Tuesday, August 23, 2005

A Pathetic Fallacy

Sulphur Springs of Darkness 8mi

I had my doubts about being able to complete today’s run, but I eased into it and it turned out to be one of the best runs I’ve had to date. Eight miles is further than I’ve ever run before, so today marks the beginning of a journey into uncharted territory for me. I tried to focus my route as much as possible on the trails, sidewalks, and shortcuts that circumvent the mental roadmap that I have constructed of these neighborhoods along the river.
Jan commented on my previous post about the importance of “discovery” and “wonder” in this process, and it was these two feelings, exactly, that fueled me today. I wasn’t even bothered that I posted a personal worst pace of 12:42 min/mile, due, at least in part, to my having to run through ditches, weeds, mud, tall grass, and drainage culverts, as well as crossing a rickety bridge and a railroad trestle.
I start running slowly north on Ola, stopping to stretch the tightness in my calves at each five minute interval (in direct defiance of Jeff Galloway’s instructions), and I’m starting to loosen up as I take Hanlon east to the “troll bridge”, snapping pictures as I run through.
Following the Park Circle route, I head north at the dead end into the hobo jungle of Joel Brown’s Heart of Darkness. After a little bush whacking and ditch hopping, I find a nicely mulched road in the trees along the southern bank of the river. I’m keeping my eye out for the trail through the woods towards the railroad trestle, but the path is choked with weeds and I have to double back a few times before I find it. My shoes and socks are soaked from the tall grass and the morning dew, but soon the trail opens up again and I shoot some more pictures as I cross a little wooden bridge over a creek. Climbing up the embankment to the railroad tracks, I look cautiously in both directions before committing myself to the bridge. I’m skipping across the ties, watching the river flow beneath me, and reliving scenes of Stand By Me, when I realize the water has been replaced with the flow of morning commuters temporarily distracted by the crazy man up on the bridge.
At the foot of the trestle I stop to shoot some pictures of my favorite ill-proportioned manatee mural before heading into the beautiful Sulphur Springs Shopping District.
In describing present-day Sulphur Springs, “sleepy” is not generally a word that comes to mind, but it is surprisingly accurate at eight o’clock on a Tuesday morning. I run past the duplexes and 70’s split-level condos along the river, and I marvel at how little this area has changed in the years that I have known it. This is some of the only riverfront property in the area that has not seen a dramatic shift in demographics and property values in the last few years. The surrounding neighborhood of Sulphur Springs simply does not have the architectural “bones” of places like Seminole Heights and Tampa Heights. These streets look much the same as they did almost twenty-five years ago when I lived in a little house on the corner of Bird and Semmes with my mother and brother.
I cross Nebraska Ave. and pass the Sulphur Springs pool and gazebo, waving and saying hello to the homeless men sitting at the picnic tables by the river. I follow a path between two fences to the northern side of the “troll bridge” and find that, what looked like a trail from the aerials is actually a drainage culvert running along the interstate. I have to squeeze through a hole in the chain-link fence to follow the culvert north to the sidewalk on Bird Street. The stretch along Bird past the water tower is the first full sun that I’ve seen on this route, and I’m happy to cross Florida Ave. again, towards the shade of Lowry Park.
On the path in the park, I almost step on a squirrel that has parked himself in the middle of the right-of-way, and refuses to yield. Ahead I see an elderly man that I have encountered here on previous morning runs. He walks slowly along, whistling, and feeding the squirrels from a small plastic bag. “These guys really know who you are,” I say, commenting on the number of squirrels gathered around him. He tells me that they have even come to recognize his car and they gather around anxiously when he pulls up each morning. “They’re smarter than you think,” he says as I pass, and suddenly I’m a little offended. How does he know how smart I think they are? I’ve seen programs where squirrels learn to solve complex puzzles involving multiple feats of physical and mental dexterity, performed in an exact sequence, all for a small morsel of food. To me this says that they are at least as smart as children, who can’t even feed themselves without supervision, and they may be more astute than a few adults that I know or have met.
I continue down the trail, the old man’s whistling still in my ears, and I see squirrels from all over coming down from their trees and taking their places in the center of the path. They hold their ground and wait patiently as I pass.


Blogger Dan Dye said...

I've laid out a 13.6 mile tour of Tampa's housing projects. Ideally, you should do this run with ring baggies of quartered macadamia nuts saftey-pinned to your shirt.



6:10 PM  
Blogger Devon said...

This is how I normally run. I use the nuts for sustenance on the long runs. Well, at least the ones that I don't sell.

6:50 PM  

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