For three months, one day stood out on my calendar.
October 6, 2012.
This was the day I was scheduled to run 20 miles. I’d mapped out a course that was basically made up of every route I’ve ever run in the city combined into one massive trek (with a few exceptions). If there was one thing I was certain to get out of this day, it was a tour of the city I’ve called home for seven years.
Like most Saturdays, I awoke at the crack of dawn and met up with the NQRFPTR group in the Highlands. It’s been fun starting in this particular neighborhood of the city, seeing the college kids recovering from their raucous nights as I’m just beginning my peaceful morning.
Our group of ten took off down Eastern Parkway toward the University of Louisville, and we passed the time by chatting about our lives and random subjects. Since it’s October, the conversation naturally took a turn to the topic of Halloween. I dropped back a little as one of the group’s leaders, Terry, recanted a tale about a phenomenon he’d heard on the radio. Something about a demon woman who tries to hold you down in your bed. I’m not one for these kinds of stories, so I didn’t pay attention. Ghosts can and WILL get inside you.
We made our way through the southern part of campus and up Third Street toward Central Park, where the 56th annual St. James Court Art Show was being held. It was still early, so most of the artists were still setting up their booths. There was no time for shopping, anyway. Miles and miles of the city still lay before us.
The course took us downtown, where our group fractured. Some headed back toward the Highlands and coffee and bagels and to leisurely enjoy at least part of their mornings.
The remaining four of us ran toward the Hoosier State.
We crossed the Second Street Bridge into Indiana, made a pit stop at a friendly hotel, and promptly ran right back over the bridge. I have a theory that if you spend too much time in Indiana, you’ll become a bad driver. Self-conducted empirical evidence conducted on my morning commute suggests my theory is correct.
We made our way down Market, turned left past Slugger Field, and loped along River Road. Along the way, we encountered a massive elementary school cross-country meet at the River Road Country Club, so we paused long enough to smile and cheer them on.
We bid adieu to the river, turning down an un-sidewalked road into one of Louisville’s nicer neighborhoods – Mockingbird Valley.
Mockingbird provided us with one of the tougher hills on our course, but we grunted up it, made our way down a small trail and wandered through a neighborhood I’d never been in until a few weeks ago. A neighborhood where maybe I’d like to live someday.
We paused at the Mary T. Meagher Aquatic Center long enough to refill our water bottles, and then we set out again down Frankfort Avenue. After 17 miles, I was feeling fantastic. The crisp fall air invigorated my lungs. I smiled at every person on the sidewalk. The coffee from Heine Brothers reminded me that the sooner I finished, the sooner I could have a cup.
We cut through a neighborhood and made our way via Grinstead back toward the Highlands, passing briefly by Olmsted’s Cherokee Park. Plodding down Grinstead, we ran along Cave Hill Cemetery, and I was having such a great run I didn’t think twice about zombies.
It was at mile 19 that I began to think that I could actually finish the upcoming marathon. If I felt great at the end of this run, I could crawl and/or drag myself through to the finish line.
Our run ended about a half-mile from where we started, and we took the time to walk back through Willow Park at a leisurely pace, releasing the tension in our quads and hamstrings and soaking in the glory of having just run 20 miles for the first time.
The taper has begun, and there’s less than three weeks until the 2012 Marine Corps Marathon.
Until then, keep running, friends.