My friend Al is a successful professor at a university. He's married to his high school sweetheart, and a great dad to two kids. He's also a kick-butt athlete.
He wrote once to me in an email that he does 3 marathons, two ironman triathlons, and a 50k trail race every year "to keep him honest" everything else (yes, there's more) is just for fun. At the time I think my longest run was oh, 3 miles, so this list made me gag. I just couldn't imagine. Al virtually coached me through my early running days, weeks, and months and right up to the Bermuda marathon. He would send me emails every few days that just said "you're not drinking enough water" - they made me laugh, but he was probably right, so I drank more water. Al told me stories of his first running days, mistakes he made (cotton is not your friend), injuries he overcame (ITBS), and for probably the first time in my life I listened. And I ran, strong and injury free, and I never found the 'wall' in my 26.2.
In Massachusetts with my family and a few friends to say our final goodbyes to Mark , Al told me that running in that town made it okay to leave Mark there.
After that, I started running everywhere I went, in every strange place I visited. The view you get from moving through a town on your feet is quite different from the one you see passing by in a car. I feel like the towns tell me their secrets when I run their streets. Some are whispered, some are shouted. These are probably the only secrets I've kept for any period of time.
This morning, I ran in my hometown for the first time.
The first year I lived here I drove to different parks or ran on my treadmill. That year, I was worried I wouldn't make it here. I commuted back and forth to DC for 9 months, unable to find a job that made me happy. I didn't want to hear the secrets of a town I wouldn't get to stay in.
This morning I drove to downtown Holly Springs at 730, ipod and forerunner fully charged. I parked at library and just ran. This kind of 'free' running isn't something I do very often, in running I tend to be very scheduled, every route mapped in advance. This morning, I picked what streets to run down just based on a snap decision made as I came to each intersection. I ran just over 5 miles in my new hometown. I have some new secrets. Some aren't pretty. Some are. I won't share them with anyone even if they ask. I finished my run today much like it started, thinking of my friend Al, and the way he signs his emails 'just keep putting one foot in front of the other.' Simple advice from a good friend.