Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Sightseeing Runs

I travel for work, often. Early on in this part of my career, a colleague once said to me, never leave the house without packing your running shoes. It is a bit of advice that I have taken to heart and not once have I gone away since then without them. I may not use them every day that I am gone but I have them as a constant reminder that I should. Sometimes, all it takes is just putting them on.

Before taking this job but after I started running, I also packed my running shoes wherever I went and started seeing the beauty of sightseeing runs. Some of my most memorable runs have taken place on other work related wine trips. I have run through some of the most spectacular vineyards in California - Santa Barbara, Napa, and Sonoma. I have run through the Dundee Hills in Oregon, and atop Red Mountain in Washington. I have taken runs in the dark on a tow path along the Loire river and a spectacular run at dawn through some grand cru vineyards in Champagne. I have even run around a little vineyard in the hills outside of Des Moines, Iowa.

My vacation runs have always been a fun way to get around and see some details that can be missed in a car or on a subway. A memorable long run in Paris stands out. I got caught in the rain in the middle of a 14 mile victory run on the river Seine near the Eiffel Tower. I was celebrating my divorce being final and spent three days in Paris - by myself - doing what ever the hell I wanted to do and not worrying about someone else's agenda. I opted to continue the run rather than dart into the metro. It was February and I would have gotten very cold had I stopped. The rain continued and the streets emptied of pedestrians. By the time I got back to my hotel near Republique, the sun had broken out and I was a completely new person. The rain had such a cleansing effect on all the emotional baggage that I came here to shed in the first place.

Central Park remains a favorite place to run, as I love the energy of the running community there and the beautiful views of Central Park South and West, particularly in the autumn. Runs on the beach in Mexico are always satisfying and a great way to release the tequila toxins from the night before.

My favorite sightseeing runs though, remain bridge runs. Work or vacation, races or leisure runs, I am fascinated by bridges and I will run across them at any given opportunity. The thrill of the start of the New York City marathon, remains, without question, the most exciting moment for any marathon runner. The Brooklyn Bridge is one I always try to run across when I am staying downtown. Portland, which is a place I travel to often for work has a whole assortment of interesting bridges to run and The Steel Bridge is one of my all time favorites. The most recent bridge in my bucket list though, is The Golden Gate Bridge. I have always wanted to take this one on and I finally got my chance yesterday.

According to my training schedule for an upcoming marathon, I needed to run 14 miles this weekend. I happened to be traveling on Sunday to San Francisco and it was 12 degrees in Chicago that morning. I could chose between getting up early and getting it in or postponing it for a day and running in San Francisco. It was the most no-brainer I had ever put before myself. My meetings wrapped up by 1:30 and by 2:00 I was headed down to the bay. Walking down the steep Divisadero street hill, I waited for the terrain to level off before starting. No need to aggravate the shin splints now.

I set out for The Presidio and two miles later, I was beginning the climb towards the bridge on a foot and bike path. It was a lovely day with just a hint of fog starting to roll in and the bridge loomed before me, leaving me breathless by its sheer beauty.

<<<< Not so beautiful image taken with my bad camera phone.

Despite the climbing, and like the start of the New York Marathon, the excitement of being on the bridge makes you forget how hard  your body is working to make the ascent. The tourists taking pictures, the cyclists, the ever present suicide hotline...none of it mattered. What mattered was me, traversing the span, looking down at the ocean and the container vessels coming into port, the transition from open sea to bay and the turgid waters below, the wind coming in, how I felt to be a  part of such a magnificent structure, the human scale of it and how the two of us were interacting with nature. Sheer joy!

I make it to the other side to people asking me if I had just really run across the bridge and how far was it. Yes, I pointed to the other side of the bay, and to the outcropping that is Fort Mason as my starting point and how it was about 4.3 miles away. I couldn't linger long because I didn't want my muscles to start getting cold. After all. I still had 10 more miles to go.

A quick snap with my bad camera phone just to have some proof of my accomplishment and I was off! Back on the other side, I chose to stay along The Embarcadero for flat running. A few miles back to where I started and I still had about 6 to go. An easy three along the bay and then three back. I made it to the base of the hill, where I stopped at a corner store for some recovery fluids and a banana. A four block walk back to my friend's place at the top of the hill were the most brutal 4 blocks I had ever walked in my life. The pitch of the hill acted as a good calf-stretching mechanism though, and I followed this with a long 45 minute stretching routine.

I almost  felt as if I could do it again this morning, almost.

1 comment:

  1. You are an amazing writer and I cannot wait to read more. Looking forward to a great 2011 filled with stories of adventures and kicking cancer's ass! LiveSTRONG friend!