Last month I took a vacation. Unlike most of my vacations, it was only a week long. Also unlike most vacations, I actually got to do something on my own without the rest of the family.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my family, but we were in Virginia Beach. It was where I grew up and went to high school. One morning I took off to go for a run at Seashore State Park* where I had run hundreds of miles in my youth. During the run, I had a flood of memories which helped me through the run.
Even thinking back now, I am relaxing just thinking about that morning. I’m going to recount the morning and then wrap-up with the point of this post.
Just Like Old Times
When I arrived there was a high school team stretching and performing form drills in the parking lot. Sure enough, it was the cross country team from Frank W. Cox HS, my alma mater. I didn’t say anything, not wanting to be that guy. I just did a quick stretch and took off.
My friend Melissa, a local, had warned me to watch out for roots as some sections are laced with them. She attended a different school and didn’t have the same trail experience that I had garnered. As I started, sure enough, there were tons of roots. After the first 20 yards on the Bald Cypress Trail, I was navigating the roots without thinking. I may be older and out-of-shape but my body remembers.
After running up the steps to shift over to Fox Run on the way to Long Creek, I remembered the dips and sandy stretches. As I reached Broad Bay, the same euphoria hit that always hit me when I was younger. I zipped up the hill/bump and took that hard left to follow along the shore.
This is when the memories really started to come back to me…
- Various teammates running off trail to relieve themselves. There was one area that I thought we should put-up a sign considering how often Sarah turned off there.
- Running near race speed to get rid of the freshmen. One particular freshman, Robb (aka Elvis), was particularly tenacious. Jeff, our captain & one of the top runners in the district, would set the pace. Eventually Rob would drop-off and we could slow down and return to a normal pace. One time mid-season it took us 1.5 miles to drop him. We stopped shortly afterwards to catch our breath. Needless to say, Robb became very fast trying to keep up with us. By the end of the season we had given up trying to drop him.
- Long Creek is a great trail, but if you don’t turn off, it goes a long way. My fourth month on the team, I had fallen back and took a wrong turn on a spring break run. I went over ten miles that day and it remained the furthest distance I had run until college. Mike and the rest of the middle distance team was gone by the time I had returned to my car.
At this point I had reached BA, a hill about two miles in via the route I was taking. It is a tall, steep, sand dune with trees. The mosquitoes were biting at the bottom, as always, so I charged up the hill. It hurt. In fact, when I reached the top, I realized I had reached my limit for the day.
The hill is loaded with memories. We’d always charge up to the top, trying to get some semblance of hill work in a very flat city. We’d often stop at the top and look out over the bay and debate which direction to go next while we waited for everyone to ascend. I’d sometimes run to BA with a book in a backpack and then go off down the side to read while looking over the Bay.
That spot is one of my favorite spots in the world.
As I began to walk back, I started to wonder where the HS runners were. I hadn’t been going very fast. I never saw them out on the trails. While they could get a good run in without heading to BA, I worry that the team sticks to the flat, boring, characterless, bike trail.
Speaking of character, I took a different path back. I hopped on the the Kingfisher trail. I walked the whole way after a quick jog made me realize that my body wasn’t going to recover in a timely fashion.
Kingfisher was primarily used when doing the four-mile loop but it has a secret. It has a side-trail that cuts over to the White Hill Lake trail. Called “The Twins” for its two large hills, the trail was used when we wanted to mix it up. It was easier to find from the White Hill Lake trail, but sure enough, I saw the entrance to the trail without having to slow down.
I didn’t turn. I carried on down the trail. As I approached the bike trail for the final mile of the return trip, I remembered the twist and turns indicating that the trail was ending. Sure enough, after the next bend I came upon the bike trail.
I know I just picked on the the bike trail, but it has one very good use, going fast. There were many times when a friend was upset or angry and we decided to go for a run. One time, Chuck had just broken up with his girlfriend and we ran down that trail faster than we ever had before. What made it worse was that we were talking as we burned-off his conflicted emotions.
I didn’t come close to approaching that speed as I walked but my legs wanted to try.
