Running buddy and I had a spectacular run yesterday! I persuaded her to run 6 miles with me (our norm is 3 or 4), and she conceded on the condition that she be allowed to pick the route. Hmm. This caused me a moment of pause. What’s to pick? We start with the “squishy trail” (the 1 mile, out-and-back section of the completed Swamp Rabbit Trail) and head over to Cleveland Park to pick up the rest. Or, we start with the Cleveland Park out-and-back and finish it off with the squishy trail. OR! we totally mix things up and don’t run on the squishy trail at all. It’s all pretty well established.
And now, as they say, for something completely different. I was a little concerned about (1) finding our way back before we got to 8, 9, 10 miles and (2) finding our way back at all, but it turns out that at least one of us has pretty good navigational skills. We ran an exact 10k, and due to its rarity as a circular route in our out-and-back world, we’ve decided to simply label it The Loop. There’s something infinitely more satisfying about seeing different scenery throughout an entire run. Somehow, it seems to add purpose to the whole endeavor…grants the illusion that I’m actually GOING SOMEWHERE, although in reality I’m going to end up right back where I started.
Naming The Loop got us talking about other route names.* Monikers. Identities. Often, a route will be named after a distinguishing feature or landmark. “Corporate Park” for our weekend route that circles through a (then empty) corporate park. “Signal Oak” for one of my hometown out-and-backs that passes an historic landmark. “Turkey Farm” for a college route that, very unfortunately, passes by a turkey farm and all its accompanying smells. And yes, even our seemingly unimaginative “The Loop.”
Other times, a route can be named after someone. At his junior college, Scott had a hill named after him when he set the workout record. Another route in college was sometimes referred to as “Katie’s Run,” which prompted the re-telling to the younger generation of runners of “that one time Katie ran in circles for 30 minutes.” The route ends in a small park. A service road winds through it, and there are ponds and marshes on either side of it. The service road is basically a lasso—at the end, there’s a small loop. It can’t be more than 1000m the entire way around the loop at the end, but Coach always made a big deal about telling people to remember to get OUT of the loop. So if you take a left to get into it, you’ll turn right, right, right, and then LEFT! to come back out. Well…Katie didn’t. Coach had to drive in and pick her up, where she was still dutifully running in circles and wondering why she wasn’t back at the van yet.
Then, there are the silly/random names. Scott and I have a long run that we’ve dubbed the “Lord of the Rings” route. We had a long, long time to notice these things…and so we picked up on (1) a dead tree in a field that resembled the white tree of Gondor, (2) a neighborhood called the Shire, (3) a horse farm with a house set high on a hill in a style faintly reminiscent of Rohan, and (4) a Frodo’s Pizza box on the side of the road. Kind of silly, yes. Kind of a stretch, uh-huh. But during a 16 mile run, the mind needs something to keep itself occupied.
Whatever and however it happens, naming runs seems to be just one of those things runners do. I like the tendency, because it personalizes the routes. They do, after all, keep me safe and help me get home in the right mileage and in the right fashion. They are my friends. 🙂
*Running buddy gets all the credit for this blog post. Thanks for saying, “hey, you should blog about that,” running buddy!