We had to go up to Taunton the other day to deliver my son and a few of his schoolmates to Southeastern Districts and since we had a little spare time before the afternoon concert, my wife and I headed south to New Bedford for a few bits and pieces for the B&B. As we roamed around New Bedford in a pouring rainstorm, I navigated by way of the yellow mile markers recently re-painted on the roads for this year’s New Bedford Half Marathon and as I gave my wife a tour of the race route around the fort (miles 8-11 for those who are keeping count), I realized that most of the ways that I know how to find my way around cities and towns is through the races and the runs that I’ve done there. While I travel quite a bit for work, I rarely get out to visit the city that I’m in for that few days except during my morning runs. Perhaps later, if we get a chance to find someplace for dinner, I’ll be able to direct our explorations towards an interesting place that I ran by in the morning but my overall view of an area is shaped by the miles that I put on my running shoes in the morning, not by what I see through a car window.
As an exercising tourist, I don’t take pictures of the places that I travel to, I build maps in my head instead. And while much of my running hours are spent in the dark or looking at the few inches of pavement directly in front of me, I try to be sure to explore a different part of town every day, stopping as occasion demands to admire a building, tree, view, memorial, or other interesting diversion. In this way, I now call these places part of my running experience, part of my life, part of my home … and in like kind, those places are now part of my training fitness, my race successes and failures. I guess that it’s little wonder that I see everywhere as a race course, a training run, or a long ride. The smart kid who never got picked first in gym class really is an athlete … and someday, on every street corner of every city of the world there will be a little sign that says, "Geof Ran Here." Get outside and add your name to that sign right now!