Remembering why I run

Training is getting down to the wire these days.  It’s 50 days until the marathon, and I received my bib and corral numbers and start time this week.  I’m getting very excited.  I’m already planning where we’re going to eat the Monday after the marathon.  I think Giovanna’s Ristorante on the corner of Mulberry and Hester, Little Italy.  The lobster ravioli and some of their special recipe sangria.  But, I haven’t really given it much thought.

I could wax poetic in these last posts leading up to the marathon about my aches and pains.  The cement that has permanently settled into my ITB.  The hamstring that screams like a banshee whenever it is called upon to bear the load.  The pointer toe that is losing its SECOND toenail.  And, all that is just on my left leg.  But, I won’t bore you with those details.  If you’re a runner and you’ve trained for a marathon, you already know these things.   If you haven’t, well, I wouldn’t want to spoil your fun.

So, I’m trying to be positive and uplifting in these posts.  I’m sure I’ll break down and have at least one more whiny post between now and November 6, but I’ll try to reign it in.  It’s bad enough that poor Gary has to listen to me whine and complain.  At least he signed on for it.

As training gets more focused, it’s sometimes hard to remember that I love running.  So, I’m trying to really love every run that I do these days.  On today’s run, that was easy. It was one that took me back to the beginning of my love affair with running and I thought I would share it with you.  Hopefully, it will be more inspiring than the litany of complaints I could bore you with.

When I first started running, I was traveling a lot for our small business(es).   I always took running gear so that I could run in any of the towns I had to overnight in.  Sometimes Gary was with me, sometimes not.  But, I found that getting up and going for a run before the city awoke was a wonderful way to learn and explore the city.  I traveled all over Mississippi, and to areas of Texas and Florida.  Running in downtown San Antonio was a special treat, as was my first run in the predawn of New York City.  Those runs set the stage for a lifetime love of running and are the main reason for NYC being the marathon on my bucket list.  

These days, Gary and I go to Natchez, MS, once a month for business.  We usually stay at the Natchez Grand Hotel, although we’ve stayed in other places, including beautiful Dunleith Plantation.  We’ve toured some of the old homes, and generally wandered all over the city.  If you are a Mississippian, and you’ve never been to Natchez, shame on you.  Get there soon.  They have wonderful events (including hot air balloon races) that spotlight the history of the town, but go anytime.  It’s a step back into our history.  If you aren’t a Mississippian, but love history and amazing architecture, put Natchez on your bucket list.  I love the old homes, the small town feel, the lazy Mississippi River, the barge traffic, the wonderful restaurants.  But, my favorite things in Natchez are the churches and the City Cemetery.  The churches are beyond beautiful and there are a number of them to be awed by.  St. Mary’s Basilica is my hand down favorite, and it is always on the morning run, usually at the end.

This morning I needed to run six miles, so we didn’t run our usual route down toward Natchez Under the Hill.  I have to admit this didn’t break my heart.  It’s a wicked hill that is as vile going down as coming up.  Instead, we headed west toward the City Cemetery.   The sun had not yet risen, and I will admit that I would not have gone there predawn if Gary had not been with me.  But, he was, so off we went.  There was a surprising amount of traffic that early, but the road is fairly easy to run on and even has a sidewalk that parallels it for a good part of the way.  We got to the first gate before the sun came up, and saw that we weren’t the only ones who had the idea of a predawn cemetery run.  A group of four men came out of the gate just as we went in.  At least, I think they were real.  They may have been ghosts of runners past.

The cemetery is immaculately maintained and history is in every step. Spanish moss drapes the tree lined roads and the exquisite scent of sweet olive was in the air.  The cemetery is laid out in “neighborhoods”, as it was built in the late 1800’s.  There is a Catholic section, a section for “strangers”, a Masonic section, even a section designated for Bishops and monks.  My favorite places are The Turning Angel , where an angel monument watches over the burial places of several employees lost in a terrible fire, and is said to seem to “turn” as car lights skim over her when they drive along Cemetery Road at night; and Jewish Hill, which offers an amazing view of the city and the lazy river below.  It’s especially beautiful at sunrise, which we were able to witness this morning.

We ran through the cemetery, stopping to read some of the headstones and plaques.  The Bishop area was very interesting, and we were saddened by so many tributes to children who died young.  We left the cemetery and headed back toward town, turning to run along the walkway over the bluff of the river.  The homes there are enough to inspire anyone to forget their mission, but we soldiered on.  They have recently added a nature walk that goes down the bluff and is a nice variation to the concrete and pavement.  Back up the other side, down to Rosalie Mansion, then left on Canal by Fat Mama’s Tamales.  We turned up State Street, then left on Union to take us to St. Mary’s.  Back to the Grand and a short finish up the promenade and we were done.  Upstairs to clean up, then Natchez Coffee Company for coffee and breakfast.  All in all, a morning nicely spent.

I share this with you to pique your interest.  In running, in seeing all that Mississippi has to offer, in living life to the fullest.  If you can’t make it to Natchez right away, pick up a Greg Iles book from your local library or bookstore.  A native Natchezian(?), all his books are set in and around Natchez, and are actually how I know a lot of the history about it.  They are spellbinding mysteries, so if you like thrillers, you will love these.  Every time we go, I download another one to my Ipad.  I have them all in hardcover, but it’s been awhile since I read them, and seeing the city come to life makes me want to read them again.

I fell in love with running because it allowed me to explore and see new places on my own, in a way that felt very intimate.  The cities that I’ve run in are all cities I’ve fallen in love with.  Running has brought so much to my life, and as I bear down these final weeks, I thought it would be important to remind myself of that.

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