I was three minutes into my Christmas Morning run when the change of plans occurred. I went West (on OH-303) instead of East. And I didn't come back... at least not until I was done.
Back in the 1990's, we would often come from Michigan to Ohio to visit during the holidays, and on most of those occasions, I wind up doing a long solo run on Christmas Day. Where would I run? When we stayed with Debbie's sister and family in Brunswick, I would run either over to Hinckley, around the lake and back, or else I would go West. Way west.
Those long runs bring fond memories. It was often cold and nasty (this was Cleveland in late December, after all), and I would run 20 or more miles without water or other nutrition (it was the nineties; I didn't know any better). Yet I immensely enjoyed the runs on those deserted country roads (it was early on Christmas morning), and I haven't forgotten them.
Fast forward 18-ish years.
It's 46 degrees Fahrenheit, and that's quite possibly 46 degrees higher than some of those long-ago Christmas runs. I don't worry about my pace; that's guaranteed to be slow - significantly slower than those runs from my younger years. I'm more concerned about going the entire way without water, nutrition, or access to a toilet. Almost all my long runs these days are with friends, and exactly all enable some sort of pit-stop capacity. If I run alone from home, I will make sure that there's water along the way, or more likely, a plan to return home for said pit-stops every 6 miles or so. Prior to the Plan Change, today was going to be one of those days: do three to four 6-ish mile loops, returning home after each one, and/or do some 1-mile loops wound Brunswick Lake with access to a water bottle and some gel. These days, everyone - especially me, knows that you can't run 20 miles without water and some kind of calories. Or can you?
Onward to the West I run. Past Marks Road, past Columbia Road, past Valley City (Frog Jump Capital of Ohio!), past Lester, Station and Erhart Roads. Farther west than some of those other long runs. I turn South onto Cowley Road, and then back East on Law Road. As it had been all those years ago, St. Martin of Tours Church is well lit, and is a beacon that's visible for miles. After a little zig-zagging, I turn Southeast onto Abbeyville Road until I get to Lager Heads Restaurant and brewery, where I turn East onto Hamilton Road.
I look at my Garmin for only the second time. I know I've been going slow, but I'm enjoying this - possibly as much as those long ago long run. The reason for the glance? I know that it's a long five miles home from here, and I learn that I've run 14.79 miles to this point. Happy that I didn't notice the overall time or pace, I make the beeline for Shortstack (my house's name) that I'd hoped for.
After running in the darkness for all these hours, it was a different sensation to see the first hint of daylight whilst heading north on Substation Road. I hadn't seen very many cars during the entire run, much less any pedestrians or other passers-by. But here I come from behind, up to a man walking his dogs. I say hi as gently as I could so as not to startle him, but for some reason, startle him I do - he nearly jumps into the ditch on the side of the road. I say that I am sorry, and he seems fine, so on to Shortstack I go, finishing in 20.17 miles and a painfully slow 3 hours, 37 minutes.
Was I thirsty? Hungry? In need of a bathroom? Yes, yes and yes. But am I glad I did it? YES!
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