I love my neighborhood mile. It's been very good to me.
I'm intimate with it. I know it like a lover. I know its moods.
It starts right outside my door. It's always there. I can glance out my window and know what kind of a day I'm in for.
Is it rain glistened? That's no trouble and it won't bother me unless it's pelting.
Is it hoary with frost? Then I'm in for a hard time and I have to approach it just right, both in dress and in footing.
Is it covered in snow? I'll appreciate it the more for its silent beauty but I'll have to be careful around it, unless its frigid and icy, in which case I'll stay away from it altogether for awhile.
It's always waiting for me. But sometimes I neglect it. Sometimes I don't visit with it for weeks. I wonder if it misses me, or resents my absence.
It always helps me. When I was suffering, and trying to hold on in the last mile of the WDWM and break 4 hours for the first time, it gave me succor. It reached out from 1,000 miles away and was with me that last mile at Disney. Suddenly I wasn't running towards Epcot with aching lungs and leaden feet at 3:45:45 anymore. No. I was standing at the head of my driveway at 0:00:00.
Punch the watch and go up the street a quarter mile. Hill at the top. Turn right at the stop sign.
Go down the level straightaway two blocks. Watch out for the divot in the middle of the road midway down.
Turn right just before the W&OD Trail and run downhill on Railroad Avenue. Circle the telephone pole at the end of that dead-end road and return. Not quite halfway yet. (Right: Looking up RR Avenue from the dead end. The W&OD Trail is off to the right.)
Come back up RR Avenue, always thinking about pace here. Faster turnover, work it, work it! Watch for the other divot in the roadway to the left near the turn back onto the two-block straightaway.
Pound down the straightaway towards the stop sign with lungs bursting. I'm always gasping audibly here from oxygen depletion. Make the last turn onto the street where I live.
Try to use the hill I labored up three minutes ago. Cut the slight curves in the road to fashion the straightest line down the roadway, going from curb to curb. Traffic behind me? That's not a problem because it's infrequent and slow. Besides, they all know this grey-haired old fool goes sprinting by here often enough.
There's my house. Dash past it towards the "mile marker" at the end, the dumpster in the strip mall parking lot a block beyond.
I allow myself a glance at my watch. It's already past 6:30. Come on, come on! My standard for a good one-mile run is anything under seven minutes. Push it, push it! Yesterday was 7:29! (Left: The final stretch. Heading past my house on the left towards the dumpster a block further on.)
The dumpster, the dumpster! Slap it and I'm done. I push the watch stop button. 6:51. Alright!
These are the solitary mile runs I do that helped me at the end of Disney last year, when desperate weariness forced me out of my head into some ethereal place. I transported myself back home to the top of my driveway, and in my mind I ran my neighborhood mile for the last mile. The comfort of being with an old friend that last mile helped me bring Disney home in under four hours. (Below: My number at the WDWM in 2006 was 4790. Only I wasn't in Orlando crossing the finish mats at the moment captured in the photo, I was at home finishing a comfortable old run.)
[Only someone cynical would say that by substituting the "speed work" of my neighborhood mile this morning for the LSD I told myself I'd do when I went to bed last night, I was merely being lazy.]