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This post is about a run, but not about running.
I like to view this blog as a collage of things. Sometimes when I think I’m hilarious I abuse this, sometimes I use it when I have to preach about how I know I’m right about something and other times; it’s the perfect outlet for me to just try to “get” it. What “it” is of course up for debate.
But something oddly profound happened to me. I’ve thought I’ve had things “click” when I realized I was just trying to force it to. I try way too hard to overanalyze each situation and it can get rather annoying. However, I swear this time is different (until I realize I am full of shit again).
I went back to my college town two weekends ago on mostly a whim. It wasn’t some excursion I planned for weeks, it just happened to be a Thursday night and I realized “hey, I’m free!” and I wanted to see my friends and the town again. I did it and it was a fun, great time that was no different than the usual.
My college wasn’t extraordinary. It was the most pivotal time of my life, but really the surrounding area wasn’t El Dorado or anything. It was in a (mostly) rural area, sandwiched between the last city lights of Pennsylvania until you get to Pittsburgh. If you go east-bound or south-bound, you’ll see vast farmland with one-lane roads and not much else. If you go west-bound, the woods of PA begin to envelope you and you see what they mean by “Pennsatucky).
I ran cross country and track for my college and of course, I was outside nearly everyday for five years. If the weather was windy or cold, we’d go into the woods and hope not to be a news story and avoid hunters’ gunshots. If the weather was beautiful, we’d explore the Mennonite-farmed land and the remnants of the summer cornstalk (yes, no pun intended that was a corny ass sentence).
That hour or so when we were on the roads really is what I remember the most about college. The friendships may last or just start to fizzle as life gets increasingly difficult and hectic as we try to find our lane. The nightlife was atypical and sacrifices were made thanks to being an athlete, something I’ll never regret. I like to think I’m smarter academically but I laugh uncontrollably at the number 69 so who the hell knows?
But those runs were where everything happened. Every inside joke, every hype for every race, every talk about everything and even prepping for the weekends/summer ahead were on those roads. One of these runs were called Rod and Gun which saw us go right near a local Gun Club (hey, it’s PA) and into the woods.
Thanks to our climate, I think I did that run, or went off into that general vicinity more than any part. We would have workouts there, almost biweekly, and some of our Sunday long runs overlapped it.
It’s nothing special honestly. A couple of hills that could suck if you weren’t 100% but mostly a flat and quick run that seemingly took us far from campus. When we’d visit in the summer and get together, that’s where we would do our runs. It was always something we could agree upon even if it was none of our favorite runs.
Well, why am I saying this now? Well, my college town is basically one road in and one road out. If you leave early (or late enough) on a Sunday, you’ll be backed up for quite a few minutes as traffic slowly moves toward the Turnpike.
I was getting annoyed and suddenly, decided to just take a back way to the Turnpike; one that took me through the runs I did over hundreds of times. Some familiar territory that I haven’t seen in almost two years which is barely a drop in the bucket but almost a full person ago.
As I went through familiar territory, all of a sudden something really weird happened. Memories just came to me instantly, but not just that. I actually “felt” like I was there. I’m an atheist that can barely describe myself as quasi-spiritual. I just think you die and it sucks (side note: isn’t it a bummer that it’s a guarantee you are going to die? like nothing you can do can stop that fact) but that’s it. However, what happened next just almost felt from another dimension.
I turned down Hottenstein Road and onto Gun Club Road and suddenly I was a redshirt senior waiting to get this tempo started so I could hopefully make it into class on time. I went down the slight decline just twenty seconds in, and then I could see the women’s team finishing up their runs as we started ours. Maybe one of them would be able to say something though since we are guys “DURR TOO TOUGH AND INTO THE MOMENT #TheTroops”.
Then I got about half a mile in and shit, I could nearly see my one friend’s green “Mustang Nation” shirt and the other’s obnoxiously orange headband. I could see the coach’s van waiting for us at mile one and realizing where the bizarre cracks in the road were that would fill with water if it rained sometime in the past fifteen years. I saw the random small houses that pop up on the side of the roads like some weird Rollercoaster Tycoon parked designed by a five year old.
All these emotions and memories I forgotten about just came back. It honestly was like looking in a Pensieve or however you spell that Harry Potter contraption that I just thought was penis. There’s a blind uphill turn, that will kill us one day, and I could feel myself charging up it and getting ready to cross the road or maybe bear right and get to Mile 2 of our workout.
This was just wild. But just like that, it was done and I was left to think about what just happened. It kind of hit me how much things have changed.
I won’t pretend that I have acclimated to post-grad/professional life all that well. In fact, I have more bad days than good. I’ve lost contact with so many of my best friends, not out of choice for the most part either, but just because we got busy. But, while that’s a massive letdown that needs to be rectified, I realized that I will always have those memories and that feeling can be brought back.
I worry a lot. I overanalyze a lot. But to have something so sudden and, almost serene?, happen to me just really shook me up in an oddly positive way. I realized how much I missed running, yes, but also that unique bond that teammates will always have. I realized the impact that each one of them had in numerous ways and I’m still have issues trying to grasp it all but I think I have it.
There’s always going to be reason to worry. But there’s always something on the horizon that’s great. Seven years ago, I had no idea what Rod and Gun meant and barely knew where I was going to college. I didn’t know what I was doing and it was scary. But then I found a home away from home. I met people who I would’ve never met and did things I probably never thought I would.
Sure it wasn’t a perfect time. I remember those horrible and lonely nights, or those random illnesses or arguments that were so pointless in retrospect. I remember the teammates that probably didn’t like me, and vice versa. It’s unfair to ignore the negatives and focus on the positives because you get a biased view of life that will be impossible to live up to. You can’t compete with perfection and utopia, especially when it never happened.
But I’m just focusing on what happened and what is going on now. In a couple months I could meet my future wife or get fired (please don’t). You just don’t know the next page until it’s the current one. Right now, I’m a freshman in my professional life just trying to find his lane. Just trying to make everything click and pay off my loans with as little as I make.
However, one day it’ll all be done and I’ll look back at my life and think “man, what a run”.