When I started running less than a decade ago, I spent all of my time on the treadmill at the YMCA. I told myself I stuck to the treadmill because it was easier to control the walk-run intervals of the Couch-to-5K program I was using. Once I graduated from that 12-week training and ran a 5K, I stuck to the treadmill out of habit.
The view from the treadmill only changed when the seasons did. I spent hours staring at the same slice of lawn, which would be green, then covered in leaves, then snow, then mud, then green again. I watched a posse of squirrels meet, hook up, have babies, and move on. I stared at the same stone retaining wall that remained unchanged.
I felt safe on that treadmill. A limited audience saw my jiggly thighs and wobbly belly. I never had to deal with weather or hills or dogs. I didn’t have to put myself out there.
It was fine. Until, of course, it wasn’t.
There was no big breakup. The Y and I had no blow-out fight. One morning, I just decided to run in my neighborhood because I saw so many other runners doing it. Then months passed and I realized how amazing it is out there, even in a place I swore I knew everything about. You experience so much more when you cover the distance one step at a time.
One thing led to another and I started running in other places, too.
Like my hometown, where I ran my very first half marathon.
Or a random lake in Southern New Jersey, where I got some miles in on a vacation.
Or in Florida, with my BRF.
Or with her again in Austin (and a random dog, who was a very good boy).
And out west in Spokane, where I discovered how fun it is to run on trails.
Or in San Antonio for a work conference where I went for a running tour with three women I’d never met before.
Or, most recently, in Ogden, where I experienced the Rocky Mountains and their sweeping vistas.
To say nothing of all of the runs out there where I didn’t take pictures, like around Sarah’s neighborhood in Portland, Oregon, in the morning dark. Or through the cranberry bogs on Cape Cod. Or with my husband near my sister-in-law’s house in Seattle.
As much as I love ending a run on my own front porch, even when it is sticky and humid and gross, I love even more running in parts of America I haven’t yet seen. It’s a big, beautiful country out there and I can think of no better way to experience it.