Friday, March 13, 2009

Running Back in Time (Reprise)

Although we recently went through our semiannual ritual of moving our clocks forward, the last two races have done just the opposite – to some extent turning back time. Our February race was actually in Birmingham, Alabama, but a good part of our trip was spent in Huntsville. It was a great opportunity to visit with some old friends and see what 25 intervening years have done to the city. In the latter case, it was obvious that Huntsville has continued to grow and prosper – without sacrificing its heritage. On a more personal note, we checked to see if Dacia’s mortal point of origin was still there (it was, although we couldn’t find the commemorative plaque we expected to see); we drove by Chafee School, where both Alan and Emily began their formal education; and wanted to pay our respects to the fateful spot where Emily learned her first physics lesson about height, distance and falling objects – not to mention the frailty of small arm bones (the park was still there, but the slide was not). We had a good visit to the Space and Rocket Center (vastly expanded) – and even caught an IMAX movie. Later, we drove past our town home (Willowbrook) and first home (Randall Rd), then through some new subdivisions, where it was obvious the “home” owners have done VERY well, but the homes were no more impressive than those going on 200 years old in the historic district of beautifully preserved, southern-style manors. The city also now boasts a prospering research and business park, but the lake and the geese (yes, the ones that Alan and Emily were petrified of) were still downtown, providing the setting for the Von Braun Civic Center. In Cullman, we visited the Ave Maria Grotto, the handiwork of a monk over 40 years, who built the world's landmarks in miniature.

We stayed a couple of nights with Mo and Martha Brooks – friends from the “Huntsville Era”. Both are doing well; Mo is still immersed in politics; Martha is now teaching middle school math; and Rachel (who, we learned, also runs marathons) is married with an 18-month old daughter. Besides politics, Mo has burnished his skills on the ping pong table. Although I expected to get beat, I didn’t necessarily expect to get annihilated – and that was with him playing left-handed! (I took some consolation knowing he plays at the state championship level.) Also had dinner with Paul Todd and Wendy, who have lived in Huntsville several years; Paul and I grew up as neighbors in Logan.

As for the race and Birmingham – both were good. In Birmingham we visited Vulcan Park, which commemorates Birmingham’s industrial and iron-producing heritage, with the largest iron statue in the world. We also visited several sites of significance from the civil rights era – which we ran by again during the race. Although I wouldn’t classify much of Birmingham’s downtown as particularly scenic, the race was well-supported, there was a pretty large field, the race expo and post-race food were really good (what’s not to like about a full BBQ sandwich lunch??), and the finisher’s medal (a Mercedes Benz emblem from the main sponsor) is one of our favorites. One section of the race went through some older, historic homes – which was a course highlight. As for results, I was happy with them. Since this was only my second race since the hamstring injury, I wanted to ensure things were back to normal, so started a bit conservatively. However, by the end I was more confident and finished very strongly – and reasonably satisfied that The Thoughtful Runner is fully back and in stride.

As for deep or particularly noteworthy thoughts (was I ever OUT of stride….purely a rhetorical question, mind you) – I’m not sure I had any (anyone surprised?). However, there were some impressions left from this race worth sharing. One has to do with our civil rights heritage. Having lived through much of that era, I remember it being an often tumultuous and divisive time and, in many respects, not one we should be too proud of. However, much progress has been made and many people risked a lot to bring that about. Taking a few minutes to visit some sites in Birmingham was a good idea – and I would recommend any such sites when you are in a location where that is possible. The second impression concerns preserving our past. It is a fact that the years take their toll on what we remember and how we remember it. I believe it is also true that the past, in large measure, has made us who we are today. Although we can’t and shouldn’t relive it, we certainly need to continue to pull and learn from it. And efforts to preserve it – however difficult – should not be neglected or postponed – as there will not always be a tomorrow. Once and awhile, it’s a good thing to Run Back in Time.


Mythreesons said...

Hey! There's our house! I actually remember that house... but I don't remember being scared of any stinking geese! Looks like fun, Dad... I know it's a place I'd like to take the boys someday. Especially the Space Museum. I think they'd love that. Enjoyed your recap, as always!

Rachel's Mommy said...

Good recap of a great race and weekend. It's fun to visit your old haunts, and as much as everyone knows I have that love/hate relationship with running, I really do love doing these race weekends!