As I arrived in the parking lot, I had some water at the water fountain and walked back to my car, dripping sweat. As I changed out of my shoes, some of the cross country runners finished their run. As they chatted and recovered from their run, in them I saw the team of old. The bonds and the focus. God willing, in 20 years they’ll be able to return to Seashore to run and have a reconnection with the past.
Finally, The Point
The run was important. In addition to the memories that came back as if was yesterday, it reinforced what I wanted to do with my life. It reinforced my goals. It reminded me of my roots and showed me that they were still strong.
Strangely enough, Lisa Petrilla wrote about reconnecting with yourself the week after my vacation. This made me realize that the run and experience wasn’t accidental. I needed to reconnect. As she points out:
To sit still, feel the beating of our heart, and connect with that inner feeling of being truly passionate about our vision, our mission, our True Purpose.
Because until we are able to do this, we simply cannot lead others.
That is what this run did for me. Though I wasn’t exactly sitting still, I did feel the beating of my heart. The vacation was great but that run reminded me of where I was from and where I wanted to go. Without remembering that Seashore and running are a part of me, I can’t do what needs to be done on a day-to-day basis. Sure, I can accomplish things, but utilizing my full capabilities can’t happen unless I am grounded.
My new goal is get in enough shape so I can not only run to BA next time, but I can then run to the Twins and follow it up with a short sprint down the bike trail. As for when, I’m going to do start doing this a regular basis.
As for Melissa’s advice, I didn’t trip on those roots because they are my roots.
Even as I recall this run, the faces of my teammates come flooding into my mind:
Jeff, Jason, Bill, Trevor, Jen, Lori, Sarah, Karen, Kristen, Sean, Shawn, Craig, Mike, Robb, Chuck, and Coach.
Some of them I still talk to regularly, others I just trade updates on Facebook, and the rest I trust are off somewhere making a positive difference in this world. Seashore is where my roots are embedded. As long as that is true, I’ll always remember running there with them.
I may have closer friends and family but their faces are burned into my psyche forever. For that, I am thankful.
* I don’t care if Seashore has been renamed First Landing State Park. It will always be Seashore to me.
7 thoughts on “Reconnecting and the Zen of Seashore”
Awesome post Laurence – thanks for sharing!
Nice, Laurence. And the first pic reminded me of my roots — looks almost like it could’ve come straight from SW Louisiana.
It is the location of the northern most, natural occurrence of Spanish Moss. When people talk about “wetlands”, this spot can pretty much define it.
I still want to know about the blue M&Ms.
I’m a friend of Karen Stewart’s…running buddies who’ve done New Orleans Marathon, numerous training runs for Team in Training, I participated in her wedding, we go back a bit. I loved reading your blog…it was exhilarating. My son was a champion XC runner and I run trails still, too. Thanks for a good read…it resonates.
This is a master piece! You need to write a column. I run there every time I’m back. I try to beat the ghosts every time. That little scrawny Robb is now a Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion Commander – a United States Marine. He is well revered throughout the Marine Corps. I think our toughening him up had a bit to do with it.
Speaking of Marines – several of those you listed are also Marines – Trevor, Bill, Jason, and one you didn’t mention – Addison Hagan and, from FC, Erik Burton (lead a small team in the remote and extremely dangerous desert western Afghanistan just recently). No one person can name them all in one sitting but every one of the team mates have recalled in their own personal memories by each of us.
Great memories – the BA especially. Good news – the other day I was running in the hinterland between the BA and 64th St (Long Creek) building a segment and in the opposite direction flew a tight pack of about ten runners – probably a men’s HS team. They are out there. Don’t lose hope.
Seashore State Park Forever!
Thanks Jeff, it means a lot. I was pretty sure it wasn’t just me and I’m glad that you got to read this.
I get the Marine connection. One of my few regrets is that I didn’t follow through and join you. The respect I have for you guys is quite large.
I ran into Rob a few years ago. You are right, he isn’t scrawny any more. Glad to know he is doing well and it wasn’t his perspective. I don’t know how much we did to toughen him up; his determination was there day 1.
See you on the trails.
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