A few weeks ago I did something I never thought I would… I completed the Pittsburgh Half Marathon. Four months of training culminated in 13.1 miles, five bridges, either eight or ten neighborhoods (depending on how you count), and two blisters. And I’ve already signed up to run another one in September.
I have never been a ‘runner’. An occasional jog would leave me gasping for breath. But this winter, a dream about running through Pittsburgh had me registering for this race. I started my training in early January, slugging through cold and slush in the dark winter evenings, with leftover Christmas decorations lighting my way. I stuck to streets I knew, the streets of my neighborhood, Brighton Heights. As the weeks went by, I realized I had a few specific routes I would rotate through, based on mood. One route had a few houses undergoing interior renovations that could be seen from the street. One had the most historically beautiful houses on it. One had the most interesting landscaping. Perhaps my favorite route had the most intriguing structural skeletons – bombed out properties that hint at the grandeur that might have been. As winter gave way to spring, the landscapes started to change and I was able to witness the shift from grey to green. The new growth outside breathed new life into my increasingly longer runs.
I have always preferred to be a passenger in a car, enjoying the luxury of just sitting and watching the landscape go by. Similarly, I have found the pace of jogging to be perfect for taking in the scenery all around me. Over time, I began picking out architectural details on individual houses as well as similarities among styles. As I ran, I would create stories of how and why these houses were built, imagining the lives that have inhabited them over the past century. I can better recognize the big Victorians that were built as single family homes versus those that have always been multi-family dwellings.
Running – becoming a runner – has done so much for me. Strengthens my body, helps clear my mind. Has reminded me of a resilience I had forgotten I have, as well as set a good example for my children. But also, it has given me an intimate look at a community I thought I knew. As I continue my training, I am excited at what summer, and then fall, will reveal.
What have you done that has given you a new or shifted perspective? How do you renew or refresh your love of place?