I love running outside! Today, after weeks and weeks or freezing cold Polar Vortex weather which forced me to run on treadmills, I ran outside today. I ran around the Brick Reservoir, 9.41 miles at a nice 10:20 pace, and felt awesome. I was reminded again of all my outside runs, and how much I love it.
I took the above picture in December 2013, during one of my runs on the Wall Township Bike Path, which a nice 5 mile stretch of a traffic-free, mostly paved path from the historic and picturesque Allaire State Park and Village to Manasquan, where you can continue another 1.5 miles to Manasquan Beach. (There are many more miles if you take the trails through Allaire Park and also a turn off in Wall Township to the Municipal Center).
I grew up about 3 miles from the beach. Summers at the Jersey Shore (the rest of NJ says "down the shore," those of us actually on the shore don't) are busy and attract a lot of tourists -- and traffic. So to get to the beach we would have to drive the 3 miles (occasionally bike), fight traffic, and then look for ever-elusive, impossible to find parking. Winters were much better. But I was always jealous of my friends and those I knew who lived right on the water, or at least walking distance to the beach, so they didn't have to deal with all of the to-do just to get there.
Enter my adult life, and running. My wife, son, and I lived in a house 3 miles from the beach (not the exact house I grew up in, but close). Even from the beginning of my running days, I was so thrilled that I was finally able to run to the beach if I wanted to. I would run to the beach and back as part of my regular route. If my family wanted to go to the beach and boardwalk, we would still drive, but just knowing that I had the option to run there was great.
In the midst of my injury, we moved further away, but still close, 5 miles from the beach. When I started to run again, the bike path was the site of my long runs. What a beautiful path. Not just for the nature, and the scenery, and serenity, and the lack of motor vehicles ... but it was actually a path through my childhood ...
(credit to pressofatlanticcity)
(credit to newjerseymemories)
(credit to allaire village)
Growing up, Allaire State Park and the Historic Allaire Village was one of the go-to class trip destinations. It was also a great weekend or even afternoon retreat for our family. You can walk through, have a picnic, explore the nature trails, see the preserved village, and even witness historical reenactments. I remember specifically the blacksmith shop, and the general store. I see the age, and some wear and tear, time has taken a toll on some of the buildings and foliage, but it's still beautiful, and a hidden gem. And now I'm running through this village, a 40 year old man ... who's suddenly 8 years old again, running past the general store wondering what type of stick candy they have today.
ALLENWOOD GENERAL STORE
(credit to fineartamerica)
A few miles later, through woods, and the field from the beginning of this post, with wildlife, including deer, you come to some civilization, the neighborhood of Allenwood. The picture above is a historic picture of the Allenwood General Store, which is still there today, serving sandwiches, sodapop, and homemade ice cream. I remember riding my bike here as a child with my friends, again getting candy. And now, 30-something years later, as I run past it, I know I can always grab some hydration there during my long runs ...
(credit to main street gallery)
A few more miles, more woods, more neighborhoods, even passing behind Silton Swim School, a local institution where my dad, myself, and my son all learned how to swim ... then we hit the town of Manasquan.
Manasquan. Ah, Manasquan. Where to begin? This is where I grew up. This is my childhood. Where I went to grade school, where I got skinned knees from riding my bike. And this is Main Street, where I would skateboard with my friends when we thought we were cool. It was your prototypical small town America. Something we got to experience when we moved to the country from the city when I was 8 years old. There was a time when our family knew pretty much everyone who owned every shop on Main Street, and I knew all the kids. As I run through it now as an adult, I realize that the world has changed now, as has the town, but the Main Street Gallery above is owned by someone I graduated grade school with.
(credit to manasquan-nj)
So you run till you can't go anymore, and you have to turn around and go back -- when you hit Manasquan Beach, one of many beaches along the Jersey Shore ... but this one's another hidden gem. No boardwalk, no rides, no vendors ... just locals, and local shops, and restaurants. I run here now ... and realize ... as an adult, this is the site of my first official road race (since I enjoyed running), the 2012 Manasquan Midwinter Beach Run. It is a small, local 2 mile run. My first race. But was my first step towards completing the 39.3 mile 2014 Walt Disney World Goofy Challenge.
And so we've come full circle. When I run outside, I can run through my childhood, my past, and it helped me achieve my goals. I love running outside!