One of the truly great perks of my job is that I get to travel from time to time to various points within North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland. Unlike my prior job, in which I was subject to traveling the entire country and staying gone, sometimes for months at a time, when I travel now, it is for mere days at a time – just long enough satisfy that itch to roam, while still allowing me to be home like clockwork each and every weekend. While on these short trips, I have discovered all manner of wonderful restaurants, history-laden downtowns, museums, battlefields and running trails, among other attractions. The running trails have been especially rewarding.
Over the summer, while working in Frederick, MD, I discovered Monocacy Battlefield – site of a circa 1864 Civil War battle on which there was an outstanding trail run, complete with interpretive signs and panoramic hilltop views. Last month, while working in the charming, historic Northern Virginia town of Alexandria, I discovered a greenway trail that led all the way into D.C. The trail was a easy jaunt from my hotel, paralleled the Potomac river, and provided spectacular views of big jets taking off almost directly overhead from Reagan National Airport. As the trail approached D.C., familiar monuments took shape in the distance and it was easy to become lost in thoughts of the history of that often confounding, but always intriguing town as I plodded along.
I discovered another gem today. I’ve been working in Winston-Salem this week and after work today, I changed into my running shoes and drove over to Wake Forest University, hoping to find a good run there. Boy, did I. It was early evening on a perfect fall day – sixty degrees with fallen autumn leaves riding the occasional gust and providing color as they swirled over expansive, still-green commons. Strolling, sweater-clad undergrads chatted and laughed as they made their way to dorms and after-class activities. Chapel bells clanged in the distance, marking the top of the hour. Members of the Demon Deacon football team trotted to a nearby practice field while oblivious professors in frumpy corduroy jackets shuffled distractedly to their cars. The rich, amber smell of fall candles and clean Carolina pine mingled in the air with the faint scent of cinnamon. Handsome, mid-century brick buildings and mature oaks in full, autumn color set a classic backdrop, while the frenetic, youthful energy common to all college campuses carried me along – it was one of the most enjoyable five milers in recent memory.
I returned to the car, energized in that slightly buzzy way that I wish all non-runners could feel, and I pondered whether the people I saw on this run have any idea how fortunate they are to inhabit that wonderful place.