runners nod to each other or give a quick wave, people pull their dogs off the sidewalk so you can pass in peace.  One loop, from where I start my run to one of the major roads, is almost six miles.  So, this has become where I do a lot of my long runs, in laps.

Since I run laps (my longest has been 20 miles = 4 laps) I see the same areas over and over again.  I think I know every dip in the sidewalk, every uneven spot on the pavement (also, where I almost ate it on my 20 mile run because I wasn't paying attention), every busy turn lane and every shady place.  This was where I ran before I started marathon training, so I've definitely gotten to know it more intimately.  I have now experienced it early in the morning and late in the evenings.  I watched our brief pseudo-Fall (hey look, that one tree has autumn-like December) and then the brown grass and dropping plants after a couple of hard freezes.  I've admired countless dogs and gotten annoyed at innumerable drivers and various motor vehicles.   It's even one of those areas where they didn't cut down all the trees for the subdivisions - there are old oaks and pine trees everywhere, which occasionally makes me wonder what Emerson or Yeats or one of those other 19th century naturalists would have thought had they been runners or triathletes, spending some much time interacting with the outdoors in an athletic fashion.  It also makes me feel lucky that I have a lovely place to run within walking distance of where I live, especially since I live in a city where almost nothing is walkable!

Anyway, I just thought I would take a minute to wax poetic about my corner of the world where I run.  At the same time that it starts to wear on me, I also have an ever-growing affection for my route!

Some quotes by some of those 19th century naturalists...

"Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience."
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms."
— Henry David Thoreau (Walden: Or, Life in the Woods)


  1. We're creatures of habit. I'm the same way about my routes. I've got an amazingly lovely route that starts right out my front door, and another awesome one right by my office. I do sometimes desire to seek out something new, but the familiarity and the intimate knowledge of these routes is what keeps me coming back again and again.

    And I totally agree with you about experiencing nature in a different way while on runs. Sometimes I get distracted and don't pay attention, but my joyful runs are the ones where I listen and smell and soak in everything around me.

  2. I'm the same way with routes, but lately I have been forcing myself to get off the "safe" path and run on the wild side (i.e. up that hill). Need to get out of my flat runs and step things up a notch.

    I like the quotes, by the way

  3. If it ain't broke, don't fix it! So jealous of your weather, I MISS Florida so much! Enjoy that sunshiny goodness for me will ya!?!?

  4. I love it when I hear that Floridians (am I even right with that word) use bridges for their hill work, its not your fault its flat, Though I prefer flat and live in the hills

  5. I love that quote! I watched Dead Poets Society again recently and they read it before their meetings.