June 12, 2010

Tales from a Commuter Runner

I like to think of myself as a Commuter Runner.

You know, one of those people who run to work instead of driving their car. I don't actually run to work. I live almost 30 miles from my work--I would die running to work, therefore defeating the purpose of going to work in the first place. I do sometimes drive into ER (not The ER, just the town of ER) and catch the bus the rest of the way into work. Then I walk 4 blocks or so through a part of town I am very glad is still asleep and not trying to sell me anything, to my office. To get home I have options. I can work 20 minutes later, walk 2 blocks further than the morning walk and catch a bus back to my car. People are out and about after work and I don't really like this option. The proportion of Cadillacs to slummy apartments is way too high for my comfort level.

I like to take option #2. After work I slip into my running clothes. Load the vitals like ID, water & knitting into my little backpack and run out the door, past the dealer's park, across several busy streets and down to the fabulous trails that weave through the Anchorage greenbelt and head to downtown to catch an earlier bus. This gets me home 15 minutes earlier, which is 15 more minutes with my kids I recapture from the working day. I also get a 2-3 mile run in, which is good all around. Actually, rather miraculous.

But the other day...it all went horribly wrong. Don't get me wrong--I was not accosted, spat on or otherwise injured. In fact, I was probably never in danger. I just FELT like I was and that makes all the difference. It started with my usual fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants attitude towards life. This is difficult when you are relying on a bus to get you home and the bus is on a strict schedule. But I digress. I worked late and thought, "No biggy, I'll catch the later bus. The last one is at 6:08. No problem, I'll get a long run in." So I head off on a glorious sunny day and decide to stay on the trail system longer than I normally do and enjoy running through the woods next to a creek instead of on cement sidewalks next to traffic. When I would get off the trails I left up to how I felt. See, there's this little airstrip that I needed to decide which way I would run around. Either way I would end up at the far end catching the last bus at the last stop as it headed out of town. I COULD NOT MISS THIS BUS! One way was probably shorter, but all on pavement in bad neighborhoods. The other way might be longer, but most of it was on the trails and then through a lighter traffic area in a better neighborhood. This in retrospect is a no brainer. Trying to make this decision with tired legs and a bus to catch was a bit more difficult. I opted for the shorter route because I really didn't want to miss the bus and I didn't know how much longer the pretty way would be. With my sense of distance it could be 2-5 miles further and I wouldn't know until I was still running at 9pm.

I get off the trails onto the largest road leading out of Anchorage. 4 lanes of rush hour traffic and a sidewalk that would not have fit a full size stroller. On my right, the worst neighborhood in Anchorage. It makes my office neighborhood look like innocent suburbs. I could either run on Ingra (the busy street) or cut through the 'hood. I opt for Ingra. Safety in public spaces and all that. When I finally get to where I can get off the street I realize I am exhausted from being so tense. However, the bus doesn't get to the stop I'm at for 25 minutes. I am NOT standing here sweating for 25 minutes. I decide to run down past Merrill Field (the little airstrip I mentioned before--also one of the busiest airports in the NATION!) and catch the bus at the far end as planned. I could run inside the fence around the airport and look at all the pretty planes as I ran, wasn't there a frontage road or something?

Actually, no, there isn't a frontage road. And the fence is all locked up now.

There is a really wide sidewalk with a cement wall on the right and 4 lanes of rush hour traffic on the left. A runner's dream. The joy of running by rush hour traffic is that most the time the cars are sitting in one place. So I got to be passed by cars which I would then pass and then they would pass me again...you get the picture. Hot sun, hot cement, loud traffic that won't go away. I just kept running. Amazing how fast you feel you are running when passing cars. I sprinted the length of the runway and made it to my bus-stop with 10 minutes to spare.

It has been 2 days and I finally felt up to seeing how far I ran and how much longer the pretty way would have been. I ran 4.5 miles on cement. The pretty way was a mere 1/4 mile longer. I could have run it and had 7 minutes or more to spare. Lesson learned--I will track my route BEFORE I leave the office.

Thank goodness the only excitement on today's run was a bull moose. I know what to do with those guys.

1 comment:

Ser said...

Teal, I'm glad you are writing again! And, truth be told, I'd much rather hear about your life in general than only your knitting (I'm totally craft/sewing challenged). Since my path didn't allow me to stay in Alaska, I'll live vicariously through you. :)

Oh, and I can't run anymore--bad knees after too much running on pavement--but I am swimming more for exercise now and I think of you and our early morning swims fondly.