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Running After the Meaning of Life

Dunn Loring trail 

I know my title is extravagant and vainglorious, but it makes some sense to me.  I have been running regularly literally my entire adult life.   I began to run in along the lake trails at U of Wisconsin in 1977.   It was in style back then and technology had just made regular running possible.   Shoes are the key to success in running and the Nike “wafflestompers” were just coming out.   W/o good shoes, you wreck your knees and few guys my age would still be able to run with the old shoe technologies.

WOD Trail

I don’t run for exercise alone; I would never do it on a track or treadmill and I would never – every – bowdlerize the experience with an I-Pod.  I run with nature, to be in the environment feeling the wind & sun, hearing the sounds, feeling the undulations of the topography and getting to know the place - and my place.  You cannot really get to know anyplace until you have put your feet on it and it is important to experience different seasons and moods.  Running gives you a chance to think and the movement helps you think clearly.  Running (hiking too) balances me.  I suppose there are other ways to do that, but it is hard to think of easier or more effective ones.  Running has the side benefits of good fitness and the virtue of being cheap and universally available.  You need the good shoes, so running costs around $100 a year.  Other accessories are even cheaper.  I still wear a sweatshirt that hails the 1987 Minnesota Twins championship.  I don’t doubt that I have some clothes that are older, but they don’t have dates printed on the front.  The per-use cost of these thing is vanishingly small.  Everything else is free.

Wash monument

I have run all over the world.  I really cannot say which is my favorite trail.  I still look back with fondness to my “original” trails through Grant and Warnimont Parks in Milwaukee and the lake trails in Madison, but Norway on Bygdoy and Brazil, through the lush woods at St. Hilaire Park also hold strong positions.  My favorite trail in Minneapolis was in Wirth Park. I loved running in Las Wolski in Krakow, with the caveat that there was significant air pollution sometimes.  I ran on the old road between Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts.   That was wonderful because of the surface of the road and all the historical buildings around it, but I only did it once.  You see, I collect running memories the way some people collect coins or beanie babies.

Indian museum and capitol

Washington region has lots of possibilities.   At lunchtime at work I run around the Capitol Mall.  That is the “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” run.  You get to go past the Capitol, Whitehouse, Jefferson, Lincoln, Washington Monument Vietnam, Korea, WWII and the Smithsonian all in around a half hour.  Talk about inspiration.  The W&OD trail in Virginia follows old railroad lines, so it provides a long trail w/o too many hills.  It goes all the way from Washington to Purcerville in the Blue Ridge.  Of course, I have never run the whole way, but I have been on many segments.  The pictures are from the part of the trail nearest my house on the W&OD and the nieghborhoods around and from the Washington Mall trail.  I have been running on this trail since 1997.  

Below is a neighborhood of Vienna, Va near the trail.  I cut down along these suburban roads.  Nice houses in pretty surroundings. They completed that one just last year. They do a good job of making them fit in and seem like part of the established neighborhood.  The homes are not cheap.  Maybe less expensive now with the mortgage crisis, although I doubt this is a subprime place.

Vienna houses 

I have gotten a lot slower over the years.  I used to repeat my miles in less than six minutes. Now I feel doing them less than nine minutes is an achievement.  It still feels the same and I have a hard time believing I am moving 1/3 slower than I did before, but it has been more than thirty years.  Sometimes young punks come flying past me, but I assume they are just sprinting at the end of their runs. I have replaced my running watches several times, since I figured they all must be defective, but I have been unable to find one that records my miles at anything less.

It is funny – almost paradoxical given my other attitudes re running - that I don’t like to run w/o the watch, but I really don’t care about the times.  I know the distances along the W&OD because there are mile markers, but most of the places I run I don’t know how far I am going and I don’t try to find out.  But over 30 years of running I have gotten the idea that it is not really running w/o the clock running.  My saving trait is that I don’t write the times down and do not keep good records.  I can kind of fool myself that I am still not that slow and the self deception doesn’t cause me much distress.

Only a shallow person lives a life w/o contradictions and only a fool tries to resolve them all.


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