Friday, June 20, 2008

College Days

Sometimes I wish I was back in college, so that’s exactly where I go… and there are so many great campuses to choose from! Furman University is about 10 min from my house, Clemson is 45 min away, and The University of Georgia (aka, heaven on earth) is a 1.5 hour drive.

Furman is always crawling with Greenville athletes. Runners meet in the morning to organize group runs; cyclists are able to assemble in a parking lot and ride off into the mountains (or across the street for Paris Mountain repeats); and now, there are track meets every Tuesday night – open for anyone to race: Long Jump, 100 Meters, 200 Meters, 400 Meters, 800 Meters, 1 Mile (or 1600 Meters), or 3200 Meters (all free, thanks to Run-In). Many races go through the campus… because it’s beautiful and so close to the city!

A bit further away, we’ve got Clemson University… the campus is no UGA, but they have a great lake. Thanks to G’ville friend/swimmer, Steve, there are organized group swims every other Wednesday night. After getting in his own swim, Steve kayaks while our group takes off from the East Street Beach. Sometimes we’ve got so many people, it feels like the wave of a triathlon taking off. Then, Steve has a cooler with cold drinks and beer waiting on the beach. Dare I say it… I LOVE these swim workouts! Lake Harwell is fantastic. You see the Clemson Crew teams out practicing, students running along the dam, sail boats, people enjoying the summer in boats, on jet skis, etc…

Ah, and The University of Georgia……………

Let’s have a moment.

We’ve all been talking about escalating gas prices, so it’s not often I can justify the 1.5 hour drive to Athens. But, sometimes the stars align… and I can find an excuse to drive to UGA.

This past Sunday, I had a long run on my schedule…. And nothing else pending. Nothing else to do during the day. The day was wide open, and I heard Athens calling. So, I filled up some water bottles, packed up the cooler, grabbed my running shoes and a visor, and got in the car. I love cycling, but it can feel amazing to just get up and go (without all the steps required to get ready for a ride).

*Before leaving, I even rummaged around in my CD’s for country albums I’d gotten in college.

After one hour on I85 south, with Tim McGraw blasting, windows open, I got off at the Commerce exit and knew I was 20 miles away from God’s Country. As I pulled my car into the parking lot at the intramural fields, I realized the air just smelled better. I felt like I’d gotten home. And as far as my running is concerned, Athens is home. It’s where I started running… where I fell in love with running.

I looked around as saw familiar sights: college students playing tennis, throwing the frisbee, napping in the sun, walking dogs, running. It felt so normal, it’s like I’d never been away.

I started the run with two laps around the trails (about 1.2 miles each), then crossed the street toward campus… I apologize, the rest of this description might not mean much to you. So, I write for myself. Around the Ramsey Student Center (home to an amazing aquatics facility), along River Road up to the football stadium, left toward Stegeman Coliseum, around the Coliseum past the Astroturf practice fields, up to the track and once around, to five points (past Smoothie King, where I promised myself a smoothie after the run), all the way down Milledge Avenue (smiling at each frat/sorority house), and dooooown --- uppppp to Broad St. Downtown Athens!to North Campus, right under the arch and through the quad, stop at the library for water, past the business school, down the hill to the open horseshoe side of the stadium [pause at the stadium to smile at the field], up and through the math/science buildings (hummmm, maybe that’s why I sped up), back to the intramural fields and one last lap around.

So many times I’ve run by these things… I can close my eyes and picture each step. There’s no way to describe how good it felt to run around my old stomping ground. After finishing the workout, I changed, downed the drinks I’d packed, and headed to Smoothie King for my post run treat.

Sometimes you’ve just got to go home.

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