As I rounded the bend I could see rays lighting up the brightly colored leaves all over both sides of the dirt road. It turned to the right around a red barn before climbing to a steep uphill. All was quiet except the sound of my breath and a pair of Acics beating in time on the gravel. It was beautiful, almost memorizing, like a dream in the cool morning air. I ran and ran until I had to turn around, work was calling me back. Believe me, if it wouldn't have, I might have run all day. If I could pick a heaven, I'm pretty certain this might be it. It really is my first love you see. It's the thing that calls me back time and time again. At daybreak, or even the end of the day, it's just me and road. It's where I find myself again, forget the world and come back to clearer thoughts and a remembrance of what first made me fall in love every time.
Now that I've been away from it for awhile, it makes it that much sweeter to come back. Love is like that I guess. During the season it was a balance of heart rates, times, paces, speedwork and sometimes running until my eyes felt like they might just pop right out of my head. It meant always watching, measuring, sometimes forgetting to just enjoy. Now it's a different story, stripped down to just the basics. When possible, no watch, definitely no monitor, and just the road leading me to new places to explore.
This area is new to me. I don't know it, and it's wonderful. I pick a right turn this time, a left the next, not knowing where each will lead. I imagined what it would look like today covered in snow, knowing I would see it that way many times come winter. You know what I did not see - a car. Yep, not one. It was amazing. I'm a big fan of not having to think about cars. They are needed, but on the run I would just as soon not run into them, ever.
The love started early, from my Mother, who ran 5k's and 10k's and made it seem effortless and exciting. It continued through high school, where I ran with the boys and gave it everything but always seemed to fall short. It didn't matter though, I knew it would be a life-long love affair regardless of not achieving the goals I had planned. Then in college, I ran on my own my freshman year, but something was always missing. Being part of a team in high school was one of my favorite parts of my life at that time. It kept me grounded. I needed guidance and my coach was always there acting as a father like figure and teaching me the ways of the world. Trying out for the team at Penn State was probably one of the most terrifying things I have ever done, and yet, it produced the most rewarding years of my college career. I made friends for a lifetime and traveled all over the country learning how to think like a competitor. What a gift. After college a bad-breakup inspired me to run my first marathon. After Columbus, and then Boston, my love of long distance running took on new meaning. Then it became what next...what to do, what to learn? I needed a new avenue, something else to keep it interesting and fun.
Enter the Butler YMCA triathlon of 2005. I talked myself out of the race ten times on the way up, and without really knowing how to swim, still decided it would be worth it to try. The rest is history.
There will always be running though. Probably long after I've hung up my pool buoy and cycling shoes, running will always be there for me. The pull of a morning like this one is burned into my mind and heart and with each new route and different type of run I discover new things about myself and what I can do. It makes me wonder how people can say they hate it so much when I have so much passion and such an urge to put on those shoes every single day.
So, here's to first loves, and long runs to bring a huge smile to my face all day. May each of you find your dirt road or winding trail or whatever gives you that feeling that you so lucky to be alive and kickin.