The first run's starting point was inspired by Maw Reckard who encouraged me to visit the St. Marys Marina and check out some of the upgrades there. I ran around the marina and up through Second Street; back through downtown and then a short bit on Ingram's island. Not my best mindset, not enough water beforehand and surprise, surprise, not my best run by a longshot. Inspiration came later that night with some encouraging messages from my longtime friend and classmate Sara who was cajoling me toward running the approaching Alumni 5k. Inspiring my friend is, but its funny how no matter how one might love his hometown; long-nurtured self-doubt born during childhood and fully ripened during middle school can seep right back into my now older and more addled brain. Well, good to know something can still seep back in the old cerebellum at least; Lord knows enough keeps seeping out...
No matter what stinking thinking may be floating around the brain matter, I didn't outright turn Sara's suggestion down either. Newly challenged, I went for a longer, better run the next day. I ran the streets of Belmont and checked out the changes at the middle school. I ran by houses and yards I remembered well.....there's the Hendrickson's house...the Doty's house...the Fitzpatrick's house...oh, the flood of memories that accompanied each fleeting pass. Before I knew it, I had run my 3+ miles at a fair pace. That night, I agreed to the 5k.
On we trudged, sweat rolling, back up Morgan Ave, when I noticed everyone ahead of me was turning right. Aw hell no, are we going up to the park? First panicked moment came out of fear I'd have an allergy attack because I wasn't sure where in the park we might be going. Sure enough, we ran past the cemetery and up that first steep hill. As the pain hit my legs, I saw where someone wrote "dig deeper" in chalk on the roadway we were running up. I heard myself grumbling...aloud..."why would I think a 5k in my hometown...St. Marys, West Virginia....TAYLOR country...would be an easy one?" I think my muttering old man routine just might have inspired those few running directly ahead of me to step up their own pace....to get away from me.
Yes, there is a family with the last name of Taylor in my hometown who are absolute local running legends. Their names are etched in years of races and meets and competitions and one of the most noted was Steve, who graduated with me. Thanks in large part to the Taylors and decades of other superior runners, St. Marys, West Virginia has an utterly legendary status when it comes to running. Running these hills in a race actually feels like I'm running on hallowed ground.
Eventually, uphill goes downhill, no allergies attacked and I was propelled through Cherry St.and eventually back to Dewey Avenue where I finally reached the finish line. I was so convinced at this point that I was in last place, that I didn't even notice my time. It took a quick walk around to Sara's car for some killer healthy cookies...
....before she reassured me not only was I not in last place but I beat the 34 minutes I was looking to beat....32:21 to be exact and it was the first time I had finished a 5k in the 10-minute mile range (10:26). And there were park hills involved! Well, whaddya know...yes Sara, I will have another cookie. Speaking of Sara, I might also add that she kicked serious booty in this race and got a medal to boot.
This hometown visit was special on many levels. Not least of which is rediscovering it as a running destination.