On the Road with a Road Runner

The other day I began to list the places I’d traveled during my frantic, gratifying, maddening, fun, burnout former career. I look back now and realize how fortunate I’d been because I got to run in many diverse places. So far my list includes the following:

Kelly Drive trail with Philadelphia skyline backdrop.

I’ll start with my hometown Philly that has some amazing running trails, notably the River Drives, Forbidden Drive along the Wissahickon Creek, and Pennypack Park. On the east coast I ran the beaches of Sea Isle City, Wildwood, and Ocean City, New Jersey; Virginia Beach and the beach along the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia; and as far south as Jacksonville Beach and Atlantic Beach, Florida. The most spectacular nighttime run is the National Mall in Washington, DC. Anytime I’d run DC in daylight it would be on the Mount Vernon Trail, and then always stop at Murphy’s Irish Pub in Old Town Alexandria to quench my thirst when I was finished.

Running the beach at Big Sur is awe-inspiring.

On the west coast, I’d run Coronado Island near the Navy Seal base and stop at Mc P’s afterward to replenish my carbohydrates. I’d run too many coastal communities to mention between San Diego and Monterey, though Mission Bay, Torrey Pines State Park and Big Sur were memorable. The Pacific Northwest is spectacular for running. I ran many miles in Seattle and briskly climbed to the altitude of 7,000′ on Mount Rainier.

The bike trial in Summit County, Colorado surrounded by snowcapped mountain peaks.

Some of my most spectacular runs were in the Rocky Mountains, especially Summit County. In 2006, I placed third in the Run the Rockies Half-Marathon in Frisco, Colorado, right down the road from Breckinridge. I carb loaded at the Boatyard Grill in Frisco the night before the race, and then broke the Colorado state speed limit on I-70 all the way to Denver International when the race was over to catch my flight home. If you get to Summit County, drive down the road to the Breckenridge Brewery where you can drink fabulously crisp beer and watch the skiers glide down 13,000′ slopes.

Town Lake trail in Austin, Texas is popular with runners and cyclists.

Did I mention Town Lake in Austin, Texas was one of my favorite runs? (I know; I’m wearing out the favorite thing.) To prepare for a run in Austin, carb load on Tex-Mex, and then when you cross the finish line stop at any of the funky little blues bars on 6th Street. Growing up on the east coast, my impression of a desert was a giant sandbox full of vultures, skulls and carcasses. But the best way to experience any new terrain is to run it. My first time in Phoenix I ran Camelback Mountain trail and was instantly hooked, so continued exploring trails in the Sonora Desert on subsequent visits to the region. I became so captivated by the desert’s unrelenting beauty, that today my office is full of cacti. Really!

Before I began traveling, I knew little about the Midwest. That changed when I ran the Riverfront Trail along the Mississippi River in Davenport, Iowa. I swore I’d one day get back to run in the Bix 7, the largest non-marathon race in the Midwest that is part of a three-day event and jazz festival. I haven’t made it back yet—but I never say never. I had the thrill of running around Lambeau Field in Green Bay, and through the snow in Waukesha, Wisconsin on the banks of Little Lake Muskego. I almost forgot to mention the waterfront bike trail just north of the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, a hard place to forget after being attacked by birds that pecked my head during a run that sent my glasses flying from my head and broke them.

The finish line at the grandaddy of all road races, the Boston Marathon.

This leads me to the final chapter of the memoir in Boston, home of the granddaddy of them all–the Boston Marathon. But don’t leave town without running the scenic Charles River loop, and then hit an Irish Pub in Southie when you are done.

There’s a story at every stop, and I’m sure I missed a few. When I went over the list, I realized many of them are included in my memoir, Twenty-four Years to Boston –My Journey from the Vegetable Aisle to Boylston Street.

One thing I miss about all the travel is hitting the trail in so many different terrains, altitudes and climates. And I miss the runners who would give me a nod as they passed and have that distinctive glimmer in their eye, the one you get when you’re running free.

See you down the road.

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About Jim Brennan

Jim is a Philadelphia-based writer, author, poet and editor for the Schuylkill Valley Journal.
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