I drove past 41st Street the other day, between Phillips and Cliff avenues.
I couldn’t remember the last time I ran that stretch. It’s funny because I ran it at least twice a week for nearly a decade. It was part of my normal 5-mile morning route from my old house in McKennan Park: I would run 18th Street over to Dakota, then cut over to Phillips on 33rd, and take it down the hill to 41st. Then head east to Cliff Avenue and come up Arcadia to 33rd and back home near the park.
It was a great run – hilly and fairly well-traveled, perfect for training on dark mornings.
I knew so many routes from that house – knew them down to the tenth of a mile. The 7.8-mile run that my friend Kari and I used to do, trying to hit it in 60 minutes or less, and sometimes we did. The run to Brandon and back on weekends, to get a long run in. The easy 5-miler.
My new house is in southeastern Sioux Falls. I’ve lived here for just over three years now, and I still don’t have the routes down like I did over there. I don’t know if it’s because I haven’t ever officially trained for anything while I’ve lived over here or if it’s because I almost never run with a GPS anymore. I run mostly for time, my phone tucked into a belt with Strava running in the background, and occasionally I look at it.
I know the corner that’s a mile from me, I know I’m about three-fourths of a mile to the bike path, I know when I go through Old Orchard and down to the bike trail, I can get close to 5 miles.
On a recent Sunday morning, I woke up and sat on my back deck, drinking coffee and reading and trying to determine if it was going to start raining and when and how hard. I’ve been doing a lot of trail running lately, but sometimes I just don’t feel like it. I ran with my friend Natalie a few weeks ago and she talked about how she just was burned out on trail running. She had big miles to do, and the slowness of the trails made it all just take too long sometimes.
That’s how I felt, even just facing down an hour and a half run to cap off a week of being sick. I needed something, but the thought of driving to the park, and then the hills, and then all of it was clearly in my way.
So I put my shoes on. Road shoes.
Grabbed my old ipod and stood in the driveway, hit shuffle with all my old Wilco albums. I had gone to Lincoln, Neb., on Friday night to see them, the first time since they played the Washington Pavilion in 2002 or so. I didn’t want to be out of that evening, a little tipsy and a lot happy. I hear them and am back 20 years ago, driving to Columbus from Cleveland, am sitting on the deck, am writing, am running, am wondering and waiting and swimming all the way back up to now, arms full of everything I’ve collected along the way.
I came out of my neighborhood and headed north on Sycamore Avenue. It’s a slow and steady climb all the way to 18th Street, never steep enough to make you realize it, but there enough to make it all feel like a bit of work. As I turned west on 18th and took it over to Bahnson, I started to think about all the different times I’ve run up there.
It’s weird how the entire city can be laid over with memories of running routes.
Kristen Johnston and I used to run that route backwards, taking 18th over to Sycamore instead, and then coming around. I would run up River Road, climb the huge hill as it turns into 18th, and then turn south on Bahnson on mornings before work.
Now it’s all different on the same roads. I ran by myself, sang out loud, stood for too long at the corner of 26th and Bahnson, trying to breathe in the weird fall humidity, took a detour to get in a few more miles. Stopped to pick up a friend.
As I waited for him to get his shoes on, I laid on my back patio, trying to figure out why I felt so awful – blaming the humidity. I closed my eyes against the sun, turned on my side and tried to determine if I was going to get sick or not. I didn’t, and when he came out ready to go, I just asked for a hand up and we headed back out for another few miles.
I ended up running for about an hour and a half, with a bit of walking toward the end. I didn’t want to do the second half of the run. I almost didn’t do the first part, comfortable enough on the deck reading a book and drinking coffee.
But I went, and that’s what I just keep trying to do. Just go. Be consistent. Walk if you have to – you almost never walk as much as you think you might when you get started.
I’m not from Sioux Falls. I’ve been here for nearly 17 years, though, long enough to have seen the city change. I have friends who grew up here, and they talk about everything they remember on street after street. My memories aren’t that layered. Even where I grew up, it was so fragmented. I lived in Elyria, Ohio, until I was 10, then I moved to Rhode Island and lived there for a year. Then back to Ohio for a year, back to Rhode Island for a year, and back to Ohio for high school. College in Athens, Ohio.
And then I just kept moving. To Cleveland. To Minnesota. To South Dakota.
People ask me if I ever miss my hometown, and the true answer is no, not at all. It was never really mine. I wasn’t old enough to know it, hated high school enough to have that bad attitude cover up any nostalgia that may exist.
It wasn’t my town.
I don’t know if this is, either, but I’ve lived here longer than I’ve ever lived anywhere, and I only really ever thought about leaving twice. Once to the west coast, once to the east. Neither seriously. I want my kids to have a hometown, so I’ll be here for the duration, I think. It’s too weird to feel uprooted all the time. I know that.
My emotional Strava segments in this town are made up of training going well, or poorly, of injuries and friends I haven’t talked to in a long time. A phone call in a parking lot. A ragged discussion on the bike path, both of us crying. A fall on ice, a thunderstorm, a beautiful day riding bikes with the kids.
It’s everything, these routes. Maybe that’s how it always is, wherever you go. Other people have them in their car, on the drive to their first house, to all those things. I have that, too. But then I have them on foot, forwards and back, in the early morning, and at dusk.
They’re written down in perfunctory logs, date, time, distance, shoes worn. No other notes. I think I like it that way – I never know what I’ll remember until it happens, sometimes triggered by the day, sometimes the place. I don’t know what I’ll hit when I retrace them, when it will lift me up, when it will level me, sometimes both in the same run.
I don’t know what was making me feel so awful on Sunday, as I laid there on the patio. Maybe it was the heat. Maybe it was all of it. Maybe it was nothing.
Jacqueline Palfy is a longtime runner, reader and writer, marathoner, mom and board member of the nonprofit Sioux Falls Area Running Club. Her contributions to the 605 Running Co. blog will appear each Tuesday. You can follow her on Twitter @runnerJPK or reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Story ideas are encouraged.