Have running shoes, will travel…

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While running is an excellent way to see your everyday world from a new perspective, it can also provide a magnificent road to even fuller enjoyment of a new place.

I almost always bring running clothes on the car trips my husband and I take in the United States. I keep my mileage expectations low, with a goal of just getting out there, breathing in, breathing out, and observing a place from the ground up.

Some of those runs have been spectacular: going on a 3-mile jog around the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. with my husband, his daughter and her husband; fitting in a 4-miler in the shadow of Pike’s Peak in Colorado Springs visiting my brother Ben; and of course seeing 26.2 miles of New York City (all five boroughs) up close and personal in the marathon.

Just getting out there on my own to meet the road, air and sky can feel glorious – and can be so much more interesting and engaging when what you see is very new to you. This week I was in one of my favorite places to do so: Sandia Park, New Mexico.

Running in Albuquerque

My brother Chuck lives in a beautiful village in the mountains outside Albuquerque. The roads have wide shoulders, and the Sandias ease up to meet the sky and clouds all around. Today there was less than an inch of snow in the brush-cast shade along the road, adding a cool glimmer to the landscape. The sky was blue, and the air was crisp in the 30s, with an easy north wind.

With me today was “guest-dog” Kiki, my dog-niece Joyce’s BFF, who is a terrier of somewhat unknown provenance. My brother and sister-in-law are taking care of her while her family travels over the holidays. She is a scamperer and a cavorter, and a decent little runner. We took it a little easier to enjoy the natural show.

The truth was that this time I had to slow down a little and walk some, because this low-lander is not used to 4-milers at 7,000 feet. The last time I ran here, I had been acclimating a few days before hitting the road and didn’t notice the effects (feeling winded, mild headache). It wasn’t as bad as our 21-mile hike through Peru’s Andes, but it wasn’t like running at 200 feet above sea level in central Arkansas, either.

But I went on, even though it wasn’t the workout I had hoped for, because of the beauty and the novelty of the outing. It energized me not to know what was over the next hill, what view would meet me when I turned the corner. Kiki and I could hear coyotes yipping and calling to each other in the foothills around us — that kept us on our toes, too. When I ran in March in this neighborhood, I had a light snowfall to soothe me as I covered the ground. For an Arkansan, that was pretty novel, as well. It reminded me of the last verse of my favorite e.e. cummings poem:

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens; only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands

Kiki and I met my husband, who was out for a walk and joined him, turning our faces to the sun, listening to the wind and the natural and new-to-us world around us. I promised myself to continue making room for my running gear and shoes in future suitcases. It’s a relatively new kind of travel for me, but this reluctant athlete is a wiling running tourist.

Stacey Margaret Jones, M.S., APR, (@sharkushka) is a market research consultant and a member of the inaugural class of the Arkansas Writers MFA program at the University of Central Arkansas. She lives in Conway with her Chaucerian husband. Jones, a South Dakota native, does not play team sports, unless you consider cocktailing a competitive event.

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