Midsummer! The time of year we all love. Our fitness is topped off, the days are long, the High Country trails are clear, and life is good. Our days, at this time of year, are filled with abundant sun and fun. Whether we are racing 100 miles, exploring one of those wonderful places that are only accessible a few months a year, or building up our speed for a big assault on a PR, the summer is a time when ultramarathon runners truly are in their element. The world is our oyster and life, pretty much however you look at it, is good.
For me, my summer has been great. I’ve returned to running after several self-imposed false starts, explored some great new places, and, in several ways, returned home. While many of us are finding new places to explore this summer, others among us have found ways to re-discover places that have been part of us for a long, long time. I count myself as one of those.
You see, for the past few days I have been on vacation with my family in my birthplace, Cape Cod, Massachusetts. There are no high mountains here and very few trails. In fact, there is not much about Cape Cod to inspire a long distance trail ultrarunner. But, it is the one place I have returned to every year for the past 40 or so years and, since 1991, it has also been a place where I have returned to run. I’ll admit, running here on Cape Cod, especially in the summertime, has its challenges but it also has its rewards, and, in particular, it is where I can run The Loop.
The Loop is a 7-mile run that begins and ends at my parents’ house in Harwichport, MA. On the surface, it is an extraordinarily mundane loop that could be in Anywhere, USA. Yet, for me, it is so much more than that. Turning left out of the driveway, I run by the Harwichport Golf Links. This is the little 9-hole track where I learned to golf as an 8-year old and where I now take my sons to golf on lazy summer evenings. When I hit Harwich Center after about a mile and a half, I run my the First Congregational Church where both my grandparents are buried, where countless friends and family members were married, and where a certain sense of calm exists just because it’s a building that has stood for 200 years. Ironically, on the other side of the street from that church is Harwich Liquors where I bought my first sixpack (at the age of sixteen!).
I make a left at the end of Harwich Center and run by Brooks Park, where I learned to play baseball with my cousins, and then onto the Cape Cod Rail Trail, where I learned to ride a bike. After a mile or so on that trail, I jump onto Lovers Lane and then back to Bank Street to begin the run-in to the Beach. Along the way, I pass a few more homes and businesses before rolling onto the Boardwalk at Merkel Beach that takes me to the water and along the shoreline where I had my first kiss sometime during the summer of 1983. From there, it’s up to the Bank Street Beach parking lot and the road that takes me back to Harwichport. Before the end of that road, I pass Ike’s Place, which still has the best breakfast on Cape Cod after 40 years, and Dino’s Barbershop where, yup, you guessed it, I had my first haircut. After dodging a bit of traffic on Route 28 and crossing over to Miles Street, I return to my parents place about 7 miles after I started.
In all, a pretty mundane run, but, for me, so much more. I guess running does have a way of bringing life into perspective and making it real at the same time. Certainly, there is no doubt I am looking forward to getting out into the high country out west for the next couple weeks when my family and I venture out there for vacation, but, I must say, for now, it is quite nice to simply run through my own personal history and connect the dots.
AJW’s Beer of the Week
This week’s Beer of the Week comes from Harpoon Brewery in Boston. Their IPA, now served in convenient cans, is just hoppy enough to get your attention and yet not too much to make you run away. In fact, I took a few to the beach today and they went down quite smoothly.
Call for Comments (from Bryon)
What places are you discovering… or re-discovering this summer?