Yesterday I set out for 11 miles through my hometown- alone. Running alone is not usually my first choice, but this time it was my only option and to my surprise, I really enjoyed it.
New Haven, Indiana
I was born and raised in a small town- 9.8 square miles to be exact. It is not glamorous… at all. There are a handful of restaurants, many churches, and train tracks that run right through the middle of town. Running 11 miles in a 9.8 square mile town means you will get stopped by a train. The scenery leaves much to be desired, but there is just something about running through my hometown that brings me joy.
My run was peaceful, calming and a jog down memory lane. It brought a myriad of emotions that I would not get if I were driving around town. When you run through town, any town, and you anticipate what is coming up it allows time for your mind to wander, to process, and to remember. Often times my memory would take me back and I could feel the emotions of the past.
Running Through Town
I ran out the same doors I have since I was in middle school and started my run. I ran down a few country roads and came to the home where my old friend grew up. I reminisced our sleepovers in her basement: sharing the computer so we could have time on aol, trying to sneak our guy friends in and late nights of euchre and pool. At that moment, I missed those friends and said a prayer for each of them.
I came to my high school and thought I would find my inner high school athlete and did a lap around the high school track. It suddenly brought back memories of running the mile before volleyball practice on those dreaded, hot two-a-day practices. Although miserable, I longed for just one more. I longed to dig the spike from an upper class-woman, to high-five my teammate after a kill, and to ace someone just one more time.
Running past Park Hill I immediately saw those white, satin show choir skirts and remembered each performance on that stage. Memories of our 8th grade ceremony and the last day of school flooded my heart.
I ran towards the railroad tracks and picked up my speed, but it was not fast enough and I didn’t beat the train. The train allowed my mind to jog a little more. I ran down the street and had a flashback of bike rides with my where we would always go down this street and see my grandmother’s old friend sitting on her porch (probably smoking a cigarette). We would always wave and go on with our ride. As I was running I could actually hear that woman’s voice although I don’t remember her name. The memories of my bike rides with my mom are fond.
The train was not over so I continued down a street and past the house of another old friend’s mother- she has since passed. Tears flooded my eyes when I replayed the phone conversation he and I had telling me that his mother had passed in a sudden airplane accident.
I ran past the church where I attended preschool. Service was getting ready to start and I thought for sure I would see someone I knew, but I didn’t. Instead the gentleman holding the door said, “If you need a break, or a glass of water come on in and join us for church. We will take you sweaty.” Now, that is small town hospitality!
The train was still going so I continue to run east and came near the “big hill”. I contemplated avoiding it but then I decided I wanted to see what kind of memories it would spark. It is much smaller at 31 then it was when I was 8 years old. I remember riding my bike to tennis and always struggling to get up that hill. Twenty-three years later my legs still carried me up that hill.
I ran down streets that were filled with houses as I tried to remember who lived and wondered where they were now. I remembered Adam’s house, Krissy’s house, Amber’s house, Molly’s house, Matt’s house and Austin’s house among many others.
I ran past my middle, elementary and high school remembering good times and bad. I remembered people, a lot of people, people who I have not though about in years. Each stride brought a memory, some more fond than others. I ran past an old coach’s house and to my grandmother’s grave. I ran past the church where I was raised and then began my trek back to my mother’s home- the same place I have called home since sixth grade.
Throughout my run I laughed, I cringed, and at times my eyes were filled with tears. I remembered fun times with my friends and found myself laughing out loud at memories from my school days. I remembered happy memories with my family and poor decisions I made. I prayed for my children, I prayed for my family, and I prayed for each individual who crossed my mind.
To an outsider, there is not much glamour to my hometown, but to me it warms my heart to be able to set out on foot and bring back so many memories of growing up in Small Town, Indiana. I have a renewed perspective of this place: I was a part of a great community, people around here are kind, and life is a little more simple in my small town. When I see this town on foot, I look through it with a different lens… and I like that lens.
Next time you go to your hometown, set out on foot and see what memories might jog or walk through your mind. Running through town is actually calming, peaceful and good for the soul.
Does running or walking spark memories for you?
When you exercise do you go without music so you can listen to your mind?