Friday, January 2, 2009

Running with Purpose

Someone I love dearly is having a rough time. Last night, I decided to get to bed early and run a long distance this morning in his honor, hoping to channel positive energy his way and at the very least vent some of my negative energy.

The 11.2 Warner Park loop is the perfect route for this kind of run. iPodless and armed only with a water bottle and one energy gel, I headed up the hilly route, which has impressive hills at Miles One, Three, Seven and especially Nine. All was quiet at the start. The asphalt road was coated lightly after a brief early morning shower on this cloudy day. It was 42 degrees with a light wind, perfect for a long run.

The first mile and half, I noted few birds and wildlife, wondering where they might be. As I neared the next access point in the park, which is essentially a horseshoe cathedral of trees under three connecting hills, a choir of birds greeted me. I imagined their chorus as a more subdued version of the welcome Olympic fans give the first marathoner entering the stadium. Robins, cardinal, sparrows and other species cheered me onward, but I needed to stop. While nature was calling, nature called. I had to take advantage of one of the two port-a-potties in the park. TMI Alert: Unfortunately, others before me had done the same, leaving no toilet paper. Fortunately, through sanitary improvisation, this resourceful runner did what he needed to do, and returned to the road to scale Three Mile Hill successfully. Near the top, someone had discarded their McDonald's bag and their contents along the road. How could they? (And I could have used those napkins 10 minutes ago.)

At Mile Four, I reflected on the last day I shared with Otis, our black labrador retriever who I had to put to sleep more than two years ago. I spent my last day with him at this spot, allowing him to walk the 100 yards he could muster before I had to lift him back in the car and take him to the vet. I loved that dog. I whispered his name as I saw another outdoorsman walking his two dogs near the same spot.

At Mile Five, the park opens up to the vast expanse of the Iroquois Steeplechase, the picturesque three-mile grass racetrack that is an entertainment venue for 40,000 Middle Tennesseans every second Saturday in May. Framed behind a line of hills in nearby Williamson County, I thanked my God for this view. How lucky I am to live here and experience this.

I scaled a small hill at Mile Six and rounded a bend, where I came upon a lone turkey scouting for troublemakers like me. He darted up a steep hill, joining 25 other magnificent birds who sprinted briefly before looking down on their unexpected visitor. What a sight ... Good morning, everyone!

Runners are greeted at Mile Seven by a very abrupt hill at the end of the Harpeth Hills Golf Course, which meanders along the run for about a half mile. After scaling, I realized I would need my energy gel soon. My leg muscles began to feel sore, my back began to ache slightly, and all I could think was how good I felt.

Just before Mile Nine, four children were playing on a set of park swings, while their parents and one grandparent talked and watched their beautiful golden retriever frolic in a nearby stream. Upon spotting me, the dog expectedly sprinted to say hello. "You're more than welcome to join me, good buddy," I said, which drew a laugh from his nice owners.

The hill at Mile Nine is a long incline that starts punishing runners slowly, then more so as its angle increases. It is long, much like the San Francisco hills that wasted me and others in October. My success rate in topping this hill used to be poor, but has improved, not surprisingly, along with more running toughness. "No way in hell are you stopping today, big boy," I muttered as I thought of my friend. I compartmentalized my pain during my gradual ascent, also thinking of people on 11 North at Vanderbilt and our friends who are battling disease. A squirrel darted off a log three feet in front of me, startling me before I numbingly gathered myself. The climb continued. At this point, running wasn't the right word; trudging was.

Atop the hill with only two more brief bumps to scale, I knew I was home free. I brought my happy body to the park entrance, stretched and plopped in the car.

At home, Dori, knowing I would probably attempt the 11.2, asked, "Well, did you do it?" "Oh, yes," I said. "It was awesome." Dori said she had run the treadmill while I was gone, which reminded me how good I feel about where she is.

Check out some Warner Park scenery of the 11.2 under "Park Photos".

1 comment:

ChuckEastNashville said...

Congratulations on your Warner 11.2 finish. What a great route that is. In high school and college we ran meets at three Warner Park locations. Every time I am recall great memories from those races.

I sent to your email inbox a description, courtesy Harpeth Hills Flying Monkey Marathon, of the 11.2 mile route. Article is too long for a blog response window. Enjoy.