Saturday, I ran a race with a few friends. It was the 7th Annual Shamrock Run here in Syracuse and there were over 3500 runners out there in the cold and left-over snow. It got me thinking about a couple of things: One, why do I pay money to run when I could just as easily do it for free? And how is it that Syracuse is such a great running town? I've been thinking about these two things ever since.
First, the money issue. I've been trying to save some money. I'm not going crazy about it. I still drive a car (though not nearly as much), still get coffee at Starbucks (though mostly ground beans that I then make at home), still go out to eat on occasion (about as much as ever). I'm just trying not to make impulse buys. I'm still trying to resist the urge to spend hundreds of dollars on a phone I don't need. Basically, I'm trying to be aware of what I spend.
So why spend money to run? I could just as easily get out for a four-mile run up and down some pretty mean hills near my home. I could get together with friends and have a festival atmosphere. I would get the same exercise without spending money. Then again, I don't have 3500 friends with whom to run. There is something to running closed roads with that many people. It charges me up. It presses me to do things I wouldn't do without the crowd. I run harder than I do on regular runs and push myself harder. Lance Armstrong, I've read, trained at least as hard as he raced. I'm not Lance Armstrong (just take even a passing glance and you'll see). I need something to push me and a race fits the bill.
Mostly though, it's about doing something with a whole lot of people. Left to my own devices, I would spend even more time on my own. It's a challenge to get out of the house, to do things with others. I'm not a complete hermit or introvert, it's just easier to keep to myself. Not better, just easier. Racing gets me out there, and that makes my life better, it makes me happier. It's made even better when I run races with close friend. We drive together and talk before, after, and during the race.
I suppose that it all boils down to camaraderie (a word I like but sadly can't spell without assistance from my comrades). Being with others, if you'll forgive the cliche, lifts me up. So that's why I run races. That and it's just so much damn fun.
The answer to the other question about why Syracuse is such a running town has something to do with what I just talked about. 3500 people came out Saturday to run because winters are often tough here. This year's winter was light on snow, but the skies are grey more often than they are not. The economy, while it's not in free-fall, isn't supercalifragilistic either. People are looking for work, wondering how to pay bills, and so on. We can't make Spring come, so we get out there and run. Running makes its own blue skies.
Beyond that, Syracuse is a friendly town. Its roads, more often than not, have wide shoulders on which runners stride side-by-side. We have one of the best running stores anywhere in Fleet Feet Syracuse. We have running clubs galore, several colleges and Syracuse University. We have a tremendous parks system that I would put against any city's. And, though I'm not sure how this impacts running, we have Wegmans. Anyone who has ever been to Wegmans knows that not mentioning Wegmans is a mortal sin.
Syracuse, simply put, is a running town and I'm a runner. I run through Syracuse on my own, with my friends, and in a bunch of races held throughout and around the city. Running really does bring out the best in me and in this city. I'm typing this on Sunday evening, sitting outside on our front steps in shorts and a long-sleeve t-shirt. I ran with my wife and dog this morning. I've seen more than fifty runners in our neighborhood today alone. It is unseasonably warm and, lo and behold, the sky is a perfect blue. I love this town.