Saturday, December 27, 2008

Memory Lane

After two days off due to the dog bite I headed out Friday morning for a 10 mile jaunt down memory lane. The recent rains had erased the snow from the sidewalks and I decided to stick to them. Barnstable, my home town, is an old colonial village founded in the 1630s. Over 230 years ago in some of the taverns I ran by, revolutionaries plotted coups and stoked the flames of revolution while Red Coats got drunk on ale. I ran past the harbor where I once saw a giant Great White shark hoisted on a giant hook. The shark was as big as a boat. It was a giant. I ran past the grave of a friend and past the house I grew up in. I stopped here, as I usually do, and took it all in. It didn’t look like anyone was home. In the past I’ve wandered around back, but today I didn’t feel like trespassing. The entire house looked smaller than I had remembered. The wilderness had encroached and wild grasses had taken over the lawn. Nature was taking over. Nature always wins. I had had many adventures here in my youth. Behind the house is a swamp and a small creek, a field and an “endless” forest. I had tree forts, zip lines, and animal traps. I use to dig giant pits with shovels for no particular reason and blaze trails with saws and hatchets for my mountain bike. There were blueberry trees, pear trees and apple trees. There were blackberry bushes across the street. There was also lots of poison ivy. The day was cold, gray and wet; a microcosm of what Cape Cod is like 265 days a year (excluding the 100 days of summer). Eventually I continued onward running down railroad tracks and cutting through back roads and trails that only a local would know.

Being greedy and craving more nostalgia, I headed out for a second run at night. Every Friday evening, various members of the running community gather on Main Street in Hyannis for a 5 mile fun run. In the past, the top 5 times would be placed in the local paper and the run was more of a race. In the summer, during the mid-90s, I would foolishly hammer it every week. As a 16 year old I dipped under 28:00 a few times and battered by body to pieces. One night, a few years later, I was asked by a coach to pace his athlete to a 27:30. I pushed him away and said, “No thanks”. I wasn’t going to run that fast tonight. I relented and agreed to pace the kid for 2 miles. But by the second mile I had gaped the kid by a few seconds. My watch said 10:40 something. I felt very good and decided to try and PR. Up to that point I had never broken 27:00 before. I ran even/negative splits and finished the night by running a 26:40. I was amazed at how, without major mental preparation, I was able to run a PR. I also noted the success of running even rather than going out at a suicidal clip. Of course, it was easy to run fast here. In the summer, Cape Cod is a happening place. We’d take off and run straight down Main Street to the delight of vacationers drinking libations mixed with Blue Curacao. The course looped by the famous Kennedy Compound and beaches where hundreds of people frolicked in the sand and surf. Sunburned families departing the beaches would stare and marvel at shirtless geeks defying traffic and screaming down the middle of the road. A fast course, the last mile is without a doubt the fastest. You’re back on Main Street and cocktails are being downed at the end of a long beach day. Tourists and locals alike hoot and holler at the athletes pushing down the street. When you finish your run, you join them.

Tonight was different. It was winter, cold and one of the darkest nights of the year. No one was out. In fact there were only a handful of runners. Some I had seen before and some I hadn’t. We talked about who knows what and when I finished the run everything seemed quiet and cold. This was winter on Cape Cod.

This is a picture/article I found on my computer dated October of 1997. It was the glory days of Barnstable High School Cross Country.

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