Monday, April 24, 2006

You Have to Grab These Moments, #2

"You know you're a runner when ..."
You're on vacation and notice that the fitness room in the hotel opens at 6AM, or just about the same time you run at home, so you set the alarm to get one of the two treadmills.

Running five miles on the treadmill early in the morning the day after driving for six hours from Jersey to Virginia was good. I took it to the next level the following day.

I had noticed that our hotel in Williamsburg was not REALLY all that far from William and Mary. Yeah, THAT William and Mary - the second oldest college in the United States; Alma Mater of some seven US Presidents??? I love running through colleges, especially old ones. I used to run through Penn when I lived in Philly. That's where the Gargoyle Ranch was.

How could I NOT go through this one??? When would I get this chance again???

I got up early, as I had the day before to run the 'mill. I stretched a little bit in the room, quietly, not to wake the girls, then went outside to finish. The bright Virginia sunrise belied how chilly the morning was. I had on a t-shirt and shorts. This would be my first morning run of the year without sweats. It was still cool enough that I could see my breath as I loosened up on the tennis court. I double double-checked that I had my room "key" - the magnetic card - in my pocket. Usually, I have the keys to my Sally in my hand as I run, but they were in the luggage somewhere and I wasn't about to go looking for them.

I had made a slight error in choosing my starting point. The door to our side of the two wings opened conveniently to the tennis courts and swimming pool. Being the cooler part of April, neither was open. In fact, I seriously considered getting a $20 skateboard at Target down the street and taking a couple of runs. The tennis courts were at the bottom of the hill leading out to the main road to W&M. My run began with 20 yards on incline of 20 feet. 'Well, that will help me start slow' I thought, still trying to train myself to the 9:00 mile Annabelle had prescribed for us.

The first half mile was a pot-hole jumping extravaganza as I navigated the construction zone of the widening project begun Richmond Road. The roadway neon orange "Businesses Open During Construction" begged locals, and tourists to come to the strip mall and drop some cash. I just wanted to avoid turning an ankle.

Once past the roadwork area, the neighborhood turned far more genteel. Every third house was a bed & breakfast or had won some sort of VA Beautification Award. The lawns looked better in mid-April than mine does in June. Three quarters of a mile or so out, I crossed paths with my first local. He was a fifty-something lifetime runner in his 70's throwback outfit - white long-sleeved shirts, way too short shorts, bicycle cap on his bearded head. With a nod of his head and enthusiastic wave, he seemed glad to have company on this bright Thursday morning.

A couple minutes later, another runner approached me. He too smiled and waved. "Southern Hospitality" I thought. I guess I don't look like I'm a Yankee, or worse, that I'm from Jersey.

I ran past the stadium, where the brick wall began alongside the sidewalk. 'I'm in the college, now' I thought. However it had only taken me 8 minutes to get there. I had planned on being out for at least 45. 'I might as well just jog around then.' Half a block down across the street, was the only Wawa I've ever seen with Colonial architecture, complete with twin chimneys - artificial, I hoped, but considerably the most beautiful convenience store I’d ever seen.

It wasn't long before I reached the free-for-all intersection of Richmond Road, Boundary Street and Jamestown Road. There is no light here, no stop sign, no indication at all who has the right of way. The night before, Donna had driven the car right through the middle and watched the other two vehicles "Figure out their problem." Since there was no other traffic, I charged through as well, with no risk.

This was the last place I had already been. I was now in explorer mode.

Donna had taken the left here, but I continued straight. Maybe it was my years of running through the historic district in Philly, but some thing in my head said “just go towards the water" In Philly, the distance from the cobblestones, brick, ivy and tourists to the Delaware River is about ½ mile … From William and Mary to the James river is about six. I instinctively turned south on Boundary Street; a nice residential Colonial street much like those in my childhood town of Wethersfield, CT. Except these were either college buildings or professor residences. Being 7 AM I had no clue; neither option would be a bustle of activity on a Thursday morning, with just a few weeks (days??) of classes left to got.

This street did not hold much promise for a long trek through Williamsburg, as it T-ed off just a few hundred yards later. Not wanting to turn back prematurely, I took the left and proceeded further away from the college. One block along and I came to a “more main” road. Across the street was the bounding edge of a cemetery. Under “normal” circumstances, I would have found the gate and rolled right it … But this was Virginia … Cemeteries follow different rules down here; rules I am familiar but not comfortable with. As much as it pained the ghost-buster in me, I turned away and back to the town, looking to take the next right away and further out … checking my watch, I’d only been out about 15 minutes …. I wanted to find another ten minutes or so before heading back.

A few yards up this street I saw a sign proclaiming “Colonial Historic Parkway”

Being from New Jersey, I know a couple of things about parkways
1) Once you get on; it takes a while to get off
2) When you do get off; you’re still not sure where you are

I was already unsure about where I was so …

I turned left, back up Nassau Street – very Colonial name, by-the-way.

I proceeded past a couple of parking lots and a pretty big building set off from the campus, then another which looked a lot like Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia – spectacularly manicured lawn with crisscrossing sidewalks in front. The houses were more sparse in this part of campus … basically because I was longer ON campus … I was actually running through Colonial Williamsburg … and I had no ticket!!!

I didn’t realize this until I crossed Duke of Gloucester street and looked to my right to see the Capitol at the end of the road. I was quite tempted to trot down there, but I wasn’t sure what the mood of Park Security would be at this time of day. I consigned myself to continue down Nassau Street to it’s end then head back to the town.

I got to Scotland Street and turned left. Returning to Boundary Street, I turned left again and ran past the W&M “Merchant’s Square” shopping area. In the vacant early morning is was hard to visualize the hive of polo-shirted activity this would be a in a couple of hours.

I continued further, until I reached the point I had turned left about a mile ago. This time I turned right and headed back into the campus. I came up behind some administrative and buildings back onto Jamestown Road. I crossed the street, towards a row of very “hall” like buildings. A sweet blonde co-ed jogged down the sidewalk; I smiled and waved. She wanted no part of me. I followed the sidewalk between the brick halls on my right and a construction zone to my left. After I passed the chain linked hard hat area I came to a deviation in the so far very flat course I had been running. A very nice downhill left, into a wooded area of the school.

“This is more like it.” I said quietly to myself and dropped the hammer (slightly) on the descent. I entered the woods and crossed a quaint bridge over a small creek and duck pond. Hanging over the stream 50 yards or so a way was a sheet with “5 Days Left” spray-painted on it. The “5” had been X’ed out in red and a “4” painted over that.

“Wow. They get out early. I guess they have internships to start.”

As I climbed the other side of the hill, and cut through a cluster of very dormitory buildings, I realized that because of the twisting nature of the paths back here, I wasn’t 100% sure how to get back to the front of the school.

“Oh well, just roll with it and enjoy the self-guided tour.”

I passed what appeared to be a cafeteria, and another more condominium dorm. I curled around to my right and spied the stadium.

“That’s my way out.” I had noticed the light stands on the way in.

I reached the stadium and re-gathered my bearings. I knew that if I just continued straight through the middle of the school I would most likely end up back at the “point” at Merchants Square. Well almost. James Blair Drive jogged to the left just before reaching Richmond Road, kicking me back out about a block up. Just as the blonde turned back in. She still didn't say "Hi."

I headed back to the hotel with about 5 miles of Ivy League jogging behind me.

I passed the now familiar landmarks: the Wawa, the College Delly (hey, that's how THEY spell it), Readings by Maria, Dunkin Donuts, IHoP.

I finished the six-mile tour in about 50 minutes. Not blazing, but not walking either.

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