When the long winter turns to spring and the daylight stretches into the evenings, I happily return to our roads to run and walk. Running the same route repeatedly has its drawbacks. I begin counting strides and memorising hills. I once had a college roommate who who ask me to drop her about 3 miles from our dormatory for her run. She refused to run loops or any familiar route. She hated the monotony. And I get it.
But surprisingly I love running the same route over and over again. I love that steady repetition; it brings me back to my teens when I first discovered running. I grew up in the New Hampshire countryside and there was only one real route we would take from our house. As I write I can actually smell the air and see the patches of light shining down through the trees. Years of running up Island Road to its end and turning back toward home. Or if I was feeling up to it, turning right at the end of Island Road on to Critchet Road, which would bring you to old rt 101 and back to our house. Squirrels danced their way across the roads. Birds sang. Cars passed occasionally and you always waved because you could be nearly certain you knew who they were. I knew every house on Island Road and most on Critchet. These roads were dotted with houses and surrounded by forests and meadows. Occasionally deer could be heard rustling through the trees or darting across the road. Children played in their yards or out in the street.
Now I run a country road in Ireland. About one mile in I turn off the main road onto a smaller one, which eventually brings me back to the main road again. There’s one place on this small road that stopped me in my tracks the first time I ever ran it. Every time I run here I feel the past, I can nearly smell it. Its like somewhere I have been before, as a child, and I can’t put my finger on it. It’s a warm feeling, joyous even. It’s a feeling of spring even if I run past in January. Sometimes the feelings of home are so strong I feel homesick. It’s what some would call a feeling of déjà vu. I don’t know what I call it but I love it and it keeps me running the same route nearly all year round.
We are five weeks into lockdown as the coronavirus sweeps across the world. We are fortunate here in the countryside, and I’m thankful that this loop still keeps me within my stay at home boundaries. The sun has been shining stronger each day for the past two weeks. As I ran past houses tonight, I passed parents playing ball with children. The sound of birds singing could be heard over my headphones. A family of four young children played under a large tree, waving sticks in the air, imaginations running wild. More tractors than cars passed me by. We all smiled and waved as we passed one another. I could smell spring in the air but not just spring, I could smell spring back on Island Road. Lately it’s as if people, families, and even nature has taken a big step back to when I was a child. It’s these postitive memories I want to hold on to from this crisis.
Life has changed dramatically in a few short weeks. There’s tension and fear, and pain and sorrow around the world. But in another respect nature and humanity has been given the chance to thrive; to grow and bloom.