Did you know that my hometown is built on the side of a mountain? Yeah . . . how did I not realize that? Okay, so I totally knew that it was, but it takes on a completely different meaning when you are running through it rather than driving around it. I just got back from a short run. The first mile was mostly flat(ish), as I ran across the mountain. The second mile was entirely uphill. And the third was entirely — and steeply — downhill. Amazing. (It probably wasn’t my smartest move to be running down the hill after the sun had set, but the view from the top was phenomenal. Before it got dark.)
Maybe that is why I haven’t found running on vacation as enjoyable as I normally do. It’s that I can’t avoid serious hillage (not to mention the change in altitude, the marathon recovery, and not having my favorite running buddy around). But I’ve found something else that’s a little bit odd about running in a place I’m so familiar with, but only from behind a steering wheel. My sense of distance is seriously skewed. If I’d guessed at how far I ended up running tonight before I actually ran it, I’m pretty sure I would have doubled the distance. That could have been the hills talking, but I felt pretty much the same when I ran across the mountain last week: Mile 2?! I’m only to mile 2?!?! How could that possible be when I’ve been out here for 16 . . . oh, 16 mintues. I guess that’s about right then. Who knew that this landmark was actually so close?
The final discovery I’ve made this past week is that it’s hard to really and truly “go home.” When I last lived here, I was a different person. I was in high school. I didn’t run. I wasn’t very confident. I was quiet and bookish (and I still am). When I drove around as a teenager, I was always hoping to see people I knew, partly, I think, so that I felt like I was part of something. As I’ve been running by those familiar places, I still remember who lived where and what happened at that intersection and how I would take that road to get to so-and-so’s house. And part of me hopes that I’ll run into someone I know and be able to show them how different I am from when they knew me before. But, of course, they’re different too. They’re in different places, with different people. I’m not going to see Michelle practicing cheers in her driveway because she doesn’t live there any more. Melissa has been gone from that house for ages. Kim’s parents sold their house when we were in college.
So although I’m learning more about this place on a geographic level, I realize it’s getting to be more and more foreign on a personal level. In a couple of years I’ll know the streets and the hills and mileage better than I know any of the people I grew up with.