We can easily become attached to the many different places we encounter throughout life … the town we grew up in, homes we’ve lived in or cities we’ve visited. We construct associations with each place which develop into powerful memories that can transport us back to our favorite restaurant, our daily drive, a friendly neighbor or the view from our window. This sense of attachment can be so deep that even once we’ve moved on to the next town or era of our life, we feel a part of us actual remains in those memories.
I tend to consider myself somewhat of a nomad (or maybe I just wish I could be more of one?), having lived in 16 places across 9 towns, 3 states and 4 countries, and done my share of traveling (although not nearly enough!) through North America, Asia, Africa and Europe. With each new experience I’ve both left a small piece of myself and incorporated elements of these places into not only my memories, but my perception of who I am. As runners, this bond we create between self and location is all the more intimate. Setting out to explore on foot with no distractions other than our own thoughts and breath, we have the potential to see deeply into the soul of a city, discover its hidden corners and unveil its secrets. At the same time, these adventures can serve as powerfully informative about ourselves. As foot strikes soil along these internal journeys, with nothing lying between our minds and the earth, we inevitably associate those personal lessons with the ground beneath us.
Thinking back on each period of my life, I’m transported along my favorite running routes and into the mental landcapes I’ve enjoyed while exploring them … the tranquility of the Berkeley fire-trails, the thrill of venturing out into New England blizzards and best of all, the intoxicating long runs through San Francisco’s hills, parks and waterfront. This past week I moved yet again. As I said goodbye to my last apartment, I felt no sadness leaving behind it or its neighborhood, as I was moving forward to a fun new vibrant part of the city. My only sense of loss was for those roads and trails which I had spent countless hours exploring and learning to love over the first year and a half as a graduate student in San Diego. Today I returned from my first “long” run in my new home … through Balboa park, along the waterfront to Point Loma, and back. That emptiness of leaving those beloved trails behind disappeared as I felt a fresh appreciation for the infinite novel terrain before me and the new relationship I’ve begun to develop.